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.
Somewhere, Razorback fan “Latarian” is sighing.
For those of you who do not know, Latarian is a pigskin prophet and gridiron Gaudi. Two and a half years ago, on an SECRant.com thread you need to read right now, he proposed two trophy ideas for a permanent Arkansas-Missouri rivalry game:
“Battle for the Crystal Meth Pipe”
“Battle for the Golden Banjo”
Alas, Latarian cannot be happy today. As he wanted, University of Arkansas and University of Missouri officials have since announced a permanent rivalry game. But this morning it became clear, unfortunately, they are not Breaking Bad fans:
BATTLE LINE RIVALRY ANNOUNCED FOR ANNUAL MIZZOU-ARKANSAS FOOTBALL GAME
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Southeastern Conference foes Arkansas and Missouri will meet on the football field next month in the first edition of the Battle Line Rivalry presented by Shelter Insurance. The new football series pits the SEC’s Eastern Division against the Western Division and provides a natural rivalry between Missouri and Arkansas.
This season’s game will mark the first conference matchup between the two schools. Arkansas and Missouri will play each season as SEC cross-divisional opponents.
The rivalry clashes against both geographic and historical boundaries – from disputed demarcations of the border separating the two states to notable alumni and former personnel with ties to both storied athletic programs. The historic rivalry between the two states will take on even more meaning now, as every Thanksgiving weekend the Battle Line will be drawn on the gridiron. The Razorbacks or Tigers will ultimately stake claim to the “Line” – until the next meeting.
“We are appreciative of Shelter Insurance for stepping forward to help us start the Battle Line Rivalry, an annual series that will soon become a much anticipated competitive rivalry for fans of both programs,” said Jeff Long, University of Arkansas Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics. “With the close proximity of the institutions, fans of each school will have the opportunity to travel to both campuses for games in the series. It is a budding rivalry that will provide outstanding athletic competition while further enhancing the reach of both institutions and the SEC within our region and throughout the country.”
“We are pleased for Mizzou’s fans to have the chance to embrace this annual rivalry game with Arkansas,” said Mike Alden, University of Missouri Director of Athletics. “The partnership with Shelter Insurance for the Battle Line Rivalry really brings together two outstanding athletic departments and fan bases for an excellent matchup that we are looking forward to seeing develop into a rivalry.”
“Shelter got its start in Missouri and Arkansas, so our roots are deep in these two states,” said Rick Means, President and CEO of the Shelter Insurance Companies. “We hope that this new rivalry will be a fun new tradition for college football fans in both states.”
The inaugural Battle Line Rivalry presented by Shelter Insurance kicks off Friday, Nov. 28, at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo. The game is set for a nationally televised broadcast at 1:30 p.m. on CBS.
Fans of both schools are encouraged to stay tuned for more exciting news regarding how the Battle Line Rivalry will be contested in a variety of ways in the near future.
For more information regarding Razorback Athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com or follow on Twitter @ArkRazorbacks.
Whatever trophy may come from this, it’s not going to be meth pipe. Perhaps it will represent the geographic section of southweast Missouri known as the bootheel.
“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.”
– T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
Yesterday, Arkansas released its 2015 schedule. Also released: Any enduring hope among Razorback fans that Little Rock and its no-longer-grand-enough War Memorial Stadium will remain a second home.
The process of ushering the doddering old man out the door has been ongoing for about 15 years now, ever since Fayetteville’s Reynolds Razorback Stadium expanded to 72,000 from 51,000 seats – meaning Hogs leave significant money on the table every time it plays a home game away from its home campus at the 55,000-seat War Memorial Stadium instead.
Games at War Memorial have dropped from three or four a year, to two a year – and starting this season through 2018 – one a year. This Saturday’s game in Little Rock against No. 10 Georgia, the SEC East frontrunner, is a marquee matchup with enough significance to somewhat soften the blow for some War Memorial traditionalists. It should be a sellout.
Not so with next year’s Little Rock game against the University of Toledo, a Mid-American Conference program that has lost all three games it has ever played against SEC competition. This game, which marks the first time since 1947 (vs. North Texas) Arkansas hasn’t played a conference home game in Little Rock, is the latest sign Razorback leaders are phasing out the home-away-from-home tradition altogether. Given the opponent isn’t even in a Power 5 conference, “how many people will pony up $55 or more per person just to see Arkansas vs Toledo?,” Arkansas Fight’s Doc Harper asked. “I can envision more people than usual staying on the golf course.”
Some fans may feel remorse Little Rock’s once central place in the Razorbacks’ schedule has been knocked down so many rungs, but they shouldn’t forget the main motives behind this demotion – “brand building” and revenue generation – are the same reasons Little Rock was used as a second home in the first place. In the early 1930s, Arkansas leaders knew if their program was ever going to become nationally competitive it needed to have more support from its entire 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 the New York Times last November: “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.’”
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 to contend for or win national championships since the drop. Yes, War Memorialists, it’s true: Arkansas has become unique in the sense that it appears to be the only program 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 clinging 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 in 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.
In the 1930s and 40s, the smartest rural programs traveled 30, 50, 100, 150 miles to the in-state stadia that would give their teams the most bang for their buck in terms of exposure and revenue. In today’s world, where cable television and the Internet make distance far less of an obstacle for fans to follow their teams, the smartest programs realize that “neutral site” games in the obscenely talent-rich metro areas of Texas often provide the best return.
This is an update of an earlier Sports Seer post. Read the original here.
Other Schools with Multiple Home Stadia
Home Campus: Eugene
Home Away From Home: Portland
Years Played There: On and off until 1924, then every year through 1966.
Last Game: 1970
Distance Between Homes: 105 miles
Big Win: 21-0 over a UCLA team that would finish 8-2 on Oct. 5, 1957.
Sample Decade: 1952-62: Record of 11-11*
*Includes rivalry games w/ Oregon State
Home Campus: Corvallis
Home Away From Home: Portland
Years Played There: On and off until 1941, then every year through 1973. (w/ exception of two WWII years in which team wasn’t fielded)
Last Game: 1986
Distance Between Homes: 74 miles
Big Win: Oct. 16, 1971- 24-18 over an Arizona State team which would finish 11-1.
Sample Decade: 1963-73: Record of 11-4
Home Campus: Pullman
#1 Home Away From Home: Spokane*
Years Played There: 1950-1983
Last Game: 1983
Distance Between Homes: 66 miles
*In 1970, WSU’s home stadium burned due to suspected arson (possibly involving a perpetrator from the rival University of Idaho only eight miles away). As a result, WSU played all its home games in Spokane in 1970 and 1971.
Big Win: Sept. 23, 1978 – 51-26 over an Arizona State team which would finish 51-26.
Sample Decade: 1973-83: Record of 8-12
#2 Home Away From Home: Seattle (the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium, Centurylink Field)
Years Played non-UW opponents there: 2002 through 2008; 2011; 2012-14*
Last Game: Ongoing
Distance Between Homes: 252
Big Win: August 31, 2002 – 31-7 over Nevada to set the tone for a 10-3 season that ended in the Rose Bowl.
Record since 2002 at what’s now Centurylink Field: 6-4
*N.B. the campus of this program’s rival – the University of Washington – is in Seattle. So WSU often plays WU there. Washington State had also played three home games in Seattle against out-of-state powerhouses (USC, Ohio State) in the 1970s. It lost them all.
In the last seven years, the University of Arkansas has had arguably the most turbulent stretch of head coaching changes in all pro or college football. Razorback fans will certainly accede to this. The following word associations shall forevermore rub salt into their psychic wounds: Nutt, text gate, Malzahn, Mustain; Petrino, Dorrell, motorcycle, neck brace, red face (not from shame); John L. Smith, awkward, national, laughing, stock.
From a public outrage standpoint, though, none of the above fallouts would match what would happen if Bret Bielema left Fayetteville after this season. The idea that Arkansas’ most recent coach would pursue greener pastures after only two years seems far-fetched. But not far-fetched enough for one long-time Ohio State football writer to spend a full column on.
TheOzone.net’s Tony Gerdeman recently laid out a case for why Michigan should hire Bret Bielema to replace its current embattled coach Brady Hoke. Hoke, in case you haven’t heard, makes Will Muschamp’s tenure at Florida look more secure than a Chuck Norris handshake. This year (Hoke’s fourth) Michigan has lost four of six games including a 31-0 drubbing to Notre Dame – the first time the program’s been shut in 30 years.
Gerdeman argues since Bielema has already found success in the Big Ten (he had a 39-19 conference record as Wisconsin’s coach), he could do even better with a far richer program like Michigan. Other potential candidates have also been successful, but they don’t represent a return to the glory days of the Wolverines patriarch Bo Schembechler like Bielema could.
“He is the perfect fit for a program that wants to play football the way their ancestors played — between the tackles and on the ground. Few coaches have the track record that Bielema has when it comes to playing the type of football that Michigan thought they were getting with Brady Hoke. If they were to land Bielema, then they would finally be on the right track toward establishing the identity that they so badly want to portray.”
Finally, and most importantly, Bielema “is smug, arrogant and he hates Ohio State. If that’s not a Michigan Man, then I don’t know what is,” Gerdeman writes.
No doubt, Bielema hates himself some Buckeye. Any time, any place:
It’s a Sunday night and excited about the week ahead. Was good week of recruiting especially against “THE” University’s of the world. #WPS
— Bret Bielema (@BretBielema) July 29, 2013
At Wisconsin, he beat Ohio State only once in six tries but Hayes Almighty what a loss! The Badgers’ 2010 win ruined Ohio State’s national title shot. Fourth-quarter issues plagued Wisconsin in many of those losses, as they have so far in the Hogs’ two SEC losses against Auburn and Texas A&M. If a fourth quarter meltdown proves the difference in Arkansas’ Saturday showdown against No. 7 Alabama, Bielema will start facing the same kind of local scrutiny he felt from Wisconsin fans and media during his last months in Madison.
Gerdeman then considers whether Bielema would actually want to leave Arkansas even if Michigan showed interest. He starts talking money, and this is where his argument breaks down.
He points out the Wolverines’ assistant Doug Nussmeier makes $200,000 more at Michigan than he did at Alabama, and insinuates the Wolverines have deep enough pockets to lure practically anybody they want to Ann Arbor.
This is Big Ten-centric thinking. Yes, Ohio State and Michigan make much more money off football than most SEC schools, but that doesn’t mean they are investing the same percentage of their “profit” (revenue-expenditures) into football as schools in the middle of the SEC pack like Arkansas. Additionally, the numbers below show that Arkansas is on par – and in some cases superior to – Michigan when it comes to investing in its football program:
|$99,770,840||Athletic Dept Total Revenue*||$143,514,125|
|$92,131,933||Athletic Dept Total Expenditures||$131,018,311|
|$3.2 million avg. per yr / 6 yrs**||Head FB coach contract||$3.25 million avg. per yr / 6 yrs|
|$3.2 million||Head FB coach salary 2014||$2.3 million***|
|$3,205,000 circa Feb. 2014||FB Staff Salary 2014||$3,072,000 circa Dec. 2013|
|Jim Cheney, OC, $550,000Robb Smith, DC, $500,000
Sam Pittman, OC, $500,000
|Highest Paid FB Assistants||Greg Mattison, DC, $835,000Doug Nussmeier, OC, $830,000|
Yes, Michigan has shown it’s willing to pay its very top assistants more money than most other schools. And yes, with $25.3 million coming into its football program as donations from an enormous alumni base, it would be willing to pay off any buyout clause necessary to get the coach it wants – including Bielema’s $2.5 million price tag.
But those aren’t nearly strong enough reasons for Bielema to uproot after a mere two years getting acclimated to the SEC. His primary reason for coming to Arkansas was to get a shot at the big boys. The burning competitor in Bielema wants to know how he measures up as a head coach against the very best.
If he, his staff and his recruits try their best, and after five or six years they don’t measure up, then he can one day retire knowing he at least didn’t shy away from his sport’s greatest challenge. Gerdeman wrote Michigan’s imminent opening would give Bielema “an opportunity to get the hell out of the SEC, specifically the SEC West. Coaching in the SEC is too hard because every school is always trying to win.”
Sorry, but no.
The fact every SEC school is “always trying to win” is the main draw to coaching there in the first place.
*The most recent data reported as of summer 2014.
** Both coaches’ contracts are loaded with a mind-numbing array of opportunities to earn more.
*** Last year, Hoke banked well over $4 million dollars but that was because of a $1.5 million “stay bonus” paid following the season and a $1.05 million payout for “deferred compensation,” according to mlive.com.
As if there weren’t already enough info about SEC football out there already, this fall ushers in the debut of the SEC Network and its torrential flow of news, game coverage, opinion and analysis. Yet, despite a constant rush of Tim Tebows, Greg McElroys and bald men named Finebaum, so much unknown will remains so long as the ball is pointy and the players so young.
For who could have predicted Johnny Manziel’s surge to the top of the athletic world two years ago, or the extent of Auburn’s historic turnaround last fall? Hardly anyone – except, oh, I don’t know – someone named the Sports Seer. And I’m at it again, dusting off the ol’ crystal ball for Celebrate Arkansas magazine. I see good things for almost everyone except fans of Missouri and Vanderbilt. In 2014, parity will be the name of the game in the Southeastern Conference.
N.B. Below are my picks, as chosen before Week 1. So far, so good – with one exception.
Auburn: Arkansas native Gus Malzahn returns for his second season at the helm of a squad that will be fearsome in its up-tempo attack. Yes, the Tigers lost a superstar running backin Tre Mason, who left for the NFL.
But they gained a full year of experience under Malzahn’s tactical genius. Senior Nick Marshall was a dual-threat pain for opposing defenses last year but will be a full-fledged nightmare this year. He the first starting college quarterback Malzahn has had for two straight seasons.
Final Regular Season Record: 11-1
Alabama: Heading into a season with a chip on the shoulder isn’t something the Crimson Tide do much of. After two straight losses to end last season, though, Nick Saban’s troops are hungry to prove themselves. There is concern about youth and inexperience early in the season, but don’t be fooled – quarterback Jacob Coker is a future star, running backs T.J. Yeldon is an established star and Derrick Henry and wide receiver Amari Cooper will be emerging superstars. The defense will have major trouble only with Ole Miss and Auburn.
Final Record: 10-2
Ole Miss: For the last couple years, head coach Hugh Freeze has been stockpiling young talent from stellar recruiting classes. This season, the youngins’ finally break through. Senior quarterback Bo Wallace will regain health after two injury-hampered years, and he’ll hook up with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to form the SEC’s most productive tandem. They will finally get past Alabama, but losses to Auburn and Tennessee mar a dream season.
Final Record: 10-2
LSU: The Tigers have a lot going for them, including a freshman All-SEC lock in running back Leonard Fournette, but they don’t have a passing game. Indeed, they have the worst passing attack in the SEC. That’s a killer in a conference in which the ability to churn out points has become more vital than ever. These Tigers will lose nail-biters against Auburn, Florida and Ole Miss.
Final Record: 8-4
Mississippi State: Relative to the program’s past, head coach Dan Mullen is really good. In his first five seasons, he accrued a winning percentage (56.3%) higher than any MSU coach since the late Darrell Royal, who won 60% of his games in 1954-55 before heading to Texas in 1957. But Mullen hasn’t yet finished better than 4-4 in conference. “I’ve had a good year here and there at Mississippi State, but never consistency,” Mullen said this spring. “At some point we’ll win a championship here. Maybe this year.”
Final Record: 7-5
Texas A&M: It’s not as if head coach Kevin Sumlin can’t find another elite quarterback. Before Johnny Manziel, he’d worked with the likes of Drew Bledsoe, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum. He’ll develop another top-notch quarterback in true freshman Kyle Allen. But the problem for now is that the Aggies don’t have another game changer while waiting for Allen to mature. [Hmmm. Now that I think about it, the crystal ball was smudged in one part…]
Last year, that role was shared by both Manziel and Mike Evans, who both left early for the NFL. Even more problematic: the Aggies defense, which gave up a league-worst 476 yards a game last year, will this fall still get torched for 450ish yards per game.
Final record: 5-7
Arkansas: Good news: There will be a lot of measurable improvement, at each position, in Year 2 of the Bielema Era. The days of 52-0 drubbings are over. Bad news: It won’t yet translate to significantly more wins.
The offense will be more potent, we know this. But that’s not the problem. The issue is how much the secondary and linebacking corps can improve from last year, under new defensive coaches, without an injection of elite talent and size/speed.
They will improve, but not enough for the Hogs to score major upsets early on. Still, Arkansas will be in the game late in many of their contests, and will finally break through late at Missouri with Bielema’s first SEC win.
Final record: 4-8
Georgia – Last season, SIXTEEN Bulldogs – including a few of major stars – got injured. That won’t happen again. That, and a relatively soft schedule, makes all the difference in the Bulldogs’ reclaiming the SEC East perch.
Final Record: 10-2
South Carolina: Poor Steve Spurrier. At this program, the man is the master of the 10-win season without winning the division. His Gamecocks have won 42 games over the last four years but don’t have an SEC Championship Game appearance to show for it.
Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson and running back/human battering ram Mike Davis will lead the offense to another nice bowl game, but an early season loss to Georgia [ahem-Aggies, too] will show the rest of the nation they are still pretenders to the crown.
Final Record: 9-3
Florida: The 2013 Gators notched only four wins – the program’s first losing season since 1979. There is way too much talent, size and speed on this squad for that to happen again. Throw in a motivated new offensive coordinator and a very strong defense, and you have a recipe for the league’s top turnaround team.
Final Record: 8-4
Tennessee: Listen to second-year head coach Butch Jones talk long enough about his vision for the Vols, and you’ll hear an almost Bielemic focus on process and foundation building. With great recent recruiting classes, these Vols are indeed building toward something. But they aren’t there yet.
Final Record: 5-7
Missouri: What is down, then goes up, probably must go down again. After an astonishing SEC East title run last year, the Tigers are set for a rapid plunge after losing an elite receiver in Dorial Green-Beckham and a raft of quality running backs and defensive disrupters.
Final Record: 5-7
Kentucky: The Wildcats have played a lot of youth in their last two seasons, which resulted in back-to-back 0-8 SEC finishes. The light at the end of the tunnel is finally here. This particular light is a black and gold one.
Final Record: 4-8
Vanderbilt: Well, it was fun while it lasted, Commodore fan. James Franklin showed you the promised land. Expectations were sky-high with Vanderbilt’s first back-to-back nine-win seasons since the Woodrow Wilson administration. And then Penn State came calling. New head coach Derek Mason, fresh off Stanford’s staff, is in for a rude awakening.
Final Record: 3-9
2014 SEC Championship Game: Auburn 42, Georgia 28
So, come December, will I deserve to be filleted and seared for my choice? Who do you have winning the entire conference this year?
The above is based on an article in the September, 2014 issue of
In terms of basketball talent, Arkansas is in a golden era, producing elite players at a clip not seen in decades. But when it comes to national team recognition, the state is in a bit of a drought. Since 1996, only one native Arkansan has made a U.S. senior national team. In recent years, two of the state’s best young players – Anton Beard and Malik Monk – were in the running to make junior national teams at the U16 and U17 levels but were both cut multiple times. Monk’s most recent exclusion, which occurred last weekend, is the most surprising.
Monk, a consensus Top 15 player in the class of 2016, had a memorable summer torching foes as a headliner with the Arkansas Wings in Nike’s prestigious EYBL circuit (essentially, the Champions League of prep basketball). The 6’3″ shooting guard broke scoring records and put up 40 and 59 points while making a strong case that Arkansas, for likely the first time ever, is home to the nation’s most electrifying high school player*. The Arkansas Wings founder Ron Crawford, who has coached in the U.S. youth developmental system, said last week he believed there was “no doubt” Monk would make the U17 national team.
But after a three-day audition in Colorado involving 33 players, Monk was among the first cut. If the experience becomes a valuable lesson, this isn’t necessarily bad thing for Malik. He strives, after all, to become a world-class point guard, and none other than John Stockton – one of the top point guards of all time – was cut from the 1984 Olympic team. Monk already is one of the most athletic prospects we’ve ever seen at the guard position. Two of the most freakishly athletic forwards in the history of the game, Charles Barkley and Blake Griffin, were also cut from national teams.
Stockton, Barkley and Griffin all bounced back from their disappointments to become NBA All-Star caliber players. For Monk to one day do the same, he’ll have to keep improving. He must become a more consistent shooter and better decision maker, his older brother Marcus Monk said. “He’s really been working on his distribution as far as his passing skills and making better decisions with the ball. He’s improved in that area some.”
But Malik isn’t yet the well-rounded player his coaches and (potential) national team coaches want him to be. In the five games he played in the EYBL Finals, the only standard statistical category he led the Wings in was points (18.8 ppg). He finished second in blocks (0.4) and assists (2.6), third in steals (1.6) and fifth in rebounds (3.5).
Honing shot selection, though, is the biggest task right now. Squaring off against fellow Arkansan KeVaughn Allen, Monk scored 40 points on 14-for-20 shooting against Memphis-based Team Penny. But in the other four games, he shot 11% from 3-point range and 21% overall from the field.
Marcus Monk has been working on helping his brother cut down on bad shots. They break down film of his game to sharpen Malik’s court awareness and make him a better teammate, Marcus said. “It’s more discussion as far as how to read screens and looking at that second and third level of defense. Like a quarterback, you know.”
In early July, Monk had a chance to learn firsthand from one of the world’s most efficient basketball players when he attended the LeBron James Skills Academy. James is “really active with his camp. He takes time with all the players,” recalled Marcus Monk, who attended the event as an observer.
Every major program has a legitimate celebrity fan. While that doesn’t mean everybody is blessed with an Ashley Judd, big-time schools can always produce, at minimum, a Marco Rubio by sheer dint of a humongous alumni base. For many Arkansans, President Bill Clinton has become the torchbearer of SuperFan Number One-dom. And, in my mind, if it’s not Clinton it’s John Daly decked in cardinal red and strutting into mass cultural consciousness, snout held high.
Turns out I’ve been hopelessly out of the loop.
An upcoming ESPN documentary has tabbed Razorbacks’ signature celeb fan as a Los Angeles-based comedian who, according to Pandora, is characterized by the following attributes: “anectodes,” “surprising misdirections” and “jokes about handicaps.”
Yes, it’s 450 pound Ralphie May of Comedy Central fame. He is clearly famous, and will become even more so on August 14 when the SEC Nework airs a documentary that profiles 14 famous figures — each representing a different SEC college — who “spill their emotions and explain why they’ll never forget where they came from.”
My first question after reading the press release: “Vanderbilt has a celebrity fan?”
Apparently, yes. The statement goes on to list some of the potential candidates: Charlie Daniels, Amy Robach, Jonathan Papelbon, Melissa Joan Hart, Emmitt Smith, Shepard Smith, Darius Rucker, James Carville and Governor Rick Perry. You tell me who wins the lucky prize, though, because my Googling finger is tired right now.
Second question: “What are Big Boy’s Hog bonafides?”
May was born in Tennessee, but he was reared in Clarksville and spent some time in high school in Winslow and Fayetteville. Both his sisters are UA grads, as are his mom and dad. Wait, it gets more impressive: Mommy May was a UA homecoming queen and at one time dated the former All-SWC Billy Ray Smith, Sr. And dad is fraternity bros with Jimmie Johnson and Don Tyson, May said on this Ugly Uncle Show interview,
Some time around 1990, the comedian Sam Kinison encouraged the teenage May to move to Houston for more exposure. But before he left, he did things like “kill” an air conditioner with a crossbow. Listen to the interview for more stuff like that. Definitely check out the 20:35 mark, where May unleashes a nugget that has an approximately 0.00% chance of being repeated on the upcoming SEC Network special.
It happened in the early 1980s, at a Razorback home game, and features a young May spying a young state governor in the stands: “Bill Clinton has got two hot, hot girls from Fayetteville with him, drunk and pawin’ em,” May recalled. “It’s weird because later his inclination was toward fat girls … We were like ‘That’s the governor of the state of Arkansas right there, making out with two chicks. Oh my God!’ It was hilarious. Everybody got up to call the Hogs and Bill Clinton was making out with these girls… I never wanted to vote for a man more in my life.”
That day, May took delight in more than Clinton’s deft political touch and the game, which the Hogs won. He also recalled post-game visits to Mr. Burger, where he was able to use ticket stubs to buy a cheeseburger, coke and fries for a mere $1. “Man, we’d go and knock them out. Oh God. That Mr. Burger was so good gettin’ into my mouth, ohhh.”
Let’s say, hypothetically, you wish ESPN Films didn’t broadcast this man unto the rest of the world as the Face of the Razorbacks. Who would you prefer? Any other non-politician/non-former UA athletes* out there who are legit national celebrities and have publicly shown love for the Razorbacks?