Concern high, optimism low for Hogs’ fans
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.
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