Are Kentucky Freshmen Hurting SEC Basketball’s Overall Rankings?

In November and December, Big Blue Nation struggles more than other blue blood programs. 

Kentucky consistently starts more freshmen than any other program in the nation. It’s been this way since John Calipari arrived seven years ago and instituted a philosophy which embraces the “one and done” m.o. of so many of today’s high school prep stars who have designs on NBA riches and fame.

Playing this many Kentucky freshmen has, for the most part, panned out well on the backend of seasons. In the Calipari era, Kentucky has gone to four Four Finals and won a championship. But freshmen, no matter how gifted, take time to gell. And so, on the front end of seasons, Kentucky underperforms relative to nation’s other best programs.

That is, since 2011-12, Kentucky has “only” won 61.3% of its November/December matchups against non conference, Power 5 opponents. That’s at the bottom of the recent best of the best, as you can see below.

Duke: 20-6 (.769)

Villanova 15-5 (.750)

Kansas: 24-9 (.727)

North Carolina: 17-10 (.630)

Kentucky: 19-12 (0.613)

Below is a breakdown of each program’s season-by-season records. All data is taken from sports-reference.com.

Kentucky In Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-2

2015-16: 3-2

2014-15: 6-0

2013-14: 1-3

2012-13: 1-4

2011-12: 5-1

Kansas in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 4-1

2015-16: 3-1

2014-15: 5-1

2013-14: 3-3

2012-13: 4-1

2011-12: 5-2

North Carolina in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-2

2015-16: 4-1

2014-15: 3-3

2013-14: 2-1

2012-13: 1-2

2011-12: 4-1

Duke in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-1

2015-16: 2-2

2014-15: 3-0

2013-14: 3-2

2012-13: 4-0

2011-12: 5-1

Villanova in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-0

2015-16: 3-2

2014-15: 4-0

2013-14: 3-1

2012-13: 2-1

2011-12: 0-1

Kentucky’s early-season struggles have hurt the SEC’s overall cachet as a basketball conference.  Consider Kentucky has been the league’s marquee program these last six years, while other SEC programs don’t play nearly as many high-profile early-season games. If Kentucky struggles to rack up significant wins pre-conference, because it more often loses head-to-head matchups with the titans of other conferences, then few other SEC teams have schedules which give them a chance to make up the difference.

So, the SEC’s strength of schedule ratings as a conference (relative to other conferences around the nation) suffers. This is one factor in the reason the SEC might have been underrated as a basketball conference until this March Madness, when three SEC teams broke into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986.

Look for SEC programs to raise the number of their high-profile early-season games soon. The league office has mandated that in the coming years each program must play non conference opponents with a three-year RPI average of 150 or above.

History of Arkansas’ All-Black High School Sports Association

Below are the earliest known references to the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association, which was the governing body for sports between the state’s all-black high schools before the 1966 integration into what’s now the Arkansas Activities Association.

By that time the 1960s rolled around, the predominantly-black schools’  association was called the Arkansas State Athletics Association, while the predominantly-white schools belonged to the Arkansas Athletics Association.

Got questions, or something to add? Contact me at evindemirel[at]gmail.com for more details.

Arkansas Gazette September 25, 1938 – Page 13

The Dunbar High School (Negro) Bearcats will play Morrilton (Negro) High School eleven in their first home game of the season at Kavanaugh Field Friday afternoon. The Dunbar team defeated Texarkana (Tex.), 14 to 6, at Texarkana last week.

J.M. Sutton, Morrilton mentor [coach], is a former Dunbar athlete. Sutton is a graduate of the Tuskogee Institute.

A meeting of the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association was held at Dunbar High School yesterday. They were: Pine Street of Conway, Miller High of Helena, Corbin of Pine Bluff, Langston of Hot Springs and Morrilton.

Date: Sunday, March 19, 1939   Paper: Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas)   Page: 35 

The first annual Arkansas Colored Athletic Association basketball tournament will be held at Arkansas AM and N College, Pine Bluff, March 24 and 25. The conference now in its third year, has nine of the outstanding high schools on its membership roll. Teams that will compete for the first conference crown are Camden, Corbin, Dunbar, Fargo, Merrill, Morrilton, Langston, Conway and Jonesboro.

Date: December 9, 1940 Paper: Hope Star Page 6

The Yerger football team, Hope and Corbin High of Pine Bluff dominated all-state negro selections of the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association announced Saturday. Yerger headed the list with four all-state placements:

O.W. Jackson of Dunbar was reelected president of the association for the first consecutive year. Other officers elected were: C.W. Dawson of Corbin High, vice president, and A. Logan of Langston High, secretary-treasurer.

Corbin High is recognized as the unofficial conference champions.

Date: Sunday, March 8, 1942   Paper: Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas)   Page: 35  

The Arkansas Colored Athletic Association will hold its annual basket ball [sic] tournament at Cotton Plant Saturday. The first game will start at 10 a.m.

The association is composed of the 18 leading high schools of the state. The winner will be awarded the state championship trophy.

The schools participating are Augusta, Blevins, Childress, Camden, Corbin, Cotton Plant, Dunbar, Fargo, Jones, Langston, McRae, Merrill, Miller, Morrilton, Moton, El Dorado, Texarkana and Yerger.

Date: Saturday, February 19, 1944   Paper: Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas)   Page: 7  

First round play was completed in the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association basket ball tournament at Jones High, North Little Rock, yesterday. Results in the girls division:

Merrill High 13, Stuttgart 11

Dunbar 21, Fort Smith 12

Augusta 28, Cotton Plant Vocational 12

Jones 17, Morrilton 5

Menissee [Menifee] 12, Helena 5

Results in the Boys Division:

Carbin [Corbin] 23, Fort Smith 14

Jones 47, Augusta 18

Cotton Plant Academy 22, Cotton Plant Vocational 10

Menissee [Menifee] 24, Merrill 18

Stuttgart 20, Helena

10

The Fayetteville Police Department Talks Baker Mayfield’s Arrest

And, naturally, that discussion takes a turn toward the Razorbacks’ tackling woes.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma’s rising senior quarterback, has twice finished in the top five in Heisman Tropy voting. Last year, he broke  the FBS season passing efficiency record. When it comes to late-night shenanigans, however, this Sooner star hasn’t proven so successful. Around 2 a.m. on February 25, police found Mayfield in Fayetteville’s rowdiest district, doing what appeared to be his best Will Ferrell a la Old School impression. An arrest and charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and fleeing ensued.

The next Monday, the Fayetteville Police Department’s public information officer discussed the arrest with sports talk show host Bo Mattingly. Here’s a condensed excerpt from what became a pretty light-hearted talk:

Craig Stout: We had officers who were patrolling down Dickson Street area. They were driving down the road when they get flagged down about a disturbance that had happened there on Dickson Street. As they began their investigation, you had who they later found out to be Mr. Mayfield, they didn’t know who he was at the time.

He was there involved in some type of disturbance, but again, kind of kept using profanities and getting loud. He had been warned several times… [The officers] were dealing with the other subjects involved and as they go to talk to him he takes a few steps and tries to run off, and didn’t make it very far.

Mattingly: They didn’t know who they were tackling. They were tackling a top-five Heisman candidate quarterback.

Stout: No, didn’t have a clue who he was. I think that I can say at least most people around here, had it been a Razorback, we all know who most of those guys are. But I don’t know that we have a whole lot of OU fans on our department. I don’t think they even had his name at this point.

Mattingly: When they found out that they had tackled that kind of elusive quarterback, do you get an award if you pull something like that off with the police department?

Stout: No, no. No real awards or anything like that. Of course we’ve seen a lot of the little things going around on Twitter and Facebook and the humor that’s been attached to it, but no bonus in your check for anything like that.

Mattingly: Arkansas didn’t tackle very well last year, so the officer’s got eligibility left he might consider finishing school if he hasn’t already.

Stout: Well, again, surprisingly enough the officer who was really in on the tackle was a little older than what you would anticipate. He’s a more seasoned officer so I don’t know that he’s got a whole lot of college eligibility left.

Mattingly: Okay. I guess it makes it a little bit tougher to be elusive and play at a high level when you’re intoxicated as well.

Stout: … As anyone from around here knows, Dickson Street is an entertainment district. It’s a destination. You have a lot of people that are down there every night drinking, and a lot of times my officers will really look to find alternatives to arrest… We don’t really have a lot of high profile arrests like this. Again, most of the time it’s just kind of business as usual. I mean we’re down there week in and week out, and as you know, it gets very busy down there.

Had he chose to not yell profanities and try to do that and run off, I would say it’s very unlikely that we would even be talking right now. He probably would have been allowed to go on his way. There may have been a report generated, at best, but I just don’t see that had he been cooperative and all that that there would have been an arrest made on that.

Mr. Mayfield was intoxicated just by the officer’s description, but had that been the only incident that took place, that and the disturbance, it’s very likely officers would have completed a report and then made sure that Mr. Mayfield had a safe ride home, and that would have been the end of it. It’s kind of like your mama always told you to be polite, be respectful, and you usually get the same thing back. Now I can’t speak through every circumstance, but again at least my experience working down on Dickson Street as well that goes a long way.


Baker Mayfield has since issued a public apology for his actions.

Bill Ingram on Mike Anderson’s Fate at Arkansas: Part 2

The founder of the Arkansas Hawks AAU program wonders if Mike Anderson still has the ears of his players.

 

These days, Bill Ingram’s opinion on the state of the basketball Hogs matters more than ever. Talent-wise, after all, the key to its future lies within Ingram’s Arkansas Hawks AAU program in the form of these five verbal commits to Arkansas:

  • Ethan Henderson (LR Parkview; 4-star via 247Sports, c/o 2018)
  • Justice Hill (LR Christian; Class of 2019)
  • Isaiah Joe (Fort Smith Northside; 3-star via 247Sports; c/o 2018)
  • Reggie Perry (Thomasville, Ga., 4-star via ESPN, c/o 2018)
  • Desi Sills (Jonesboro, 4-star via 247Sports, c/o 2018)

 

But will this class, currently ranked No. 10 in the nation by ESPN,  actually make it to Fayetteville? The question seems apt in light of the last couple of weeks. The Hogs, who had been a lock for the 2017 NCAA Tournament, have tumbled onto the bubble according to college basketball betting lines after suffering three horrendous losses within a four-game stretch to Oklahoma State, Missouri and Vanderbilt.

Ingram, like so many other Hog fans, is concerned with Arkansas’ lack of consistency under the coaching of Mike Anderson and his staff. This is Anderson’s sixth year and the team is stocked with plenty of talented recruits. Yet the team lurches in effort and execution from one night to the next, unable to find a groove of consistent success.  Indeed, Arkansas appears to have regressed from earlier in the season from a defensive intensity standpoint. The players still haven’t developed enough consistent offensive flow and chemistry to prevent momentum-killing droughts.

Ingram recently shared his thoughts on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly.  Part 1 of their conversation is here. Below are excerpts from Part 2.

Bill Ingram: In actuality the [in-state talent] of these last two or three years, leading up to the next two or three years, it’s at an all time high. It as high as I’ve ever seen it before. And these guys can compete on a national level… And what we expect is we expect to keep our in-state kids home. And I don’t know if we’ve always been like that, so that’s nothing new. We expect to keep our in-state kids home. Our kids have gotten a lot better and we expect them to be a part of that program. And help that program to win games.

And this is the thing that I think bothers me more than anything is: We’re still asking for you to be 3rd or 4th [in the SEC]. We’re thinking if you’re in 3rd of 4th place, and that means you may be good enough to get to the NCAA tournament, and anything that happens from that point. But I want us to get to the point where we’re asking you to be No. 1 or 2. Every year. And now we working on third and fourth. And so, I think the fans have been extremely reasonable.

… I’m still hungry for that No. 1 or No. 2 but we’re accepting No. 3 or No. 4 and we not getting there.

No one is happy and I understand why. And we have to do better in then all our programs. We have to be better on our football program. I mean, we shouldn’t be at this point in our programs because we have a great fan base.

I look at schools like Butler. Man, they got a neighborhood fan base in Indianapolis. Not a statewide fan base, not even the whole city of Indianapolis. But, they got a neighborhood fan base. And they’re consistently ranked in the top 25 and for the last, what you want to say, five, ten years? So there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to be a top 25 program every year and competing for SEC championship. I just feel like that.

Bo Mattingly: What do you think is the biggest issue or question that Mike Anderson is facing right now?

Bill Ingram: Well, the biggest question is, I think, what if he’s lost the team? And when you have losses like this to a Missouri team — probably no one on that team could start for Arkansas. And then when you come back and you under a huge amount of pressure, and you perform like that against Vanderbilt. First question that comes to people’s mind is whether you still have the ears of the players and if they’re listening to you?

The above excerpts have been lightly edited for clarity

Todd Day Disappointed He’s Still Not a Hogs Assistant

“I am a little salty that I’m not on the Razorbacks staff.”

Todd Day, the University of Arkansas’ three-time All-American, recently opened up to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about his desire to be an assistant in the Hogs’ basketball program. I spoke to Day right after Mike Anderson was hired as the Hogs’ head basketball coach in 2011, and even then he was excited about the chance of one day soon joining Anderson’s staff.

As an assistant to Nolan Richardson, Anderson had recruited Day out of Memphis in 1988. Day joined fellow stars Oliver Miller and Lee Mayberry to help lead Arkansas to the 1990 Final Four while finishing his career two years later as the program’s all-time leading scorer. At the time I spoke to Day about coaching with Arkansas, he had two years of experience as the head coach of Memphis Academy of Health and Sciences.

Since then, Day’s padded his resume by coaching three more years at Memphis Academy, then coaching his alma mater Memphis Hamilton for a couple years (he won a state championship) and coaching Team Penny on the AAU circuit (where I spoke to him about Malik Monk).

Along the way, Day talked to Mike Anderson at various times about assistant jobs, he told the Democrat-Gazette’s Troy Schulte. The conversations never led anywhere. “I am a little salty that I’m not on the Razorbacks staff,” Day told Schulte. “It’s my school. Those are my guys. Coach A is my guy. I’m not salty at them. I’m just salty at the situation.”

That’s a helluva lotta sodium chloride, folks. I sure hope he’s drinking plenty of fluids with it.

One thing Day doesn’t mention, but may also add salt to the situation, is the fact that Lee Mayberry is on the Razorbacks staff as a “special assistant” to Mike Anderson despite the fact he has less varied coaching experience than Day. Mayberry, a former NBA scout, had coached an AAU team in Tulsa since 2000, but apparently hadn’t coached high school basketball like Day has.

Day’s Coaching Career

  • Arkansas Impact (2008)
  • Memphis Academy of Health and Sciences (2009-2014)
  • Memphis Hamilton High School (2014-2016)
  • Philander Smith (2016-present)

It should be emphasized that Day has always spoken very highly of his friend Mayberry. It’s pure speculation on my part Day may feel a little extra salty he hasn’t been able to carve out a spot on the Razorbacks staff in light of the fact Mayberry has become a special assistant to Anderson. I have never spoken to Day or anybody on the Razorback staff about this.

Day is currently coaching at Philander Smith College in Little Rock. His stepfather, Ted Anderson, advised him to use the NAIA school as a springboard to bigger college positions.

Anderson said he told Day: “Build that program right there, take that from ground zero and take it as high as you can take it. Do it with class and dignity, and you’ll be recognized for it.” For now, Day’s invested in his Philander Smith team, which sits at 9-9. He told Schulte last summer he even turned down an interview for an assistant spot on the staff of Tulane, where his former Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr. now coaches.

Will Day one day get his dream of a Razorback coaching spot?

That’s unknown.

What is known is that any coaching position with the Razorbacks basketball program is, on the whole, losing prestige year by year. That trend was hammered home in a 28-point loss on the road yesterday to a 2-6 conference Oklahoma State team. The Hogs had few excuses. They were playing at full strength health wise and coming off 4 straight SEC wins. They should played better, and with more effort and have been competitive. Instead, they produced a lackluster, sloppy, uncoordinated defensive effort that resulted in the Cowboys repeatedly shredding them from the outside and getting to the basket on open drives seemingly at will.

Whenever Arkansas’ foe has a top-flight point guard, and the game is on a neutral or away court, these eviscerations happen with alarming predictability. They are, in part, the result of poor execution on defensive switching — or, rather, the lack of any plan whatsoever on how to guard perimeter pick and roll action.

That lack of planning is an indictment of the Razorbacks’ coaching staff. If Day one day officially interviews for his dream job, he needs to make his former coach uncomfortable by pointing out the oversights which have hurt the brand of the program he had a hand in building.

 

Will Bret Bielema Fire Robb Smith or Kurt Anderson?

The Hogs head football coach discusses the prospect of coaching turnover a couple weeks ahead of the Belk Bowl

 

One of the reasons Bret Bielema chose to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas was to get a bigger budget for his assistant coaches.  In theory, this would allow him to hang onto top assistants for longer.

So far, after four regular seasons, the Arkansas coach hasn’t quite seen the continuity he wanted. After one season, his defensive coordinator (Chris Ash) and defensive line coach (Charlie Partridge). After 2014, the RB and linebacker coaches (Joel Thomas and Randy Shannon) left for  jobs elsewhere. And last off season it was his ace offensive line coach, Sam Pittman, running backs coach again (this time Jemal Singleton) and the defensive backs guy, Clay Jennings.

For whom will the revolving door revolve this off-season? It’s not a question of “if” but “who.” On Thursday, he essentially admitted to sports talk host Bo Mattingly there will be some staff turnover after the Razorbacks’ upcoming December 29 Belk Bowl, which the Hogs are a 7-point underdog to Virginia Tech. Read more about online sportbook betting at Betphoenix.ag.

“It’s a part of the world today,” Bielema said of coaching changes. “The way the markets are, the way people have money now, whether you want changes or don’t want changes, they’re kind of inevitable. It’s part of college football these years.”

Given how erratically the offensive line and defense as a whole played this year, it will be interesting to see what happens with o-line coach Kurt Anderson and d-coordinator Robb Smith, who has gone from savior to goat in the past three seasons.

Bielema discussed more on Sportstalk with Bo Mattingly.  Here are some choice excerpts:

On recruiting 

In the front end, the first thing you can do to develop this is get the right guys to develop. I remember after I sat my first year, especially after the first Spring, we had signed a class I felt fairly strong about, the guys we got involved in. Maybe we had been recruiting them previously, or we got here and took over recruitment, but one of the things I was severely disappointed in as we signed a number of junior college players that really just after a short amount of time I could tell they weren’t going to help us. There would guys that had been previously recruited, and just really didn’t fit the mold for what we’re looking for. We went out and got some guys. There’s been some things that’s been good, but there was a number of guys in that class that just didn’t pan out…

I figured from that point forward if we take the junior college player, I want it to be someone that we’ve pretty much done all of our research on, I’ve known for a long time, and know exactly what we’re getting.

On why he seems to be recruiting, on the whole, better offensive players than defensive players:

I think the numbers are smaller. I really do. The number of size and quality and quantity of, especially the defensive line, are a little bit harder to find. I think in general we probably undersigned a little too much at the linebacker position when we first got here. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would’ve signed a lot more of that body type or been a little bit more detailed in that process. Defensive line wise, I’ve had some guys that unfortunately just haven’t performed up to the level that we wanted. Some guys that unfortunately got injured. Tevin Beanum has had some struggles and hasn’t fully develop, and get where we needed to be. There’s been a number of guys I feel we were right there closing in on them, just weren’t able to close off the deal in recruiting. It’s been a part we’ve been really trying to stress and analyze last year.

I think for the most part too, our offensive guys have had a few surprises along the way. AJ [Derby] being a classic example. First we’ve got to take a look at what we’re doing. Obviously, personnel’s another conversation, but you’ve got to make sure we’re putting our players in a position to have success. I think the one part that I’ve learned through coaching defensive football is when guys are lined up, and they’re secure in what they’re seeing, what they’re reading, and what they’re believing, they have a tendency to play a lot faster, play a lot more tough, a lot more toughness, a lot more efficiency. I think that part has to be real, what we’re asking them to do, and then the second part of it is once we ask them to do it, can they physically do it.

On the increasing pace and scoring of college football:

It’s one thing to line up and say, “We’re going to do this, this, and this,” but if they can’t do it or do it with consistency against good competition. You’ve got to rework what you’re asking them to do. The numbers are staggering when you look at the world of college football. I was with a couple of coaches a couple weeks ago in New York, some head coaches that had defensive backgrounds, and we all commented about how much of a different game it is now with RPOs and some of the rules that govern college football. It’s amazing statistically how much the numbers have changed overall. You’re always going to have a couple defenses that are above and beyond really normal standards and put up some really special numbers, but for the most part within all conferences, the numbers are staggeringly higher.

On tinkering with the three-four defense.

I think the part that I’m gonna try to get into after the bowl game is just putting our players that we’ve recruited as well as the addition of new players in a position to have success. One, I think it’s just life in the SEC. I do think we’re a little bit more up and down here than we’ve ever been in my career actually, and to be quite honest since we’ve come here we’ve always had a steady progression forward and never really taken any steps back. I think this year we did beat three teams ranked in the top 20: TCU, Florida, and Ole Miss, but on the same account we lost to a couple teams ranked and obviously one that wasn’t. That is something we can’t allow to happen.

I think the part I really felt good about going to that Missouri game, sitting there and feeling good about it until you get to the eighth win at the end of the year, you’ve had steady improvement for three years … Not that we aren’t there now, but to be a 7-1 team, now try to get to 8 in the bowl game, and keep moving down the right path. It does hit close to home. I know everybody … Because Arkansas is the show of the state, and there’s no pro teams, we get a lot of opinions and a lot of ideas thrown our way. I know this, we’re in so much better place now than we were four years ago, especially with the players we’ve got coming back; regardless of what happens during the outer season with staff and the growth of our program. I know we’re on the path to where we need to be. That part’s exciting. I think our schedule lays our really cool for us in the year ahead, and I know our guys will be excited to get back on track.

 

Thomas Jefferson and the Kneeling National Anthem Razorbacks

Why the Razorbacks’ national anthem kneeling fulfills some Founding Fathers’ vision for America

A statewide hubbub erupted earlier in November after six members of the Razorback women’s basketball team kneeled during a pre-game performance of the national anthem. “You all know that there’s been a lot of killings* from police officers of African-Americans and other minorities,” Razorback Jordan Danberry, a Conway native, said after the game at Bud Walton Arena. “Me and my teammates took a knee today during the national anthem to speak for those who are oppressed. As Razorback student-athletes, we have a platform to do that.”

Their head coach, Jimmy Dykes, and the UA athletic director Jeff Long defended their actions. “I am very, very proud of them,” Coach Dykes said. “They had very, very strong, well-informed, educated opinions based on their real-life experiences, their real-life emotions. Mr. Long added: “University campuses are places of learning and thus places where differences of opinion and varying perspectives are recognized. We respect the rights of our student-athletes and all individuals to express themselves on important issues in our nation.”

Already, thousands of Arkansans — including high-profile politicians — have begun blasting the Lady  Razorbacks who refused to stand. Laura Rushing, for instance, Tweeted: “I might just take a knee on UofA funding. Leadership needs to go!”

State senator Jason Rapert chimed in: “I agree Senator. Perhaps we reconsider the U of A budget since some in leadership don’t get it.”

I respectfully disagree, Sen. Rapert et al.

Public funding of higher education should not be cut because young women dared exercise their rights of free speech in front of fans who had paid to watch them do something else. Coach Dykes and Mr. Long should not be fired for their support of these women.

If anything, they should be praised.

A red white and blue flag wrapped around a soldier’s tomb is a strong symbol, sure. It often elicits strong emotions, yes. But a flag and a tomb are, at their core, manufactured products. The United States of America is supposed to represent something different.

The Razorbacks’ protest in Fayetteville reminds us the United States of America itself is a manmade invention, too. It had a beginning and will have an end. The more important things it represents, though, precede it and should persist long after it fades.

More than 240 years ago, the Founding Fathers did not conjure the United States as something that in and of itself should deserve and command respect, gratitude and unswerving loyalty.

Instead, they created it as a governing apparatus with a primary function of preserving the rights and freedoms of individuals living in specific geographic areas.  And one of the those liberties is the right to free speech without (financial or corporeal) punishment if said speech offends those in power.

The fabrication we call the “U.S.A.” exists to edify and protect its people, not the other way around.

The U.S.A. was founded as an ongoing political experiment meant to be refined and perfected by ongoing criticism, protest and peaceful dissent.  “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty,” George Washington wrote, “is finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People.”

In a 1804 letter, Thomas Jefferson wrote: ”No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

Today’s “press” is more fragmented and prevalent now than in Jefferson’s newspaper-centric day. The protesting Razorbacks have taken of advantage of this. They deliberated with Coach Dykes beforehand on the consequences of their actions; they knew word of it would quickly spread on social media and online news sites.

So did Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who sparked this most recent round of athlete protests by sitting out of a national anthem in an August preseason game.  “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said afterword.

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

This sentiment rubs many Arkansans the wrong way. They believe it disrespects the U.S. soldiers who have died in order to protect the U.S. and the very First Amendment rights the Lady Razorbacks exercised by kneeling on the court.

It doesn’t. Because often these soldiers and these athlete protestors act and suffer out of love for the very same thing: life and liberty. We can call it “American” life and liberty, but the adjective pales in importance to the nouns following it.

Granted, the costs entailed are on different scales. Soldiers can lose life and limb; Athlete protestors can lose sponsorship money and fan support. But both sides believe they are acting in defense of the things which matter most.

Hog fan Mike Todd touched on this in a recent post on the Razorback Coaches Facebook page. He wrote his father was a World War II Navy veteran. “When an activist in LR was going to burn the flag on the Capital steps I asked him what he thought of that. He said it was the guy’s right. I said ‘But you fought for that flag.’

I’ll never forget his words: ‘I didn’t fight for a flag. I fought for the rights it stands for – including burning it if you want to.’”

At its best, the “United States of America” and all the red, white and blue-clad pomp and circumstance this manmade invention may entail, provides a structure through which we can peacefully disagree and learn from that disagreement — without fear of retribution.

Before threatening to cut funding to Arkansas’ flagship university, our state’s leaders would do well to remember that.

 

*According to analysis by the Washington Post, black people in America are two and a half times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans.

Auburn 56, Arkansas 3: What They’re Saying

Some of the best commentary following 2016’s “Massacre on the Plains”

Ah, the age-old ugly flip side to winning as a team.
Losing as one.
Boy howdy did Arkansas accomplish this feat Saturday night throughout pretty much the entirety of a 56-3 meltdown at Auburn.
Razorback football insiders point out practically every part of the team, save field goal kicking, deserves strong blame here. Here’s a look at some of their best insight:

  1. Matt Jones, WholeHogSports:

Arkansas’ run defense was supposed to be the team’s strength this season. The Razorbacks returned starters at almost every position from last season’s unit that was a top 15 national run defense. It was a group that held eventual Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry to his lowest output of the season, and LSU’s Leonard Fournette to his second-lowest output last year.
With as many as 10 defensive linemen thought to be SEC starting quality, stopping the run was going to be a given with this group, even if the back end continued to struggle to defend the pass.

That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Arkansas’ run defense is the worst in recent memory. You can say the same for the defense as a whole. The Razorbacks are allowing 8.3 yards per rush attempt in SEC games. That’s almost a first down every time the opponent carries the ball.

2. Trent Wooldridge, Arkansas Fight:

Two years ago I watched a team that was in the middle of an historic losing streak go out every week and play their hearts out. They lost game after game, but it was obvious that nobody wanted to play them because it was apparent that every contest would be a battle. Last night, I watched a ranked Arkansas play a game against a team that was obviously licking it chops before facing the Hogs. I watched Arkansas play a team that knew it could make them quit… Life in this league is short and brutish, Coach, but a 53 point loss stays with you forever. A 53 point loss is so bad that it has Jack Crowe shit-talking you on Twitter.

JACK CROWE LOST TO THE CITADEL AND WAS FIRED ONE GAME INTO HIS THIRD SEASON HERE. AND HE’S TALKING SHIT ABOUT YOU. THAT IS HOW BAD LAST NIGHT WAS.

3. Mitch Petrus, former Razorback offensive lineman:

I’m gonna put it all on the offensive line. I’m gonna take this whole game and put it on the offensive line. It’s all your fault offensive line… I’ve never seen a game where guys don’t care so much — we got our chips down and we just give up. I can’t have that as a coach.

4. Jimmy Carter, WholeHogSports.com:

Like the Alabama game, Arkansas struggled stop the run outside the tackles, which allowed the Tigers to gash the defense for big gains. Too often, corners failed to set the edges and linebackers were stuck inside, either too slow to react and fit outside gaps, suckered in by false steps or effectively walled off by solid blocking. The safety issues, detailed below, didn’t help matters, with 6-yard runs turning into much longer, chunk gains several times.

On safeties Josh Liddell and Santos Ramirez regressing after standout performances against Ole Miss:

Each missed a number of tackles, failing to wrap up on some and going for big hits on others, the latter an area Bret Bielema stressed the coaching staff was working to correct. Against Ole Miss, Ramirez’ late big hit didn’t connect squarely with Chad Kelly but forced the fumble that allowed the Razorbacks to secure the win…

Auburn didn’t have to throw often, but it was able to take advantage of Ramirez for a big play in one key instance when it did. The sophomore left a wheel route uncovered late in the second quarter, gifting Tigers quarterback Sean White a 45-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 28-0…

Receiver Eli Stove scored a 78-yard touchdown on a jet sweep on the first snap of the game. Arkansas didn’t react to the motion at all, leaving Ramirez and cornerback Jared Collins in space as the only defenders with a shot at stopping Stove. Neither did and Auburn quickly gained momentum.

On the linebacker corps featuring Dwayne Eugene, De’Jon Harris, Brooks Ellis and Khalia Hackett at the “SAM” position:

The weakside spot has been a question mark without injured Dre Greenlaw. Ellis struggles in space at times and doesn’t have the luxury of being spelled by a backup. The entire group struggled to fill gaps and get off blocks Saturday, regularly being locked up by Auburn blockers and unable to get off blocks to make a play.

Ex Governor David Pryor Condemns Hogs’ “Nuclear Arms Race” Mentality

On September 8th, University of Arkansas trustee David Pryor cast a “no” vote for the bond issue behind the largest stadium construction project in state history. Below is a detailed explanation of the former governor’s reasoning, as laid out in a letter earlier in the summer.

Ultimately, Pryor’s veto was in vain.  By a vote of 6-2, the UA board of trustees approved the final step needed to launch the Razorback Stadium north end expansion. The other “no” vote belonged to Monticello lawyer Cliff Gibson. I got Gibson’s take on the issue here.


June 15, 2016

Dear Trustee:

For our Thursday morning meeting, I have requested the opportunity to discuss my reasons for opposing the North End Stadium project for the Fayetteville campus.  I write this letter to you and my other colleagues on the Board as time may not allow me to cover the salient points of my argument during the oral presentation before the full Board.  I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read these thoughts and certainly hope you realize that my position is being taken after much thought, discussion and input.  This is not an attempt to “lobby” you for your vote, but to simply share one Trustee’s belief as to the wrongness of going forward with the North End project.

Whatever the outcome of this important decision by the Board, I will honor your position and the reasons for your vote – regardless of whether you vote to approve or disapprove this enormous commitment for the State of Arkansas.

Some months ago, I proposed that we adopt the “cost/benefit test” as we proceeded to decide this project.  As you know, the stadium expansion will be the largest bond issue in the history of higher education for the State of Arkansas.  It is a monumental commitment of resources, and to some extent, our Board will be establishing by our support that a few luxury boxes and special seats in a football stadium used some six times a year is the highest priority for the institution we all revere and serve.  I personally do not believe this project is the highest priority for the University of Arkansas.

There is a great applause line we all hear and sometimes ourselves repeat:  “We must always put students first.”

The stadium expansion does not put students first.  In fact, the some 26,000 students on the Fayetteville campus will not benefit one iota.  There are no extra student seats added.  In fact, there are no general admission seats added – but only some 3,000 “special seats” for those fans in the upper income levels.

Not one student has contacted me to express support for this project.  To the best of my knowledge, not one student organization, alumni group or chapter, or booster club has voiced their support for the North End expansion.  To the best of my knowledge, not one sports writer or newspaper has endorsed this expansion.  In fact, I have received several hundred e-mails, phone calls and citizen expressions of opposition to this mammoth bond issue which obligates the entire State of Arkansas to support a “chosen few” fans to enjoy an “enhanced game day experience.”

Between 2009 and 2013, our Board chose to support several athletic program projects, establishing a deeper footprint in the Southwestern quadrant of our campus.  In 2013, we voted on the concept of enlarging and improving the North End.  At that time, the estimated cost was not the $160 million price tag of today’s proposal, but $78 to $95 million.  I have yet to see how this enormous cost escalation has occurred in such a short time.  There has been no explanation.

It is now estimated that “only” $120 million will be required of bonded indebtedness, given that $40 million of private funds can be applied to the expansion.  Assuming a bond issue of $120 million, the 20-year cost of principal, interest, and servicing fees, we are facing an obligation of approximately $186 million dollars!

We will not just be endorsing a project costing $160 million but $186 million.

We have just raised tuition, thus adding to the backbreaking debt load our students and their families bear.  With state funding for higher education stagnant, where do we get the dollars for future classrooms for the fast growing student population?  How do we equip our labs and find scholarship support?  Can we continue being in last place in faculty salaries, according to the Southern Regional Education Board (16 southern states).  Are we to accept as a given fact that we are 45th in the nation of those states with the lowest percentage of college degrees?  And, is our answer to these and many other questions going to be, “Let’s use our resources to add 3,000 luxury boxes and high end seats for our football stadium?”

Some have recently said that this addition will help with “recruitment” in enticing prospective Razorbacks to Fayetteville.  Do any of us actually believe that an 18-year-old potential from Conway, Judsonia or Smackover really cares or is impressed by the fact that we have 75,000 stadium seats rather than 72,000?

The Athletic Department states that the expenditure of $160 million on the stadium’s north end will enhance the “game day experience” for Razorback fans.  Will two new elevators, a new Broyles Center, a multi-million video board in the south end, adding some 3,000 new luxury seats truly add any benefit except for a privileged few?

Should we ever decide to issue bonds for classrooms, labs, scholarships, tuition or faculty salaries, count me as a supporter.

A South Arkansas banker e-mailed me that this project is “ill advised.”  Another wrote:  How many student scholarships could we provide with these millions of dollars?  Several former University Trustees have recently stated their opposition to the North end expansion.

In some 8 ½ years as a Trustee, I have voted for many bond issues, every tuition increase and all athletic facilities proposed by the Athletic Department.

I cannot support this proposal.  It makes no sense.  In fact, it defies common sense and fairness that has always been a part of the Arkansas character.  Well known and respected sports writer Nate Allen recently added some true wisdom to this discussion:   “Reserve the Razorbacks just for the rich and they become a brand who fewer can afford and for which they will lose their passion.”

In America, college football has become a nuclear arms race.  Yes, it is BIG BUSINESS.  Fancy stadiums, outlandish salaries, luxury amenities.  We all know that.  On this vote, we now have a rare chance to become the school that takes the bold step of stating what our priorities are really all about.

I look forward to our Thursday discussion of the stadium issue.  You have been kind to read these comments, and to hear me out — and I am grateful.

Respectfully,

David Pryor

When Muhammad Ali visited UALR

In 1969, what is now the University of Arkansas-Little Rock received a surprise visit from the former heavyweight champion.

Looking through the Arkansas Gazette archives, I was surprised to learn Muhammad Ali visited Little Rock University — now known as UALR — in 1969. The legendary boxer had been banned from boxing after refusing military service two years earlier, and was on a speaking tour at college campuses nationwide. His swing through Arkansas also included speeches at the UA, Philander Smith College and what is now UAPB (where the photo in this post was taken).

The below is from March 11, 1969:

ALI’S SURROUNDED AT LRU AFTER SIDE-DOOR ENTRANCE

Muhammad Ali paid a surprise visit to Little Rock University Monday morning and spent about an hour in the student union talking with students, shaking hands and signing autographs. Ali entered the side door of the Union with several Negro students and stood talking to the Negro students inside for about five minutes before any of the white students seem to recognize him.

He was immediately encircled by students and instructors when he was recognized. Ali, who was scheduled to speak to students at Arkansas AM and N College at Pine Bluff later in the day, said he came to LRU, “to see how things are.”
He signed autographs on anything from notebook paper to textbooks. One woman asked to his hand “so I can tell my husband.”
Ali, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, answered students’ questions on subjects ranging from black separatism (he’s for it) to the Vietnam War (he’s against it.) On Vietnam, he recited a poem, which began “Hell no! I won’t go” which met some cheers.
Ali has been found guilty of refusing induction into the Army. He is appealing on the ground that he should be deferred as a black Muslim minister. He changed his name from Cassius Clay when he converted to that religion. Ali, dressed in a dark business suit, arrived on the campus in his black limousine, which he announced was as good as a car as President Nixon’s.”
Ali discussed theory of black separatism briefly with the 50 or 60 students gathered around them. He said he was against integration because it was forced. He said he was against interracial marriage and that the Negro had all the variety he needed within his own race.

“If you want a chocolate one,” he said putting his arm around a Negro student, “or a honey-gold one,” he said grabbing another girl, “or a peach one,” as he put his arm still another.

Negro students escorted Ali to the parking lot. The students gave a loud cheer as Ali rode away in his black limousine.