Con­cern high, op­ti­mism low for Hogs’ fans

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

The world of per­spir­ing arts seems to be spin­ning out of whack, at least at the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville.

It seems more peo­ple are more con­cerned about the foot­ball pro­gram, Coach Bret Bielema and Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Jeff Long than they were an al­most $4 mil­lion deficit in the UA’s Ad­vance­ment Di­vi­sion just four years ago.

Ob­vi­ously, the Ra­zor­backs Na­tion is un­der­stand­ably not happy where the pro­gram is or where it ap­pears to be headed.

It is well doc­u­mented that af­ter go­ing 68-24 in seven sea­sons as Wis­con­sin’s head coach, Bielema is 29-32 at Arkansas and 18 of those vic­to­ries were against non­con­fer­ence op­po­nents, leav­ing him 11-27 in SEC play with two games re­main­ing this sea­son.

Af­ter five years, Danny Ford was fired with a record of 26-30-1 and 16-24-1 in SEC play, and he won the SEC West in his third year.

At his Mon­day news con­fer­ence, Bielema said he ex­pected to be back next year, that Long had not spo­ken to him about be­ing in trouble.

Of course, many of the fans are not as op­ti­mistic and had hoped to learn some­thing, any­thing, af­ter the Board of Trus­tees met last Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day.

On Thurs­day, they met for more than four hours in ex­ec­u­tive ses­sion with Long sit­ting out­side the meet­ing area but never called in.

We may know more today. This is the dead­line for the UA sys­tem to an­swer a re­quest un­der the state Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act by re­porter Az­iza Musa, and the UA sys­tem is bet­ter about re­spond­ing to FOI re­quests than the UA.

This is the same UA that in 2016 re­ceived $191 mil­lion of tax money for its op­er­a­tion.

There are side­bars to what is go­ing on, such as the 39-page study by the UA that says mil­lions of dol­lars of im­prove­ments are needed at War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in order to keep one Arkansas game per sea­son at Lit­tle Rock.

The big­gest is­sues are where the foot­ball pro­gram is and where it will be in the fu­ture.

Bielema 100 per­cent be­lieves he is go­ing to turn it around. He’s an up­beat, pos­i­tive guy who makes a per­sonal dif­fer­ence in his play­ers’ lives. Cole Kel­ley’s re­cent ar­rest for sus­pi­cion of DWI was an ex­cep­tion to the rule.

Fans, though, are point­ing at his 4-6 record and not one of those four vic­to­ries was against a team with a win­ning record — Ole Miss is 5-5, New Mex­ico State 4-5, Florida A&M 3-7 and Coastal Carolina 1-9 — and they are 13-26 com­bined.

The Ra­zor­backs have lost five games this sea­son by more than 20 points, and that’s a first in school his­tory.

For Satur­day’s game in Fayet­teville against Mis­sis­sippi State, tick­ets in the up­per deck can be bought for as lit­tle as $6 each on al­ter­nate ticket sites and less than $12 in the lower bowl.

Ho­tel prices in Fayet­teville are the low­est they have been for a foot­ball week­end this sea­son.

And the vast ma­jor­ity of those who go to the game can only look at the de­vel­op­ment of the Ra­zor­back Riviera that is be­ing built for the rich­est of the rich, whose names the UA will not di­vulge for “com­pet­i­tive rea­sons.”

The lack of trans­parency in the UA ath­letic depart­ment will lead to crazy ru­mors, such as this coach or that coach might be in­ter­ested in be­ing the new coach but only if Jeff Long re­mains the AD. That sim­ply is not true and it was writ­ten with a laugh.

One thing is ob­vi­ous. If there is a change, the UA needs to ei­ther spend some money for a con­sult­ing com­pany or put to­gether a search com­mit­tee that in­cludes a va­ri­ety of wise peo­ple who share a pas­sion for the Ra­zor­backs. UA sys­tem Pres­i­dent Don­ald Bob­bitt said last spring that from now on, he will be in­volved in all con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, and that’s a good thing.

Read Wally Hall’s SPORTS BLOG Wal­ly­likeitis.com

WALLY HALL

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