We’re taught in school that history, at its core, is comprised of facts: so-and-so did such-and-such on a certain date. Learn enough of those, and you know enough to write an essay, make your passing grade, and get on with graduation.
Unfortunately, history is a lot less clear cut than that.
The people wielding the most power often determine what the “facts” are, and which ones are passed down to following generations. Our past, it turns out, is riddled with voids. We can’t fill them all, but it can be enough of a start to acknowledge they are there.
This came to mind when reading today’s column by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports editor Wally Hall. At the end, he praises Jim Bryan, an Arkansas prep basketball legend who recently suffered an embolism. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, Hall’s pretty generous when it comes to wishing folks well.
What concerns me is the part where Bryan is described as “the second all-time leading scorer in Arkansas high school basketball history.” That’s not true. In terms of all-time career points scored, Bryan is listed as the state’s fourth greatest scorer.
INDIVIDUAL – REGULAR SEASON OFFENSE – MOST POINTS SCORED
4,896 Bennie Fuller, Ark School Deaf, 1968-71
3,619 Jacob Roark, Concord, 2011-14
3,238 James Anderson, Junction City, 2004-07
2,792 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1955-58
2,755 Dederick Lee, Clarksville, 2009-13
2,317 Ronnie Parrott, Tuckerman, 1976-79
2,239 Payton Henson, Siloam Springs, 2009-13
2,018 Allan Pruett, Rector, 1963-66
The above records are kept by the Arkansas Activities Association, the state’s governing body of high school athletics. The fact that Hall missed Bryan’s standing by a place or two, to me, isn’t too big of a deal. What’s far more important is what the records don’t include. Namely, any mention of Jackie Ridgle and Eddie Miles – potentially the two most potent scorers in Arkansas high school history before current Bentonville star Malik Monk.
Miles, for one, averaged 21 points as a freshman, and then upped that each year to top out at around 32 points points a game as a senior. With numbers like that, there’s no doubt the North Little Rock native deserves a spot near the top of the all-time scoring list. But he’s not there, nor is Ridgle, because they played for all-black schools with records that have been largely lost, forgotten or destroyed. Even those which still exist and can be verified – such as Miles’ and Ridgle’s – haven’t been incorporated into the AAA’s record book. Until that happens, it shouldn’t be viewed as a true, official account of the state’s prep history.
This is a major issue that needs to be addressed. I’ve written about it time and time again. To the credit of the AAA, its assistant executive director Wadie Moore has been sympathetic to this problem and he has added Miles’ name to one category. But one mention isn’t enough when he (and Ridgle) deserve mention in multiple categories:
Per Game – Season
50.9 Bennie Fuller, Ark. School Deaf, 1970-71
46.0 Larry Stidman, Mount Ida, 1989
32.7 Josh Smith, Prairie Grove, 1996-97
31.0 Steven Delph, Guy-Perkins, 1987-88
30.3 Eddie Miles, NLR Jones, 1958
30.2 Marvin Newton, Viola, 1956-57
29.2 Glen Fenter, Charleston, 1977-78
28.8 Bill James, Armorel, 1957
28.0 Randy Porter, Luxora, 1979-80
28.0 Kyle James, Brinkley, 1986-87
The AAA means well, but I want it to do a more thorough job with its record books. Jim Bryan, for instance, owns the top two spots in the season scoring totals below. But where are the season point totals for the three people in front of him in the all-time career scoring list? Surely, a Bennie Fuller season or two should be here. Same with Jacob Roark and James Anderson, not to mention the likes of Eddie Miles or Jackie Ridgle.
1,190 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1957-58
1,152 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1956-57
1,125 Jermaine Mansko, Tuckerman, 1992
1,059 Matt Secrease, Weiner, 2002-2003 Season
1,041 Allan Pruett, Rector, 1965-66
Below are more scoring marks, according to the AAA’s 2014 record book. (One glance down the names shows why Rex Nelson tabbed Bennie Fuller as the “Wilt Chamberlin of the Deaf“)
108 Morris Dale Mathis (St. Joe), 1-25-1955
102 Bennie Fuller Ark. Deaf School, 12-4-1971
98 Bennie Fuller, Ark. Deaf School, 1970
77 Bennie Fuller, Ark School Deaf, 1970
65 Bennie Fuller, Ark. School Deaf, 1970
64 Bill McElduff, Marianna, 1944
61 Brooks Taylor, Buffalo Island Central, 2006
59 Wayne Lemon,s Dyess, 1952
58 Chester Barner, Jr., Marmaduke, 1959
58 Josh Bateman, Marmaduke, 2002
Last month, the Razorback defense played as well over a three and a half game stretch as it had at any point since its 1964 national championship season. Maintaining such intensity and execution won’t be easy, though. Significant losses loom ahead of the 2015 season. The defense loses two all-SEC caliber players in senior linebacker Martrell Spaight and senior defensive end Trey Flowers, and possibly a third in redshirt sophomore Darius Philon.
Philon, the nation’s 14th-ranked defensive tackle, is getting feedback on high how he’d be taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. Regardless of whether he leaves, Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith knows it’s vital he restock the cupboard this coming off-season.
Along those lines, there’s good news.
Today, one of the nation’s most highly sought JC defensive linemen signed a National Letter of Intent with Arkansas. Jeremiah Ledbetter, a 6’3″, 280 pound four-star recruit ( according to Rivals.com), will join the team in January after spending the past two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
From Arkansas’ sports information department:
A first-team All-Jayhawk Conference selectee, Ledbetter (@leddy_55) completed his sophomore campaign at Hutchinson with 76 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and two recovered fumbles. Ledbetter concluded his sophomore season as a second-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.
A native of Orlando, Florida, Ledbetter finished his senior year of high school at Gainesville (Ga.) High School, the same high school as Arkansas senior linebacker Daunte Carr. Ledbetter then redshirted his freshman year with the Blue Dragons.
Ledbetter selected the Razorbacks over offers from Georgia, Oklahoma State, Florida, South Carolina, Auburn and Miami (Fla.).
“Jeremiah is another fantastic addition to our growing 2015 class,” said Bielema. “He will bring experience and physicality to our defensive line and joins a group of outstanding future Razorbacks that will make an immediate impact with our team. The sky is the limit with Jeremiah and we can’t wait to see what he’ll bring during spring practice on and off the field.”
According to Rivals.com, Arkansas’ 2015 signing class ranks No. 20 in the nation. Ledbetter joins quarterback Ty Storey (@tystorey4), offensive lineman Zach Rogers (@HebronHawks75), defensive end Daytrieon Dean (@_dwoop) and defensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt (@Y3llur) as Arkansas’ early signees that will enroll January.
Arkansas will travel to Houston to take on the Texas Longhorns in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. The SEC/BIG12 matchup will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN.
To see Ledbetter’s 2014 highlights, click here.
UALR volleyball player Edina Begic’s athletic brilliance puts her in a class of her own when it comes to recent achievements of student-athletes at Division I and II colleges in the state of Arkansas. The three-time Sun Belt player of the year led her program to a 20-0 record in conference and an NCAA Tournament win last week against No. 11 Kansas – at Kansas.
She had the Lady Trojans on the brink of the Sweet 16. I’m not sure if any in-state Division I university, outside of the University of Arkansas, has made a Sweet 16 in any team sport. Here are some of Begic’s other achievements:
*Last year, set an NCAA record by winning a conference player of the week award seven times, five of them back to back.
*Broke that record this season by winning the award eight times.
*In 2012, ranked No. 1 in the nation in kills (an attack not returned by the opponent, resulting in a point) per set.
*In 2013, ranked No. 3 in kills per set and paired with teammate Sonja Milanovic to form the nation’s top spiking duo (with 9.09 kills per set).
*Consensus top hitter in program history, finishing first in career kills, second in digs and fourth in service aces.
Begic has competitors for the title of Greatest Arkansas Student-Athlete since 2000. As I wrote this week in Arkansas Times, “Henderson State University quarterback Kevin Rodgers just finished a career in which he also shattered multiple career records and finished as a three-time conference player of the year, but his team didn’t win a post-season game. Former Harding University basketball player Matt Hall and Kayla Jackson, a former University of Arkansas at Monticello softball star, also both won multiple conference player of the year and All-America awards.
In Division I women’s sports, former UCA basketball player Megan Herbert comes closest to Begic. Herbert, a three-time conference player of the year (who should have won it all four years), was one of the nation’s most prolific rebounders despite standing 5-foot-10. But she never led a team nearly as impressive as Begic’s 2014 squad, and her Sugar Bears never broke into the NCAA Tournament.
On the Division I men’s side, former Razorback Darren McFadden had some legendary games against elite competition, and he twice won the nation’s award for best running back, but his overall game-to-game running statistics were not as impressive as Begic’s kill statistics.”
The Arkansas Times‘ Max Brantley recently pointed out the changing demographics of UA’s student population mean that, increasingly, resident Texans – not Arkansans – represent the University of Arkansas:
Texas, if anything, feels kindly these days to UA-Fayetteville. It has become a haven for Texas students for the cut-rate tuition we offer Texas students who meet grade and test criteria and for the competitiveness of flagship Texas campuses. Almost half of new freshmen are from out of state at UA, a quarter of them alone from Texas. All told, there are 4,595 Texans on campus at Fayetteville.
Out-of-state and foreign students now comprise almost 46 percent of the University of Arkansas’ enrollment, and Texans comprise the fastest-growing subset of those groups. Nearly 25% of all University of Arkansas freshmen are Texans, with 4,600 Texans now comprising the overall 26,237 student population.
That’s an 803% increase from 2002, when there were 572 Texan students on campus.
The rate of growth among Arkansan residents has been much slower, going from 12,357 in 2002 to 14,629 this year. Given how the Texans have been rolling over the Ozarks in such increasingly large waves, I thought it would interesting to see when they would outnumber Arkansans as students enrolled in the state’s flagship campus.
At the current rates, we’re on track for 2022.
Perhaps you laugh at this extrapolation*.
True, it would be nearly impossible to maintain such an aggressive growth rate for a simple brick and mortar university, but the UA is increasingly making entire classes digital. Indeed, the University of Arkansas President Donald Bobbitt’s plans to vigorously push the launch of an online UA system university, eVersity, in the fall of 2015.
Success here means the rate of enrolled resident Arkansans should also incease in the coming years. But don’t assume the Texans’ rate of growth will steeply drop off, not with the number of online degree tracks to be rolled out in the next eight years. Plus, Texas has tens of millions of more people than Arkansas and is growing a much faster rate**. All those people have to get degrees somewhere, and as Brantley pointed out the the UA isn’t shy about extending a fiscal carrot or two to out-of-state parents looking for the best deal.
Should a UA of more Texans than Arkansans be of any concern to Razorback fans? Probably not. In the short term, don’t expect a contingent of Texas-born UA students to go rogue, roll down to the upcoming Texas Bowl in Houston, emerge from a burnt orange bus with repurposed “LIVESTRONG” gear and proceed to sabotage the Hogs’ hopes of a season-ending win. In the long term, expect thousands of the resident Texans who end up enrolling in online classes with eVersity to also be transplanted Arkansans. Many will be University of Arkansas grads looking to pad their resume. Plus, many of the Texans (Razorback players included) who become UA students also become Hog fans.
A more pressing issue is how the proliferation of eVersity, coupled with the increasingly sweet HD TV viewing experience most sports fans are getting accustomed to, will change the live experience at Reynolds Razorback stadium. Let’s say, tens years from now, you’re a UA student who doesn’t attend classes in person. You do support your Hogs, but it’s by representing them in a new, football offshoot of eSports***. The points you win for the program as a fan play into a highly lucrative meta-point ranking system of which the Hogs’ on-field performance is only a part.
Do you want to attend games in person anymore?
*Future estimates derived from Excel by using the GROWTH function, which provides predicted extrapolations using existing data.
** Texas’ population increased 20.6% from 2000 to 2010, to 25.1 million people. Arkansas increased by 9.1% to 2.9 million people in the same span.
*** Don’t tell me the SEC won’t find a way to grab a piece of this rapidly expanding pie in the next 10 years.
NB – The above post is an update of a previously published post.
For Razorback fans, the question never gets old: Will basketball coach Mike Anderson lift the program to the same levels reached by his mentor Nolan Richardson? Tonight’s game, on the road against No. 20 Iowa State, should provide the best start of an answer yet. The greatest Arkansas teams of the early to mid 1990s regularly defeated ranked non-conference teams away from home but that hasn’t happened since 1997*. But, so far, all signs point to this being the best Arkansas team since that era.
The most dramatic evidence is below. Look at this steady improvement through Anderson’s first four seasons in Fayetteville:
The Razorbacks’ scalding shooting from the outside this season – 46% on three-pointers – has been a major reason for the boost in Effective FG % and True Shooting % (definitions below). That shooting helps space the floor and lead to a nation-leading assist rate. But the Razorbacks can’t rely on shooting at this clip in the kind of hostile environment the Cyclones’ Hilton Coliseum will present. So it’s important they get to the line and build an early lead.
Referee bias (conscious or not) toward the home college team makes it doubly difficult for visitors to play from behind or in a back-and-forth affair. “On the road especially you want to help keep the officiating out of it as much as you can,” Nolan Richardson said in a phone interview.
As always, defense fuels offense for a “40 Minutes of Hell”-style program. The below numbers show that while Arkansas is playing at a faster rate than ever in the Anderson era (78 possessions per 40 minutes vs. 72 in his first year), they are barely giving up more points. This is a credit to the lower rate at which they are fouling this year than the past two seasons (more experienced players) and fresher second-half legs generating turnovers at a higher clip (more depth).
It’s likely older Razorback stars like Bobby Portis, Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls will play well at Iowa State, where the Cyclones are 50-4 the last five years, Iowan-Arkansan sportswriter Nate Olson points out. They proved they could deliver on the road last season and have played in similarly intense arenas like Kentucky’s.
The pivotal issue is how Arkansas’ three first-year guards – Anton Beard, Jabril Durham and Nick Babb – play. “You’re as good as your guards take you,” Richardson said. So far, all three have played their supporting roles well but they have played in only one game away from Bud Walton Arena. While often what’s needed is a timely, clutch three in the vein of Scotty Thurman, this year the right play may simply be avoiding a turnover and making a timely entry pass to Portis. Last year, “we got discombobulated in the final few minutes of games,” Portis told USA Today, recalling seven losses in ten road games. “Are we going to finish teams off? That’s the biggest question.”
To me, North Little Rock native Anton Beard is the most important of the three young guards. Perhaps I’m simply biased, as I have followed him closely since he was a freshman in high school and seen many of his games at Parkview High and North Little Rock. He’s a champion, point blank, winning three state titles in four years. Point guards simply don’t start for Parkview coach Al Flanigan as freshmen. He’s the only one who has, and that season I watched him lead his team to a victory at Hall High School in the middle of its four-year run of consecutive state championships.
So far, Beard the collegian freshman has played the role of a scrappy, clutch shooter (46.2% on threes) off the bench who has a not-stellar 1.2 assists-to 1 turnover ratio. “Beard is moving in a pretty good direction,” Richardson said. “For the Razorbacks to be where they got to be, his game has got to improve.” Beard is fairly stocky, but Richardson says he (and all other current Razorback guards) don’t compare in the physical toughness department to Corey Beck, the point guard of his ’94 title team. “Beck was an animal.”
Perhaps the most apt comparison for Beard, at this point, is Arlyn Bowers who ended up pairing with Lee Mayberry as guards in Arkansas’ 1990 Final Four run. Two years before that, Bowers and Mayberry were just starting out as freshmen in Nolan Richardson’s fourth year as head coach.
Just six games into Year 4, it’s difficult to conduct a thorough comparison of Nolan Richardson and Mike Anderson as Razorback head coaches. Obviously, the jury’s still out on Anderson. But the sample size is large enough now to at least take a look:
Comparing these numbers with the last four seasons, we see Anderson’s teams have improved at more steady clip, year by year, in most categories. And from an overall statistical standpoint, Anderson’s Year 4 is significantly more impressive so far than Nolan’s.
But it’s important to note that Nolan’s Year 3 team finished 11-5 in conference vs. the 10-8 record Mike’s Year 3 team had. Nolan made the tournament in 1987-88 (losing in the first round to Villanova) whereas Mike hasn’t yet. In Year 4, Nolan got a massive injection of talent when Bowers and Mayberry arrived, along with fellow freshmen Todd Day and Oliver Miller. Their play paid immediate dividends, and the Hogs ultimately finished 13-3 in conference and 25-7 overall. They lost in the 1989 NCAA Tournament’s second round.
We’ll see if Mike’s Year 4 team keeps pace. A win tonight certainly certainly helps toward that end.
* November 29, 1997 was the last time Arkansas beat a ranked team on a neutral court in pre-conference play. Arkansas beat No. 17 Fresno State in Phoenix. And December 6, 1992 was the last time the program scored such a win on the road. The Hogs beat No. 9 Arizona in Tucson, AZ. Mike Bibby was 14 years old.
** Using data from six of Hogs’ first seven games in 1988-89 (Box score from Game No. 5 not available at HogStats.com).PS: Partial season data not available for Turnovers Forced Per Game, so this stat instead reflects per-game average from entire 1988-89 season.
Effective Field Goal % adds weight to three-point shots. Formula: (FGM + (0.5 x 3PM))/FGA
True Shooting % is similar, but also factors in free throws. Formula: Pts/(2*(FGA + (.44*FTA)))
This is the last chapter of the my three-part series ranking the nation’s 60+ FBS trophies based on how sweet the trophy looks, and how cool its background is. I broke down and scored each trophy according to Originality, Tradition and Sheer Awesomeness (L-R below).
The far right number represents the Trophy Sweetness score, which I incorporated into a far more absurdly complicated meta-ranking formula (involving the rival programs’ NFL draft picks, competitiveness and all-time Top 10 finishes) for SB Nation.
|Golden Egg||Ole Miss-Mississippi State||1927||3||5||2||10|
Catchy name, but the actual thing – a golden football on a pedastal – is so ho-hum. Lots of creative folks in Oxford. Surely Ole Miss’ Sigma Iota could have come up with some more imaginative.
|The Saddle||TCU-Texas Tech||1961||4||3||3||10|
Good idea. Just wish it had been the schools – not local newspapers looking to generate publicity – which came up with it.
|Victory Bell||Miami (Ohio)-Cincinnati||1899*||2||5||3||10|
Such a now-cliched trophy idea can be excused if it was fresh back in the day, as the 19th century inter-campus shenanigans involved here lead me to believe it was.
|Keg of Nails||Louisville-Cincinnati||1929||4||3||3||10|
Basing your trophy on the saying “tough as nails” is a thumbs down. Making it into a keg full of nails is thumbs up.
|Jewelled Shillelagh||USC-Notre Dame||1952||3||4||3||10|
A Shillelagh is a war club made of oak or blackthorn saplings from Ireland. It’s said those are the only woods because they are the only ones tougher than an Irish skull.
|Old Brass Spittoon||Michigan State-Indiana||1950||5||3||3||11|
Conflicting reports on whether players do or don’t spit into it during celebration.
It cost $10,000 to make. That ties Fremont Cannon for land’s most expensive.
The meaning of “rivalry” and whether it can already be applied to Missouri-Arkansas has been much debated this week. Although today’s game marks only the sixth time the programs have ever met, it appears both sides are comfortable with the notion of a bona fide border feud. “Arkansas – they have the word ‘Kansas’ in it, so it’s got to be a rival,” Missouri center Evan Boehm told media a few days ago, referencing his program’s top rival during its Big 12 days. Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel added: “It will be [a rivalry]. I kind of compare it to the Kansas rivalry. It didn’t happen overnight.”
The potential for a real, intense and disturbingly partisan rivalry is here, alright. Today, Missouri has an SEC East title and second straight appearance in the SEC Championship Game on the line. And Arkansas is arguably the nation’s hottest team after shutting out LSU and Ole Miss. A win sends it roaring into bowl season as a Top 25 program.
From a numbers standpoint, though, what would such an “authentic” rivalry look like and how close is Mizzou-Arkansas to it? We have actual data along these lines thanks to Dr. David Tyler and Dr. Joe Cobbs, two professors who have studied the perception of rivalry* among 5, 317 fans of 122 different major college programs. Here are two of their most interesting finds:
1) Arkansas’ fans, on the whole, feel that they are rival to other programs more than the other way around. The blue columns below signify, through points, the strength of Arkansas’ fans’ passion directed toward a particular program. The red columns represent how many “rivalry points” that program’s fans have for Arkansas.
You’ll notice among SEC programs only Missouri fans believe Arkansas is a bigger rival than visa versa:
LSU’s ranking shows that the Texas Longhorns’ grip on Arkansas’ fans hearts is slowly loosening 22 years after the Hogs left the Southwestern Conference. No one program has yet filled the void. “This is a pretty big distribution of [rivalry] points by a fan base,” researcher David Tyler told me. “The average points received by a team’s top rival is 54.2 points (median & mode are right around there too), so the 35 points that Razorback fans give to LSU is on the low end.”
[*The researchers assigned “Rivalry points” after collecting data from online questionnaires they posted on 194 fan message boards. The survey asked respondents to allocate 100 rivalry points across opponents of his or her favorite team. The closer the number to 100, the more intense feelings that programs’ fans have for their perceived top rival. Missouri, for instance, has 71.58 rivalry points directed at Kansas. One Tiger fan divided his 100 points, 75 to Kansas and 25 to Arkansas. “This would have been 100 points for Kansas prior to the SEC switch. Not really sure how to handle this now, but this split seems okay.” More details at KnowRivalry.com]
2. The other FBS programs perceiving Arkansas as a bigger rival than visa versa are Tulsa and Arkansas State University. Tulsa has 6.57 points toward Arkansas, though Tulsa doesn’t register at all on Arkansas fans’ radars. Arkansas State, meanwhile, has 24.7 points allocated to Arkansas, while Arkansas has .096 for A-State.
These programs, of course, don’t even play each other. Dr. Tyler points out “frequency of competition isn’t a necessary condition of perceived rivalry (at least in the eyes of some fans). Frequency of competition is an antecedent to most rivalries, but this is a great example where the teams don’t play but fans [on one side] still perceive a rivalry.”
Tyler and his colleague found “Unfairness, Geography and Competition for personnel (e.g. recruits)” as common themes among those poll respondents who listed Arkansas as their biggest rival. Below are some responses/themes from A-State fans he shared with me:
“We don’t play the pigs on the field, yet they have tried to keep us from growing our program since the beginning of time. They even tried to block us from gaining ‘university’ status in the late 60’s. / They want to be the only team in the state, and refuse to acknowledge our existence…all the while, playing every one of our conference mates. / I hate them, and hope they lose every game in every sport they participate in.”
“Arkansas refuses to play us because they are scared.”
“Hogs is scared to play us.”
ASU fans hate Arkansas fans and vice versa (Big brother keeping little brother down – UA will not play Ark St because they feel they own the state support and media and don’t want to let Ark St have any).
It should be interesting to see if A-State fans’ passion towards the UA wanes or waxes as the program continues to carve out a niche as a mid-major power. As for Missouri-Arkansas, there is no doubt both programs’ level of mutual hate permanently rises once the game kicks off at 1:30 p.m. today.
Perhaps, one day, Missouri’s fans will hate Arkansas as much as they have Kansas, and Hog fans will find in their hearts Texas-sized enmity for their neighbors to the north. It will take a few games of this magnitude before that becomes even a remote possibility. Until then, though, expect to read more fan comments like this: “Missouri is to Arkansas what Canada is to America. They’re too damn nice to hate.”
Below are detailed results from Arkansas Razorback fans’ responses, according to KnowRivalry.com