Ask Mike: Post Liberty Meltdown, Bud Walton Arena Rumors & Did Muss Blow it With Ron Holland?

By Mike Irwin
on 2022-11-07 22:40 PM

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy wants to know: How does this keep happening? This is multiple times this year that this team is obviously not prepared to play. And starts playing when it has to. This time it was too late.

A. Sam Pittman gave a good answer to that after the game. He said the leadership is not the same on this team as last year’s. There were a lot of super seniors who had been through the Morris years and last two under Bielema. They were determined to be better. Seniors are the best kind of leaders because younger players listen to them. But given that, the offensive line should have responded on Saturday.

It’s logical to blame the coaches for not having the players ready but Pittman said he and his staff warned them all week long not to pay attention to Arkansas a being a big favorite in the game. Clearly some didn’t listen and yes, it was also a problem in the Missouri State game but not multiple times this season. Also I don’t think the entire team was a problem against Liberty. K.J. Jefferson was rusty from not practicing all week. The issue early on was mostly with the offensive line and Rocket Sanders. The defense stopped Liberty on its first three possessions and shut its offense out in the second half. Arkansas receivers also played well.

At some point certain players on this team are going to have to take ownership of this problem. Now look, Pittman’s not going to have any trouble motivating his guys for the next two games. The problem is, LSU is just flat better than Arkansas and Ole Miss isn’t far behind that.

Missouri could be a problem. If something doesn’t change some of the guys could definitely overlook those guys.

Q. lamont7906 wants to know: Is Loyalty over production the coaches biggest flaw. It seems no matter how bad players are playing the coaches are not willing to have the next guy up attitude. Hornsby’s number should have been called earlier in the third.

A. I would agree with that but according to Pittman he and Kendal Briles discussed if they should bring Hornsby in and both agreed that they should not.

Here’s the problem some have with that. Hornsby got most of the 1st team reps in practice because Jefferson was banged up. When they saw that KJ wasn’t playing like KJ they could have, at some point, taken a look at Hornsby. If he didn’t move the chains go back to KJ. Sitting out a possession or two might have motivated him.

Q. PatBoat asks: What in the world is going on? With Rocket struggling why wasn’t Green’s number called more?

A. This ties into the last question but to me it was a definite mistake. After four consecutive three plays and punt-type possessions Briles brought A.J. into the game and he reeled off back to back runs of 15 and 13 yards. Then went back to the bench and we didn’t see him until the 4th quarter and he had a couple of more first down runs.

If you’re Briles you can see that happening. You don’t have to assume what A.J. might do. So giving him only 6 carries when he averaged 9.3 yards per carry, that’s a head scratcher.

Q. Dr. Starcs says: Pittman says every week they need to get penalties fixed. Can someone ask exactly what he’s been doing to correct that?

A. The problem is there are so many diferent kinds of penalties created by different circumstances. False starts at home should not be an issue with an offensive line that are seniors across the board. I think those guys were agitated because they were getting out quicked by Liberty’s D-line and the result was some false start penalties. Not sure how you correct that because how do you know as coaches that it’s going to happen?

Going on the road to Auburn, that’s a different story. They worked on that all week before the game.

Q. hogblitz says: Coach Pittman has shown the willingness to get rid of assistant coaches that he believes are not performing to expectations. Does the same hold true with the coordinators? Does he have the capability of firing a coordinator(buddy) for the sake of the program?

A. Great question. The only way we’ll know is if he does it. Most head coaches do face that decision eventually. However my guess is that Pittman would let either Kendall Briles or Barry Odom know in advance and give him a chance to get a new job. But there is zero indication at this time that he plans to make such a change.

Q. Slobberslob want to know: Were there any sightings of the OL on Dickson Friday night? Just trying to figure out what happened Saturday.

A. I assume that sarcasm. There were people on the Internet claiming that the players partied too much on Dickson Street Friday night.

I’m assuming they they know the players are bussed out of town and kept at a hotel from Friday afternoon until time to come back to the stadium for the game. There are staffers on every floor making sure the players are in their rooms and staying relatively quiet.

Q. PigDaddyKane says: Obviously the worst loss in Piitman era. What’s wrong with our OL – they were getting owned? KJ looked hurt and off, why not give Hornsby a series to shake things up? I feel like we are going to go into the Mizzou game with both teams at 5 wins, both needing the win for bowl eligibility.

A. I’ve addressed most of that but let me say that it may look like the worst loss but I’m not sure it was. I say that because, to me, way too many Arkansas fans didn’t have a clue coming in to the game that the Flames were a very good football team. I don’t think Arkansas is the only SEC team they could beat.

We had fans on the Internet claiming that they’d never heard of Liberty. If true that’s on them. Hard to be critical of the players overlooking an opponent when you as a fan are so uninformed that you think they are a pushover team.

We’ll see what they do from here on out. Barring a big upset they should finish the season 11-1. That probably won’t get them into the BCS Playoffs but they’d be in a major bowl and would attract a top 10 type opponent.

Q. Mousetown says: I like to think that Hog fans are a little less over the top than other SEC fans but after this weekend I changed my mind. Fire Pittman. Hire Hugh Freeze. The players were partying on Dickson Street Friday night. I’ve had it with social media.

A. Social Media is the same everywhere. There are plenty of sensible fans who use Twitter and Facebook, Instagram or whatever. But there are also people who lash out with over the top comments that made them look silly but they don’t care.
I don’t believe in censorship as long as we’re talking opinions.

Making up stuff that’s not true just because you’re mad and because you think it’s cool to do that, no. That stuff could be called out.

It’s the difference between saying Sam Pittman should be fired and replaced by Hugh Freeze as opposed to claiming that some of the players were drinking on Dickson Street Friday night.

If you know people who do that, call ’em out.

Q. Oklahawg says: Hog fans are up in arms with the “whiff” vs Liberty. Let’s go forward – what was the greatest Hog recovery from a bad outing ever? Nutt had some classic head scratching moments where we are a no-show one week and world beaters the next.

A. Year two under Nutt, Arkansas got hammered by Ole Miss and bounced back the next week to knock off number 3 Tennessee.

Losing to the Citadel under Jack Crowe and coming back the next week under Joe Kines in Arkansas’ first ever SEC game and beating South Carolina on the road 45-7, that was quite a bounce back.

Those are two examples but when I started looking through the schedule year-to-year I didn’t see a lot of those type games.

Q. Edward clutch says: The dreaded 11:00 am home games. Coach Pittman has said these games hurt when it comes to recruiting. Are we at the total mercy of ESPN when it comes to this? We haven’t had a home SEC night game in almost 2 years.

A. One is coming up against Ole Miss but yes, you are at the mercy of ESPN and it’s all about being in the top 15 and staying there. ESPN is all about matchups that will draw a large prime time audience.

Arkansas can’t have up and down success and expect to make prime time. It has to be more lasting.

Q. CowHog32 asks: Are there any Seniors on Offense that haven’t utilized their COVID year that Pittman would ask to come back next year? I think Knox is for sure a possibility but other than him not sure who else would even qualify.

A. In addition to Knox there’s Ricky Stromberg, Jaden Haselwood and Matt Landers. Not sure if any of them are interested in coming back and we probably won’t know until the season is over.

Q. Dr. Starcs says: I asked a question several weeks ago about the visitor section at Razorback stadium and if you had any info on how that came to be? A lot of schools put their visitors in the upper deck.

A. That policy dates back to a time when the upper deck on the east side did not exist. The visitors section was where it is now, on the north end of the east side from the end zone out to about the 20 yard line. When the upper deck was added Frank decided to leave the visitors section where it was. Occasionally if a full allotment of 8,000 visiting tickets are requested, like with Alabama, Arkansas will put some of those fans in the upper deck.

Q. RazorAlex88 says: My best friend just asked me how a FCS team makes the jump into the FBS. Now I am curious how it works. What all goes into the process of going from the FCS to the FBS?

A. This is the process.

1. An average football attendance of 15,00 for two consecutive seasons.

2. Offer a minimum of 16 varsity sports with a minimum split of six men’s and eight women’s sports.

That may sound like a lot but Men’s and Women’s Track is actually counted as six sports. Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor track are considered 3 separate sports.

3. A minimum of 200 full scholarships or $4 million dollars in scholarships at any given time.

4. Finally with regard to football you must have a minimum of 76 players on full scholarship every season.

Liberty made the jump in 2018. James Madison is in the process of moving up. They will move to the BCS in 2023. There are a couple of other schools that have just started the process.

Q. LostinSwine says: You mentioned the NCAA won’t be around in 2 years. How do you know this? Who or what would replace them? What kind of teeth would this new governing body have as it pertains to the NIL and violations?

A. I didn’t say the NCAA won’t be around. I said the NCAA won’t be in charge of BCS college football. Two years is an estimate on my part based on the fact the NCAA president Mark Emert is set to leave his job after the 2023-2024 academic year.

I know about the new organization because I’ve been reading about the process for over a year.

BCS College athletic directors all over the country are frustrated with the NIL mess which the NCAA caused but has done nothing to correct. The transfer portal and conference realignment are two other issues that the NCAA has provided little or no leadership on.

A panel of higher education and college athletic directors first recommended this change back in 2020.

Remember that the NCAA’s unnecessary football attendance restrictions because of COVID
caused BCS schools to take a major hit in their budgets that year. The only reason the entire season wasn’t wiped out was because the SEC and ACC said, we’re playing anyway.

The idea was, the NCAA doesn’t control the BCS football playoffs why should they control football at all? They’re screwing everything up. Lets play anyway.

Once that happened a lot ADs started realizing that major college football didn’t need the NCAA at all. Start a new organization and solve all the problems we have.

Since then there have been several studies on how the new organization might work. ADs have been polled and about 60 % of them support a break from the NCAA.

So let’s look again and some of the things that are being discussed.

A restructuring of NIL possibly to include making college athletes employees of the school they attend. NIL money will be used by the schools to pay them as part time employees which they are. They spend 20 hours a week on athletics.Modify the current transfer portal system. They’re not going to take away an athlete’s right to transfer by going back to the old “sit out a year” rule but there could be some less restrictive provisions put in that would at least cause athletes to think a little bit more before they hit the portal.

One proposal I read had to do with the money a school spends on each athlete. The argument for players transferring is that coaches do it all the time. They do, but with restrictions. You break your contract as a coach and you have to play your school to leave. What if players had to do that?

Conference realignment. Instead of a disorganized system where schools like USC and UCLA can jump to the Big 10 leaving their conference holding the bag how about a complete reorganization where conferences are structured based more on geography? West Virginia would not go halfway across the country to play conference games. This helps fans too. They can travel to road games easier.

4. Increased TV revenue. Each year TV revenue becomes a greater percentage of the overall athletic department budget. The TV people don’t provide this money be nice. They need to make more money to pay out more money to the schools. The way to do that is to eliminate games with low viewership.

Instead of Alabama vs Middle Tennessee State, how about Alabama vs Texas which we saw this year. Or Arkansas vs. Florida State as opposed to Arkansas vs South Alabama.

If you reduce the number of so called mid majors in college football and create a division where what we now call Power Five schools are playing each other in non conference games, the Saturday TV schedule of games becomes more attractive and viewership goes up.

Okay so is this 100% a done deal? Not yet. There is a small chance that a reorganized NCAA could make all these changes but everything I’m reading suggests that within four years there will be a new governing body for what is now called the BCS with a reduced number of member institutions.

Q. To basketball where Eddy Lynn wants to know: What are your memories of Ron Huery, the Hog basketball player who passed away over the weekend. I always liked him as a player.

A. Great memories. He was the first of the Memphis recruiting connection that Nolan Richardson established early on. He helped get the program on track after a rough two years under Nolan. Without Ron there might not have been those three Final Four teams, a national title in ’94 and a national runner up finish in ’95.

Ron was a straight shooter. Always said exactly what he believed. Like a lot of athletes he went off the rails after college basketball but he got his life back together. He started helping others in that situation. He was recently inducted in the the Razorback Hall of Honor. He made a very short but impactful speech where he honored Larry Marks and Lenzie Howell, two of his Razorback teammates who had passed away. He basically said being a Razorback was everything to him. The crowd loved it.

I regret that he didn’t get to put more time into what he was doing with his life.

Q: Pigsfeat asks: Did the “exhibition” game with Texas cost us 5 star recruit Ron Holland? If so, this was a baaad idea to play it!

A. I don’t do recruiting but I’m told that Arkansas put out a late offer to a kid from California who is a similar type player to Holland. This was done the day before the exhibition game with Texas, so I think Muss knew that Holland was going to be a Longhorn. We will see in the early weeks of the season if that exhibition loss will be a positive thing for this team but I’ve said all along that I think Muss pretty much knew what was going to happen.

Q. gogitchyershinebox wants to know: Do you know what the plans are for Bud Walton Arena? I had heard renovations were in the works, but now there is a thread going on Hogville about rumors of a new arena being built. Are these just rumors or is this an actual option being discussed.

A. That rumor was started by one of the Hogville moderators. He has some good sources. He says the Walton family may be willing to fund a big part of the project but they want a new arena which would be built out on the Agri farm close to I-49.

I’m hearing a different story. That the university is looking for a major corporate donor to provide a big chunk of the renovation costs. They will give the Walton Family a chance to be that corporate donor but if they pass, the University will seek funding from another source with a name change.

I don’t think the concept of a new area that far from campus would fly with the students. I’ve said many times that Bud Walton is one of the best on campus basketball facilities anywhere. If they want to spruce it up, fine but it doesn’t need any major changes, especially to the seating.

If they want to spend some money I’d run a tunnel under Nolan Richardson Drive over to the basketball practice facility so the players could move back and forth between the two facilities in bad weather without going outside.

(Last updated: 2022-11-07 22:40 PM)