College Football Teams Which Played in Bowl Games Despite Losing Records

Fifty years ago, one of the worst bowl teams ever took the field to do what they did well – lose.

College football fans have a love/hate relationship with democracy; no where is this more obvious than when talk turns to the sport’s postseason. Most fans like that starting next year the national champion will be crowned through a playoff system instead of through final BCS rankings.  Some think the tourney should include eight teams instead of four, but on the whole they agree that a playoff system is more egalitarian and just than the current format which has left a few undefeated teams out of the title game.

So, yes, widening the path to the national title game = good. But widening the path to any postseason bowl? Not so cool. In 2006, the NCAA opened the floodgates on the number of programs eligible for the postseason by allowing programs with .500 records in. A winning record was no longer required to go bowling. This change was necessary. Otherwise, the openings reserved for the surging number of bowl games – now 35 – could not have been filled.

The result, of course, has been the lampooning of a profusion of horrendously mediocre football neither  you, me nor Aunt Wilma have the time to care about. Competitions like the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, played ten days ago between Colorado State and Washington State, are supposed to count for something. But, in reality, they are not so much sporting events to pay serious attention to as soothing background television during the sometimes heated holiday season. When the turkey’s burning, or the dog just bit off baby doll’s head,  a Gildan New Mexico Bowl functions as the visual equivalent of Muzak.

The current bowl system gets flak for giving afterlives to scores of 6-6 teams. But the field wasn’t necessarily more selective in previous decades. Indeed, on December 31, 1963, a team with a record-low four wins played in the Sun Bowl. That would be SMU, which was invited to play Oregon in the El Paso, Texas bowl despite a 4-6 record. “I’ll admit we did feel funny about it at first,” former SMU head coach Hayden Fry told the Dallas Morning News. “But we got to thinking, there’s no rules and regulations about records of bowl teams.” It also helped that SMU had earlier in the 1963 season knocked off fourth-ranked Navy and had an athletic director, Matty Bell, who was close friends with Mike Brumbelow, an influential El Paso businessman and leading figure in Sun Bowl operations.

This SMU team was the second of at least five major college football teams which have been invited to a bowl game despite having a losing regular season record. Not that the Mustangs were ashamed. “From the players’ standpoint, this is about the best bowl trip in the country,” Fry said in Dallas on December, 1963. “They have horse racing, bullfights, a nice luncheon, and a New Year’s Eve party in Jaurez, and we fly them back here New Year’s Day early enough that they can see the other bowl games if they want to. The players get watches, and SMU gets money in the bank. What could be better than that?”

Hold it right there, Hayden. I’ll tell you what could be better than that. How about a list of the worst major college football teams to be invited to a bowl game?

Continue reading College Football Teams Which Played in Bowl Games Despite Losing Records

NBA Arkansans Ranked In Order of Highest Scoring Game

joe johnson 29-points-quarter
You go, Joe.

On Monday night, Joe Johnson had a quarter for the ages. In one twelve-minute span, the Brooklyn Net scored 29 points including eight three-pointers. That’s historic stuff – tying an NBA record for most threes in a quarter and four points away from the record for most points in a quarter.

But Johnson’s spectacular play in the third quarter didn’t extend to the rest of the game. In the first half, he scored eight points and declined an opportunity to play in the fourth. He ended up totaling 37 points – only the 11th highest scoring game of his career.

Johnson’s third-quarter explosion was noteworthy because he’s never been a supremely explosive scorer. Although he was a main scoring option in Atlanta for years, his career high is 42 points. Where does this career high rank all-time among NBA Arkansans?

Wonder no more. Below are all instances of an NBA Arkansan scoring 40 or more points, ranked in order of highest scoring games.

Carroll, a Pine Bluff native, holds the top spot.
Carroll, a Pine Bluff native, holds the top spot.

1. Joe Barry Carroll

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     24-224 1983-03-05 GSW  UTA W       22  32 .688 22           0          8  13  .615 52     
2     22-211 1981-02-20 GSW  SDC L       17          17           0         12  17  .706 46     
3     28-192 1987-02-01 GSW  NJN W  1 55 15  37 .405 15  37 .405  0   0     13  18  .722 43 
4     24-196 1983-02-05 GSW  SAS W       14  26 .538 14           0         12  14  .857 40
Age = XX-YYY; XX=Years Old, YYY=Days Old

2. Scottie Pippen

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA   2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     31-146 1997-02-18 CHI  DEN W  1 41 19  27 .704 17  22  .773  2   5  .400  7   7 1.000 47 
2     25-151 1991-02-23 CHI  CHH W  1 31 16  17 .941 16  17  .941  0   0       11  15  .733 43 
3     26-156 1992-02-28 CHI  MIL W  1 42 17  24 .708 17  23  .739  0   1  .000  7   7 1.000 41 
4     30-146 1996-02-18 CHI  IND W  1 44 14  26 .538 10  19  .526  4   7  .571  8  10  .800 40 
5     29-167 1995-03-11 CHI  LAL L  1 40 16  26 .615 12  19  .632  4   7  .571  4   5  .800 40
One of the few stats where he outdid the Sid in the pros.
One of the few stats where he outdid the Sid in the pros.

3. Ron Brewer

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     26-055 1981-11-10 SAS  LAL W       19          19           0          6   7  .857  44     
2     26-052 1981-11-07 SAS  NYK W       16          16           0          8   8 1.000  40

4. Sidney Moncrief

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     26-059 1983-11-19 MIL  DEN L       13  17 .765 13           0           17  19  .895 43     
2     25-156 1983-02-24 MIL  HOU W       14  24 .583 14           0           14  14 1.000 42

5. Joe Johnson

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     24-251 2006-03-07 ATL  GSW W  1 48 14  27 .519 10  17 .588  4  10  .400 10  10 1.000 42 
2     27-181 2008-12-27 ATL  CHI W  1 44 16  31 .516 12  25 .480  4   6  .667  5   6  .833 41 
3     28-173 2009-12-19 ATL  CHI L  1 48 16  32 .500 11  25 .440  5   7  .714  3   4  .750 40 
4     24-263 2006-03-19 ATL  ORL W  1 48 17  24 .708 12  19 .632  5   5 1.000  1   2  .500 40 
5     24-240 2006-02-24 ATL  IND W  1 47 16  24 .667 11  19 .579  5   5 1.000  3   3 1.000 40 
6     24-213 2006-01-28 ATL  CHI L  1 46 16  25 .640 12  21 .571  4   4 1.000  4   4 1.000 40

6. Alvin Robertson

Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     23-152 1985-12-21 SAS  DEN W  1 43 14  19 .737 13  18 .722  1   1 1.000 12  14  .857 41 
2     25-272 1988-04-19 SAS  LAL L  1 44 17  28 .607 16  25 .640  1   3  .333  5   6  .833 40 

7. Todd Day
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     25-349 1995-12-22 BOS  MIN W  0 38 11  18 .611  6  10 .600  5   8  .625 14  16  .875 41 

8. Corliss Williamson
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     24-090 1998-03-04 SAC  DET W  1 40 16  23 .696 16  23 .696  0   0        8   9  .889 40 

9. Archie Clark
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     30-134 1971-11-26 BAL  ATL W       15                               10  11  .909 40

O.K. Hard as I might try, I just can't slam the door on folks who nearly scored 40 points
but fell a shade short. Here are members of the 39-Point Club:
Eddie Miles
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     27-251 1968-03-12 DET  SEA W       18                                 3   3 1.000 39

Darrell Walker
Rk       Age       Date  Tm  Opp   GS MP FG FGA  FG% 2P 2PA  2P% 3P 3PA   3P% FT FTA   FT% PTS 
1     26-014 1987-03-23 DEN  UTA L  1 36 13  18 .722 13  18 .722  0   0       13  16  .813 39 
2     26-002 1987-03-11 DEN  UTA W  1 40 14  21 .667 14  21 .667  0   0       11  14  .786 39

Of Parkview v. North Little Rock & the Old-School Genius of Al Flanigan

Flanigan_victory_towel[1]
When KeVaughn Allen fouled out with a minute to go, Flanigan took out the towel to signify the win was all but sealed.
More than a decade ago, my little brother, then a high school sophomore, made one of Little Rock Parkview’s basketball teams. This was no small achievement. His classmates and teammates were serious players like Marc Winston and Jamaal Anderson who went on to star in football and became a first-round draft of the Atlanta Falcons. [Atlanta, btw, plays the Redskins this Sunday. Click here for more about that game and NFL betting news.] My brother only lasted a couple months with Parkview before he quit (wasn’t exactly what could be called “self-disciplined”), but he did play in all the practices and even got thrown into the end of a couple games. Despite the transitory nature of his experience, to this day he considers the fact he got into the program at all and played for its legendary coach to be the height of his athletic career.

Parkview, of course, is a gold standard in Arkansas high school prep circles. To be associated with it means something. It means you’re going to know how to find the open man, you’re going to cut to the hole when it’s time and you’re going to get your ass chewed out by one Al Flanigan. Through the decades Parkview’s head basketball coach has won five state titles, but I’m not sure if he’s delivered a more impressive victory than what happened on Friday night.

His Patriots team, in theory depleted a year after losing two high major recruits, beat defending state champion North Little Rock team 65-55. The Charging Wildcats (4-1) are hands down the state’s most talented team. Start with sophomore Adrian Moore, a transfer from Conway, who has offers from Baylor and Arkansas and delivered a one-handed tomahawk at the end of the first half which caused the roof to tremble.

Continue with muscular K.J. Hill, who will end up playing high major football (he’s an Arkansas recruit). Hill, a junior guard, transferred last summer from Bryant and is only now getting into basketball shape. He wasn’t as much of an offensive force tonight as he will be in two months. NLR’s starting backcourt features yet another transfer, senior Anton Beard, who this summer rejoined his middle school running mate KeVaughn Allen after spending the first three years of his high school career at Parkview. Beard is a Hog signee, and there are plenty people trying hard to make sure the highly-sought Allen, a junior, becomes one too.

Allen is nationally ranked as the eighth-best player  in his class. Heading into this game against Parkview, NLR had been the top-ranked team in the state for more than a year.

But rankings go out to the window when you face a team led by the fiery Al Flanigan, even if that team is perceived to be in a down year.  His team’s best players may not have high D1 scholarship offers or any number of stars attached to their names, but they showed five-star chemistry that is a direct tribute to Flanigan, the very definition of tough love. When Parkview (5-0) was trying to hold on to a 12-point lead early in the second half, he repeatedly jumped out of his seat and waved his signature talisman – a red towel – to rally his troops from the sideline. He huffed and puffed and nearly blew a couple of his players down, at one point faking like he was going to slap a Patriot with his towel before quickly pulling it back, smiling and giving the kid a quick pat on the back. He is not averse to having a little fun with his opponents’ fans and will let loose an extremely loud “God D***!!!” now and then. Through it all, though, it’s obvious he has his players’ utmost respect. They were very sharp against NLR and, more importantly, “they played like they wanted it more than we did,” NLR head coach Johnny Rice told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n6wpj5eNo4&w=560&h=315]

A few more scatter shot observations:

1) There are no visible signs of hard feelings between Flanigan and his former protege Anton Beard.  Three years ago, Beard became the first freshman Flanigan had ever started. He helped deliver two state titles to Parkview but by the end of his junior year decided he wanted to play for North Little Rock, where he lives. This had to have been a disappointing decision for Flanigan to hear (especially since he’d lost his other elite guard – I.J. Ready – to graduation last spring) but it was good to see there is still a bond between the one-time sensei and student. Beard had a subpar game – he forced a few bad shots and at one point midway through the second half, after a series of misses near the basket, wound up face down on the court pounding the floor in frustration. Beard finished with 16 points, but some of his attempts came the expense of establishing an offensive flow.

Beard also suffered some kind of minor leg or ankle injury while throwing his body around and he probably played the last part of the game through pain. Still, you could tell Flanigan still cared about his prodigal son. At one stop in game action, Beard stood on the court a few feet from Flanigan, hands on his knees and grimacing in pain. Flanigan shouted: “You all right, player?”

After the smoke cleared...
After the smoke cleared…

Continue reading Of Parkview v. North Little Rock & the Old-School Genius of Al Flanigan

Every Arkansas State Head Coach Marches to the Beat of His Predecessor’s Drummer

The Twitterverse is convulsing with this morning’s news that Bryan Harsin has left Jonesboro to take over the head coaching job at his alma mater Boise State. Harsin is only the latest of a series of one-year football coaches at Arkansas State. The constant turnover has been hard on the players, sure, but the good news for the program is that it will end up netting $1 million off the early buy-out clause Harsin had to sign last December. As Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky put it, “the Red Wolves job is like an unpaid internship. It’ll cost you money in the short term, but just think of it as an audition for the job you actually want.”

If you include interim coaches, Arkansas State will soon have its seventh head coach since December 2010. This kind of turnover may be unprecedented in college or pro football, but it’s not so unique in the world of iconic mockumentaries starring Christopher Guest:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW6W9iOjTKM&w=420&h=315]

H/T to Deadspin commentor Mittens Romney

The Most Dominant Athlete in Arkansas College Sports

Courtesy Jim Hilton

I don’t usually repost press release copy from universities, but I’m making an exception today. Because it’s a shame not more people know about Edina Begic, the UALR volleyball star who likely just pulled off this year’s single most dominant individual season in all Arkansas college team sports. You’ll read about some of all the amazing things she achieved below, but what I find most stupendous is the fact that the Bosnian she received a Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week award seven times this fall – including one historic stretch of five such honors in a row.

The Beginator.
The Begicinator.

After another record-breaking year that saw her finish third in the nation with 5.11 kills per set, Begic was this week named to the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association All-Region Team for the Southwest Region. Begic is UALR’s first volleyball player to achieve this honor.

The junior outside hitter, who is now eligible to be named an All-American, topped the Sun Belt Conference in kills per set and points per set and was named its Offensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. She was also third in the country with 5.83 points per set. Begic is the first player in conference history to win Freshman of the Year followed with a pair of Offensive Player of the Year awards. She is only the the third Trojan to win Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player, joining Barbara Gomez (1997) and Tanja Radovic (2000).

Behind Begic’s offensive prowess, the Trojans took the No. 2 seed into last month’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament and held a 12-6 record in Sun Belt play along with an 8-5 mark in non-conference games. Begic set multiple school records this season, shattering the record for kills in a match with 36 kills in only four sets against Arkansas State on Oct. 2. In that match she had 16 kills in the fourth set alone and hit .517 for the match.

Against Georgia State on Nov. 8, Begic broke the school record for kills in a season and currently ended the campaign with 634 kills.

Milanovic has put up impressive numbers herself this season. She was the first Trojan to break the 30+ kills in a match barrier, matching the- then school record for kills in a match (34) against Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Sept. 7. She is second on the team with nine double-doubles for the season, including her first match in a Trojan uniform against Southeast Missouri State on Aug. 31 (22 digs, 17 kills). Besides being second in kills per set in the SBC, Milanovic sits ninth in both aces (0.24 per set) and hitting percentage (.282).

Begic is the third player to win Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year for UALR, joining Barbara Gomez (1997) and Tanja Radovic (2000). A Trojan has been selected All-Conference 35 times. Finally, Begic broke the school record for kills per set in a match on Oct. 25 against Troy, tallying 28 kills in only three sets (9.33 kills per set).

All-America teams will be announced on Dec. 18.

While Begic may end up being the first UALR All-American volleyball player, there’s a chance the second is already playing by her side. Sophomore Sonia Milanovic paired with Begic to make up the nation’s top spiking duo. She was the first Trojan to break the 30+ kills in a match barrier, matching the- then school record for kills in a match (34) against Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Sept. 7. She finished second in kills per set in the Sun Belt with 3.99 kills per set. That’s 41st in the nation.

Congrats, Edina and Sonia. I hope you lead UALR to a season for the ages in 2014.

UPDATE: They did indeed pull of that historic season. I wrote about it for the Arkansas Times here.

[Check out photographer Jim Hilton’s other superb sports photographs here]

Gus Malzahn & Arkansan head coaches who have won major conference titles

As head coach, Gus Malzahn doesn't have a single major conference title to his credit .... yet.
Gus Malzahn doesn’t have to be so angry anymore.

This afternoon Fort Smith native Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers will play the Missouri Tigers in the SEC Championship Game. If Malzahn pulls out a win that looks much less improbable than the one seared across the nation’s memory last Saturday, he will become the fifth Arkansan to have won an SEC title and at least the ninth to have won a major conference title as head coach. [UPDATE: Auburn won 59-42] Below is a list of native Arkansans (i.e. spent a majority of childhood in the state) who have already pulled this off. Not surprisingly, some are part of college football’s pantheon of coaches:

1. Bear Bryant

Hometown: Fordyce

School: Kentucky/Texas A&M/Alabama

Conference Titles Won: 15

(14 in SEC: 1950, 1961, 1964–1966, 1971–1975, 1977–1979, 1981; 1 in SWC: 1956)

National Titles Won: 6

(1961, 1964–1965, 1973, 1978–1979)

2. Barry Switzer

Hometown: Crossett

School: Oklahoma

Conference Titles Won: 12

(All in Big Eight: (1973–1980, 1984–1987)

National Titles Won: 3

(1974–1975, 1985)

3. Ken Hatfield

Hometown: Helena

School: Arkansas/Clemson/Rice

Conference Titles Won: 4

(3 SWC: 1988–1989, 1994; 1 ACC: 1991)

4. Fred Akers

Hometown: Blytheville

School: Texas

Conference Titles Won: 2

(SWC: 1977, 1983)

5. Tommy Tuberville

Hometown: Camden

School: Auburn

Conference Titles Won: 1

(SEC: 2004)

6. Charlie Strong

Hometown: Batesville

School: Louisville

Conference Titles Won: 1

(Big East: 2012)

7. Charlie McClendon

Hometown: Lewisville

School: LSU

Conference Titles Won: 1

(SEC: 1970)

This fancy Dartmouth-educated fella was Arkansan? I had no idea either...
This fancy Dartmouth-educated fella was Arkansan? I had no idea either…

8. Clarence Spears

Hometown: DeWitt*

School: Minnesota

Conference Titles Won: 1

(Big Ten: 1927)

*I admit it: I simply don’t know how long Spears lived in Arkansas before his family moved to Illinois, where he graduated high school. But I sure like to think he stuck around for longer than a Douglas MacArthurminute.

N.B. For this list, I only focused on coaches who had spent the majority of their childhood in Arkansas. That’s why you don’t like Frank Broyles or Butch Davis, guys who came to Arkansas after high school. Malzahn, for instance, was born in Texas but grew up in Fort Smith. If I missed someone, please let me know.

Also, I’m defining “major conference” as a current automatic qualifying conferences as well as the now-defunct Big East, Big Eight and Southwest conferences. Akers won a WAC title with Wyoming, but I didn’t include that in the list above because the notion of Wyoming being a major conference school is just plain wack.

Arkansas Fans, Get a Grip: War Memorial Stadium Tradition Not So Special

Arkansas will play one game per year in Little Rock through 2018.
Arkansas will play one game per year in Little Rock through 2018.

Arkansas fans are right to believe some of their traditions are truly unique. There are, after all, tens of college programs named after Wildcats or Tigers or some permutation of Bear, but there is only one named for the Razorback. And no group of fans, no matter how much they chomp, stomp or damn eagles, has thrown out anything that remotely resembles the Ozarkian eeriness that is the Hog Call. Suiiii generis, indeed.

But in all the recent commotion over Arkansas’ continuing pullout of War Memorial Stadium, I’ve noted a troublesome sentiment that what Arkansas has had all these years in its dual home arrangement has been so wonderfully precious and unique that losing it would present a blow the program may never fully recover from. Not so: plenty other programs split their home games between two stadia for decades. Plenty other fans made memories that lasted a lifetime in the stadium closer to their home. Yes, the other programs stopped doing this. But no, they did not fall apart.

To the contrary, many have thrived since quitting the practice.

These other programs – Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Virginia Tech et al – began dual home arrangements for the same, exact reason Arkansas started doing it in Little Rock in 1932: exposure, revenue and what today is called “brand building.” Arkansas leaders knew if their program was ever going to become nationally competitive it needed to have more support from its state, to stop losing the likes of Ken Kavanaugh (Little Rock High grad) to LSU and Don Hutson (Pine Bluff High) and Paul Bryant (Fordyce High) to Alabama. So Arkansas leaders, like leaders at Alabama, Mississippi State and Oregon State, decided to take their team away from its rural campus and parade it in a bigger, in-state city in front of more media and fans.*

Oregon did the same by traveling from Eugene to Portland. Washington State traveled from Pullman to Spokane, while Ole Miss traveled to Jackson and Auburn traveled to Birmingham. Each of the programs pulled out of these metro areas at different times but one overriding reason is the same as in Arkansas’ case – the campus’ stadium simply outgrew the metro area’s stadium. This especially came to the fore in the late 1980s as Auburn jockeyed to stop playing Iron Bowl games in Birmingham, as I wrote in a recent New York Times article: “Auburn leaders increasingly supported moving the game from the 75,000-seat Legion Field to the university’s expanded Jordan-Hare Stadium, which could hold 85,000. Housel [a former Auburn athletic director] said it got to the point that even Auburn fans living in Birmingham were so ready to drive the 120 miles to campus, they would ‘refuse to buy tickets to the Auburn-Alabama game if it was in Birmingham.'”

Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

Every team, as you see in the chart below, has dropped its dual home arrangement in the last 50 years. And programs like Oregon, Virginia Tech, Alabama and Auburn have gone on contend for or win national championships since the drop. Yes, you are right: Arkansas has become unique in the sense that it appears to be the only program that is still hanging on to this practice.

But is that something to be proud of?

It’s better to be proud of winning at a high level, a la Oregon, Auburn and Alabama. But hanging on to War Memorial hasn’t recently helped Arkansas get to this level. Its function was served in helping lift Arkansas to the nationally elite level it enjoyed through much of the 1960s through 1980s. It will not serve in getting Arkansas to the level Jeff Long, Bret Bielema et al expect it to reach in the later 2010s and 2020s.

Continue reading Arkansas Fans, Get a Grip: War Memorial Stadium Tradition Not So Special