Ask Mike: New Coaches, Portal Woes & No TV in NLR

By Mike Irwin
on 2022-12-19 19:49 PM

Q. Slobberslob says: I have to admit that I panicked a little when Dowell Loggains left. (but not surprised) I can’t see any better hire than Morgan Turner, what do you think?

A. He’s higher rated as a tight ends coach that Loggains but when Loggains left there were predictions that Arkansas would lose 4-star tight end commitment Luke Hasz from Bixby, Oklahoma to Alabama and possibly 4-star commitment Jaden Hamm. Hamm decommitted on Sunday. Also Shamar Easter, Arkansas second highest rated commit, has visited South Carolina. He may flip with Loggains being there. But Haz is still listed as an Arkansas commit and there are indications that he plans to sign with Arkansas in the early signing period coming up.

So Turner has his work cut out for him in recruiting like right now. We’ll see if he can bring in some guys he was recruiting at Stanford.

Turner looks like a really good hire. He has more experience as a college tight ends coach than Loggains and his record at Stanford was impressive but it be a while before a comparison can be made to Loggains good or bad.

Q.redleg asks: What is the timeline for Coach Pittman to get a new DC hired? It seems there is a perception that Pittman is somehow being stonewalled in this endeavor to find a new DC.

A. This was a crazy search. Four different names were been offered up by some of the regular Razorback media. There were also several several fans who claimed inside knowledge and they were clearly wrong on at least three names.

Sam Pittman talked about this on Saturday pointing out that when he landed in Maryland on a recruiting visit suddenly the media and some of these fans were claiming that Pittman was talking to Maryland’s defensive coordinator about the job and he likely was going to take it. Pittman said he felt sorry for the guy who probably had to go to his head coach and explain that there was nothing to these reports.

Over the weekend Central Florida defensive coordinator Travis Williams emerged as yet another favorite to get the job and Monday morning he was introduced as the new DC in a press conference that also featured Turner.

We’ve been told that Williams was already recruiting for Arkansas several days ago. Just today one of UCF’s 4-star linebackers decommitted from UCF so maybe that’s good news for Arkansas.

As far as being stonewalled, it does look like Pittman was interested in fired Baylor defensive coordinator Ron Roberts but Auburn hired him. Some say Hugh Freeze stole him away from Pittman by offering more money. There is no proof of that.

Q. Stu wants to know: The new DC, thoughts?

A. Well Williams is young and a very good recruiter. That’s a priority for Pittman. Pittman also said he wants a defensive coordinator who uses multiple fronts to attack opposing offenses and Williams fits that bill. He’s a linebackers coach which might indicate that current LBs coach Michael Scherer, who is set to coach the Hogs in the Liberty Bowl, will join Barry Odom’s staff at UNLV as defensive coordinator there. But that would happen after the bowl game. Williams did say today, We will go to the ball hard. We will be ultra aggressive.

Q. Pigsfeat says: I understand the players leaving who were encouraged to leave or were not in line for playing time. I am completely baffled by the players leaving who have had plenty of playing time and in line for much more playing time. Is this all about NIL money?

A. That’s a big part of it. Sam Pittman chose his words very carefully but he did appear to be indicating that Arkansas was having to battle other schools to keep some of its players out of the portal. He also said that some of that stuff is against NCAA rules.
He’s referring to the fact that an NIL deal cannot be offered to a high school senior or a portal transfer until after that athlete signs a letter of intent with his new school. It’s also against the rules to contact a scholarship athlete at another school. That athlete is supposed to enter the portal and then contact other schools. I’m told that there are rampant violations of that rule right now. So far there is no indication that the NCAA is doing anything about it.

Q. Jim Reynolds asks: Is it possible for the NCAA to have athletes sign a contract to play in bowl games if the team qualifies before declaring for the professional draft or entering the transfer portal?

A. Something has to be done or the bowl system will continue to be of reduced interest to the fans. Also if this continues some teams might not have enough players to realistically compete in a bowl game, even if offered.

A LOI, or letter of intent, is a contract between an athlete and the school that athlete signs with. The NCAA could address a lot of these problems by specifying penalties for players opting out of their LOI before the contract ends.

It remains to be seen if that will happen.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy wants to know: Can you opine on the future of bowl games. In particular, after playoff expansion. There seems to be less interest than there once was in these games. It appears players are making their next move before the bowls, gutting a lot of teams.

A. When the playoffs go to 12 teams, the bowl system will take another hit, no question. Bowl games may end up being little more than an extra off season practice period with a game thrown in. It would help those teams get ready for the next season so there would be a value in that. Fans of each team involved would be interested but football fans in general will have little interest in bowl games. In the future some bowl games could end up getting streamed by ESPN 3 instead of being televised the traditional ESPN channels.

Q. Roadhog82 says: I’ve heard a few different explanations as to why the Little Rock basketball games aren’t televised or streamed. Can you give an explanation that makes sense? Thanks.

A. There are several components to this. You can start with the fact that Simmons Bank Arena is not set up for ESPN 3-type games that are streamed on the Internet.
The only way a game is going to be televised there is if one of the networks has an interest in televising it all over the country. Games like Arkansas vs. Bradley don’t fit the bill.

Alabama vs Gonzaga, which was played Saturday in Birmingham, was televised by CBS which brought it’s own equipment in.

If Arkansas scheduled a game like that it would more than likely be played in BWA because of the extra revenue of 19,000 seats, no arena rental fee, and 100% of the revenue from concessions and parking. Also BWA offers a better home court advantage than Simmons Bank Arena.

Considering the fact that Arkansas’ winning percentage in NLR is barely above .500 but is around 80% in Bud Walton it’s not hard to see why the school does not schedule big time games in Simmons Bank.

Basically playing there is a PR move by the school to allow Central Arkansas fans to come out once a year and see the team play. Most of those people don’t go to Fayetteville games. They have fun. It’s a nice event

The problem is, especially with a top 10 team program like Arkansas has under Eric Musselman, a lot of fans get mad because the game is not on TV.

It’s one game out of a 30 plus game TV schedule. It’s hard to understand why it’s such a big deal. I was off on Saturday so I stayed here in Fayetteville and listened to it on the radio. I enjoyed listening to Chuck Barrett and Coach Zimmerman. They do a great job of describing a game. I highly recommend it.

Q. roegner asks: Why does the University promote the off campus games so much more than the NWA games? From coach Muss to Hunter Yurachek, the NWA ticket holders are made to feel like second class fans. Very sad that our flagship university has split the fan base! Why?

A. The only reason the one Little Rock game is promoted so much is they want to fill that place up. Also, since it’s just one game a year they want to make sure central Arkansas fans know it’s coming up.

During basketball season there is usually at least one game a week in Bud Walton and sometimes two. I’ve never felt like those games a under promoted. The sports media here in Arkansas is dominated by the Razorbacks. Between TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet I’ve never been under the impression that BWA games are underpromoted or that the one central Arkansas game is more important to the athletic department.

Q. Hogdogger says: You listed your top recruiting coaches for football. Do you think that Muss is the best basketball recruiter for the Hogs

A. Honestly I’d have to say yes. Nolan was one hell of a recruiter and some would give him he edge because he went to three final fours, won a national championship and was national runner up. Muss has not done any of that yet. But it we’re talking strictly recruiting I’d have to say that even Nolan never had three McDonald’s All Americans in one class or the number two class in the country. I’d call them 1 and 1-A in recruiting with Eddie Sutton a distant third.

Q. LostinSwine wants to know: Has Van Horn gotten past the time when his recruits for the #1 class of 2023 can be poached by the MLB. And did we lose anyone to the draft?

A. No. Anytime you get commitments from potential first or second round MLB draft choices you can lose them. It really depends on the kid. DVH has to sell the guys on the idea of passing up good money now to make make great money in two years. Also explaining to them the difference between college baseball and minor league ball. The lifestyle is much better for college athletes. And of course, getting two years down the road toward a college degree.

Van Horn is handling it well. As I recall he lost just two signees to the draft in last year’s class.

Q. RazorAlex88 says: Devastated about Mike Leach’s passing. He was a precious gem to the college football world and there most likely won’t be anyone like him. I honestly don’t remember a time when the college football world was rocked and united in support of Coach Leach.

A. I’ve been surprised at the almost universal outpouring of love for Leach. I knew the media that has covered him loved the guy. I knew that fans at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State were all in on him. But when you get fans from rival schools going on the Internet and almost crying about what a loss it is to college football, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it.

Q. jbcarol asks: Your personal thoughts on the passing of Mike Leach and his life and career including any first-hand (or second-hand) stories.

A. A good friend of mine in Lubbock, who knew how much I admired Leach, found out that he was going to do a book signing in Lubbock for a book Leach co-authored when he was at Washington State. It was a biography of the famous Indian war chief Geronimo. So he waited in line for an hour and a half to get Leach to sign a copy of the book which he gave to me on my 70th birthday.

He told Leach that I knew Hal Mumme. (who was one of Leach’s best friends in the coaching business) He mentioned that Mumme and I were both Davy Crockett fans going back to when we were kids. That we would compare notes on the battle of the Alamo.

Leach loved conversations like that. My friend said they held up the line while they talked and eventually he had to excused himself. Be he said Leach told him that I was lucky to have a friend like him. And I am.


(Last updated: 2022-12-19 19:49 PM)