Advice from outsider on UA football unwelcomed

Posted: October 29, 2017 at 1 a.m.

The arguing, the finger-pointing, and the blame game can be overwhelming when a fan base is unhappy about the direction of its program.

The Arkansas football program is struggling, for sure. Everyone knows that. I had decided to leave the topic alone for a while, but changed when I heard a person who covers the SEC say Arkansas is a mediocre program that can’t possibly do any better than its current coach.

Excuse me?

I didn’t know the SEC is a caste system where upper mobility is impossible. Razorbacks fans reject mediocrity the same way I rejected a co-worker years ago who said I was a fool for quitting my job at the factory to return to college and pursue a degree.

I did and my journalism degree has kept me out of the factory for 33 years. So, please don’t tell us, Mr. SEC Outsider, what we can and can not do here.

I know there are fewer Division I prospects in Arkansas each year than most of the other states in the SEC. I also know the Razorbacks would finish near the bottom of the SEC each year if college teams were allowed to only recruit players from within their borders. But our high schools have produced some top stars in the SEC, including Matt Jones, Darren McFadden, Hunter Henry, Tyler Wilson and the three receivers from Warren (Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, Chris Gragg) who helped Arkansas to a 21-5 record under Bobby Petrino in 2010-2011.

Remember those teams, Mr. SEC Outsider?

What our state lacks in quantity, we make up for in quality. If anything, the Razorbacks’ failure to attract top recruits from the region, primarily in Texas, is a huge factor in the program’s current struggles.

Another problem I have is with people who say Arkansas should just leave the SEC and join the Big 12 Conference. To me, the only thing worse than a loser is a loser who flees the fight.

Normally, I see comments about leaving the SEC on message boards or hear them occasionally on sports talk radio. But former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops brought the topic to the forefront when he told an audience at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club the Razorbacks would be a good fit for the Big 12.

“Geographically, it would be a home run,” Stoops said. “Can you imagine a series every year with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU all within driving distance? I think it would be incredibly good for Arkansas.”

So, the Hogs should throw away the money and prestige of the SEC to join a league that almost imploded not too long ago? It took an Arkansas native and a former coach in the Big 12 to shoot down that idea.

“You don’t want any part of the Big 12,” said Tommy Tuber-ville, a former SEC coach who also coached at Texas Tech. “It might be easier, but the attention you get in the SEC is very valuable. You don’t know what’s going to happen with the Big 12.”

No disrespect to Stoops, but Arkansas must remain in the SEC and work out its problems, even if it requires a major overhaul in December. But let’s see how the season plays out. Arkansas could finish the year on an upswing like it did in 2014 that began with a shutout against LSU and ended with a bowl victory over Texas.

Most Razorbacks fans are reasonable. They don’t expect to challenge traditional powers like Alabama and Auburn for SEC championships each year. Eight wins most years with an occasional nine- or 10-win season sprinkled in is acceptable to most.

Arkansans know the state’s top college program is in trouble right now and being laughed at or ridiculed by outsiders only strengthens our resolve. We’ll fix our own problems, thank you very much.

Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@ nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.

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