For many Arkansas football fans, Michael Dyer is one of the most polarizing sports figures around. As a senior at Little Rock Christian High School, he was the top ranked running back in the nation. Dyer, of course, chose Auburn and it didn’t appear as if the Razorbacks finished a close second.
For a while, it appeared as if Dyer had made the correct decision. Two straight 1,000 yard seasons and a BCS National Championship Game MVP award will make it seem that way. But things weren’t going nearly as smoothly off the field. Dyer was smoking synthetic marijuana, and apparently running with the wrong crowd. The wheels started coming off in spring 2011 when his gun was used during an armed robbery, the vehicle started smoking in winter 2012 after he was indefinitely suspended from Auburn and then released from his scholarship and the whole thing went up in flames last summer when he was released from Arkansas State after more bad news involving marijuana and a gun.
Given these events, it’s little wonder Dyer has lately stayed out of the public eye.
Since fall 2012, he’s attended Arkansas Baptist College, the oldest historically black college west of the Mississippi River, and is on track to earn his associate’s degree this summer in general studies, college president Fitz Hill told me.
Dyer has only given two interviews with mainstream media this year. In one this spring, with THV’s Mark Edwards, he says he would like an opportunity to walk on at the University of Arkansas. “I was asked to sit out [of football for] a year,” Dyer said on the broadcast. “I was asked to do a lot of changing and maturing to become a better person and a better football player. I spent this whole year doing exactly what I was asked to so that I could reach some of the goals that I knew later that I wanted to do.”
Perhaps Dyer ends up at a major college football program next season, looking to swing for the fences instead of suffering a third strike. Maybe he finds no major college is willing to take the risk. Either way, that college’s decision doesn’t ultimately matter nearly as much as whether Dyer has truly sought to become a better person this past year or not.
We talk about Dyer because of what he has done on the football field, in front of a thousand cameras and million eyes. But it’s the small decisions he’s made over the last year, the temptations he’s said “yes” or “no” when hardly anybody was around, that will more determine whether he thrives as a person or not.
Society may see Dyer’s “success” as football-based, but I hope Dyer has matured enough to know that the sport is of greatest benefit to him as a tool. If he is better now, if he has truly come around like he says he has, he will also be mature enough to be able to let go off football one day (possibly soon) and find success in whatever field he turns his mind to.
Because, as polarizing as Dyer has been for many football fans in this state who don’t know him, there are still a lot of people who do love him.
If you want proof, look at these pictures below. These pictures were taken last fall at a youth crime prevention program called the OK Program. Dyer was invited to share his story – the good, the bad and the ugly – with the teenagers who made up the audience.
He did, and he did a great job of it:
These kids aren’t praying for Dyer because he ran for three touchdowns for their favorite football team. They probably wouldn’t care which college program he played for. All they know is that he was once so high, and in some ways has come so low. But with their prayers he can be lifted again.
And, if his words hit their hearts right, so can they.
If Dyer wants to succeed in life – on the field and off, he would do well to nourish his roots and remember to seek strength from those who choose to love him despite the helmet he wears.
A family comes in all forms.
Lots of goodies in USA Today’s recently released study of athletic revenue among all D1 sports programs. I thought it good to narrow the lens onto the SEC programs and see where Arkansas ranks among its conference brethren* in terms of pure, hard cash. So I wrote this piece for Sporting Life Arkansas looking at how well each school has performed in terms of total revenue and in football performance since 1992, when Arkansas joined the SEC.
Turns out, Arkansas is pretty middling in all the rankings, including win percentage (8th highest among the 14 current SEC members).
It stands out in one category, though: the degree to which it’s self sufficient. That is, how much money its athletic program nets when subsidies - money transferred from other parts of the university, student fees or state funds – aren’t considered.
In this category (labeled “Difference” below) Arkansas ranks #2 for the 2011-12 year, only behind Texas A&M.
Category: 2012 Generated Revenue
What is Means: All the money the athletic program brings in, minus the amount given to the program in the form of
Category: 2012 Total Expenses
What is means: Everything it takes to keep all sports within an athletic program running, from the salaries of swimming coaches to the Wendy’s receipts on those football recruiting trips through Houston.
Category: 2012 Difference
What it means: The difference between a program’s generated revenue and total expenses. This is a strong signal of whether a program is self-sufficient or not. Put another way, in the chart below, Ayn Rand would be proud of those programs in the black and would frown on those in the red.
Today, Little Rock native Archie Goodwin announced he’s officially entering this summer’s NBA Draft.
No surprise here.
While there was some question whether Kentucky’s leading scorer would leave college after a single season, I doubt there was ever a major question in Goodwin’s mind. When he was a junior in high school, he told me he wanted to a be a one-and-done because it was the best way to fulfill his dream of playing in the NBA. While he’s had a far more tumultuous season at UK than anybody expected, I hope he enjoys these upcoming months prepping for the draft.
No doubt, he’s put in plenty of work laying the foundation for a phase in his life in which the term “business decision” is finally applicable in an un-ironic way.
Goodwin received quite a bit of scorn from Arkansas fans when he announced he was choosing Kentucky as the desired platform in the launching of his pro career.
The same cannot be said of Alex Carter, who may the most accomplished female soccer player in the history of the state’s high school sports. Hardly any Razorback fans have heard of the 18-year-old Carter, who burst on to to the scene four years ago as the first Arkansas female to make a national soccer team.
Since then, the 5-5 midfielder has won multiple titles and individual awards at the club level (with the Arkansas Rush) and playing as a junior for Conway High School last season. Carter was so eager to start the next phase of her training that she graduated Conway High early and enrolled at Kentucky – which has twice won the SEC championship – in January.
Alex Carter, the newest member of the University of Kentucky women’s soccer team, has enrolled early for spring classes, graduating early from Conway High School during the winter intersession to enroll early at the University of Kentucky, it was announced by head coach Jon Lipsitz on Wednesday.
“Alex is a very special technical player,” Lipsitz said. “She has a great ability to play in the midfield and we have even talked about her playing some center back also because of how vital it is to have center backs who can set play with our style. We are very excited to have her come early. She felt that she was ready, and we felt that she was ready also.” – UK press release
Carter will start her first season this fall.
It’s been said that many Arkansans loathe Goodwin right now for snubbing the Hogs, but they will embrace him again if he goes on to become a champion at the NBA level and gives back to Arkansas (exhibit A: Keith Jackson).
Women’s soccer isn’t nearly as popular as men’s basketball, and so few Arkansans know who Alex Carter is, never mind care about her college destination. BUT, if in 2015 or 2019, she shows up on an American national team again – this time right before the World Cup – you’d better believe Arkansas will know who she is, and in a hurry.
That may be the first time Carter is asked in public why she decided to roll with the LadyCats and not the LadyBacks.
Below are the home and road winning percentages for SEC teams in each of the last 10 seasons. You”ll notice I didn’t include Missouri and Texas A&M, which joined the SEC this season. You’ll also notice these graphs are fuzzy as hell (I apologize on behalf of my Flintstone technology), so click the image to clearly see the numbers.
Stats are current through 2/11/13. I did not include results of neutral court games.
I’ve spent the last few months interviewing North Little Rock football player Altee Tenpenny and his inner circle about his recruitment.
Tenpenny, of course, has been the subject of plenty discussion in these parts. He committed to Alabama in January 2012, but it always held the door slightly ajar from the Razorbacks to make their case. When Bret Bielema came aboard as Arkansas’ new coach, with a reputation for showcasing top-notch running backs at his previous stint in Wisconsin, Tenpenny allowed that door to creak ever slightly more open.
But Monday night, with a Tweet declaring he was 100% committed to Alabama, Tenpenny slammed the door shut.
This morning, on National Signing Day, he used a pen and fax machine to deadbolt that sucker.
I still think Arkansas fans should pay attention to the story of his recruitment, however. There are so many interlocking parts to the whole process – from the coaches’ spiels, to the parents’ jobs, to the high school coach’s background and the way the media (yes, me included) not only report on this whole crazy carnival but to different degrees actually participate in it.
Every recruit has to deal with similar issues. You hope the teen has people who have his best intentions in mind to deal with a process that only becomes more pressure packed and scrutinized by the year. So, I was heartened to see that Tenpenny has good parents to help him distinguish between emotion-fueled propaganda and reasonable arguments. I know Hog fans don’t like the outcome, but they should still reflect on and pay heed to the process.
Tenpenny’s recruitment represents only the first battle between Bret Bielema’s Arkansas staff and Nick Saban’s Alabama staff. It may be a while before Arkansas can win on the field, but in the recruiting world Arkansas’ first victory could come as early as next February. Josh Frazier, a 6-4, 324-pound junior defensive lineman from Springdale Har-Ber, has offers from Arkansas and Alabama.
Heading into his sophomore season at North Little Rock High School, running back Altee Tenpenny had never heard of a combine.
He didn’t know a summer circuit fitness test could rocket a previously obscure name onto the radar of every major college football program and secure the attention of top college football coaches. However, his high school coaches did, and in June 2010 they encouraged him to attend one. Tenpenny came back with a score of 90.91. “Everybody was looking at me like I did good,” he said. Indeed, at 15 years old, without a minute of varsity football under his belt, the native Arkansan’s score identified him as an elite athlete, the kind that made college football coaches and fans drool.
Read the entire 7,000 word article here.
Without exception, there are and always will be exceptions.
We all (hopefully) learn this at some time or another, and my most recent lesson came via the expansive readership of the New York Times.
I wrote a piece for the paper’s college sports blog about how college football is the only major American team sport in which there hasn’t been a freshman/rookie to win that sport’s most prestigious individual award. In college football’s case, it’s the Heisman.
In pro sports, there has been a lot more opportunities for first-year player to win such honors because rookies have played on the same teams as veterans since the major leagues’ inceptions. In the college ranks, I knew freshmen played on their own teams, apart from upperclassmen, until 1972. I assumed that was the year the NCAA first allowed freshmen to play with upperclassman, and so naturally I assumed there could not have been a freshmen Heisman finalist before that year.
I was wrong, as ”Todd D” from Tampa Bay, Florida pointed out in my blog post’s comments.
Turns out that during World War II, Georgia Tech freshmen played because there was the shortage of able-bodied men who’d left to fight overseas. And in 1942, a scatback named Clint Castleberry injected life into a Yellow Jackets program which had had only two winning seasons since 1930:
Standing only five-foot-nine, a hundred and fifty-five pounds, Castleberry did not allow his diminutive stature to overshadow his talent and immense heart. Upon entering Tech, he had never played in a game in which his team had lost—and the string continued in the fall of 1942. In essence, Castleberry became Seabiscuit in football pads, revitalizing Tech with incredible touchdown runs—that inspired at least one sportswriter to marvel that he “ran like a crazed jackrabbit,” defensive gems, and a Chip Hilton too-good-to-be-true personality.
Before a late-season knee injury, Castleberry led Georgia Tech to a 9-0 record and into the national Top 5. He played only that one season before heading off to war himself, but impressed everyone and finished third in the Heisman voting. There wouldn’t be another freshman Heisman finalist until another Georgian – Herschel Walker – finished third in 1980. According to football historian Bill Chastain, Castleberry is the only Georgia Tech player with his number retired.
If the program decided to enshrine two jerseys, who would be a top candidate? How about a 19-year-old from Decatur who arrived on campus the next season and developed into a two-time All-SEC QB, as well as a star in baseball and football?
Frank Broyles wouldn’t be a bad choice at all.
There aren’t many blank spots on longtime NBA player Derek Fisher’s resume: five world titles, an AAU National Championship, a high school state championship, six years as National Basketball Players Association President. On every big stage the Little Rock native has played, he has left his mark.
Yet there’s the stage he never played on.
It doesn’t matter how many big-time events Fisher has been a part of in his 16-year pro career. Nothing will erase the memory of how close he got as a college senior to making his sport’s most dramatic competition: the NCAA Tournament. His University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans were up 56-55 in the 1996 Sun Belt Conference Championship game with four seconds left.
The University of New Orleans had the ball. Fisher closed out quickly on the opposing guard with the ball, but he spun past Fisher’s outstretched arms and drove to the basket, lofting a teardrop shot that resulted in an upset win.
Despite a 23-6 record, UALR would be left out on the doorstep on Selection Sunday. Fisher’s final shot at the Big Dance was gone.
It could have been much, much different.
What if instead of leading UALR, Fish had helped steer the Razorbacks? “I think he could have played at Arkansas, but coming out of high school, he just wasn’t ready,” said Razorback All-American Corliss Williamson, also one of Fisher’s best friends. There’s a strong chance Fisher was ready for Arkansas halfway through his college career, though, and he was closer to making that jump than many people realize.
See the rest of the story at Sync magazine.
PS – This concludes what has apparently become my blog’s Of(Fish)al Derek Fisher Week.
It’s been half a decade since Clint Stoerner last quarterbacked a team. The former Arkansas Razorback record-setter and Dallas Cowboy starter played the last few seasons of his pro career in the Arena Football League before settling in Little Rock in the summer of 2007. Since then, he’s worked in public relations for a medical equipment company and, in his current job, does a little bit of everything as vice president of Stoerner & HaVas Insurance Agency, Inc. It’s work that demands constant travel around Arkansas. And wherever he goes, on camera or off, people want to talk about the state of the Hogs.
Q: You talk about the Razorbacks at a ton of events and fundraisers.With Arkansas struggling, have less people asked you to make these appearances?
A: Absolutely not. If anything, when Arkansas is not doing well, everybody wants to know why, everybody wants to know how, everybody wants to hear somebody else’s take on it. It’s probably better for my business when we don’t do well [chuckling]. I’m busier when controversy hits – things like the Petrino [scandal], when those staying set I start getting calls from everybody, ESPN, everybody.
Q: When do think Bobby Petrino will next coach at a major college or in the NFL?
A: I think he will coach next year. I think there will be some teams out there who are willing to hand him the keys to the palace – the head coaching job – but I definitely think there will be teams out there who will be wanting his services from an offensive coordinator standpoint.
Q: Arkansas (3-4) plays Ole Miss this weekend in Little Rock. How will the Hogs do?
A: I think we’ll see a better team than we saw earlier in the year. I think the guys have matured and come together and seemed to have gotten in a little bit of a rhythm offensively… I think it will be a lot better game than we thought it would be three weeks ago.
Q: Two veteran leaders on Arkansas’ defense – Tenarius Wright and Alonzo Highsmith – are out for the season. Given their absences and the improved upcoming teams, is the Hogs’ defense ultimately in deep trouble?
A: I think it’s all predicated on our offense. Offensively, if we don’t play the way we played the last two weeks, then I think we’ll be in some trouble regardless of who the opponent is. I think we are good enough defensively where if we do our job offensively we’ll be fine.
Q: So, how many games will Arkansas end up winning?
A: I think we will win six, maybe seven. We get by Ole Miss and Tulsa, that puts us at 5-4. I think we’ll get one of the last three matches against LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State. I don’t think we’ve got what it takes to beat South Carolina on the road but I do think we’ve got what it takes – if we pick play up to our potential – to possibly beat the other two.
Q: When you talk to fans, who are the top three candidates for Arkansas’ next head coach you hear about? No Jon Gruden, Pete Carroll or Vince Lombardi allowed.
A: The main ones with Arkansas ties are who everybody wants to talk about. That’s Butch Davis, Tommy Tuberville, and Charlie Strong. That’s just the way Arkansas is. It’s a great thing – everybody wants a guy who’s got ties to the state but I just don’t think Jeff Long has those same thoughts. I just don’t think it’s a priority in his mind. Personally, I think it’s just not going to be a head coach. It’s going to have to be a combination of a head coach and a coordinator to make a difference. If it’s a defensive coach, then you need an offensive coordinator that’s special. If it’s an offensive coach, then you need a defensive coordinator that’s special.
Q: Who’s your top candidate, then?
Some interesting stuff from Arkansas’ athletic director Jeff Long, who spoke at the Little Rock Touchdown Club today.
He came out in true Jeff Long fashion, not so much with guns a-blazing – more like rumor flame extinguishers a-spraying – with stuff like this:
“Somebody shared with me that somewhere I was quoted as saying I was going to make the next head football coach at the University of Arkansas the highest-paid coach in the country. That’s simply not true. That would be an irresponsible statement to make.”
Here’s more of Long’s insight into the coaching search
HOW FAR INTO THE PROCESS OF SELECTING A NEXT HEAD COACH?
“Just research at this point … You know, in our world unlike the business world, you just don’t pick out a candidate and go and get him. We have some unwritten protocols that we file try to follow. They’re getting blurrier in our profession – what’s appropriate and what isn’t. I’m going to try to walk that line and and not invade or intrude upon a coach who’s a season. That’s important that you do it the right way. Certainly, there are a lot of third that are trying to get us information parties that are out there that are trying to get us information about those who are interested in those who might not be. We’ve got to walk a fine line there.”
ON REACTING TO FANS’ SUGGESTIONS FOR NEXT COACH
“Trying to judge who you all think would be a quality candidate is really, really difficult because I’ve gotten letters and e-mails from everything from high school coaches to retired coaches to NFL head coaches, so there’s everything in between”
ON THE WIDTH OF THE NET HE’S CASTING
“Certainly top assistants are not out of the question. I think if you just look around our own conference and you look at some of the schools that have great tradition, have great resources and maybe reside in a state with great recruiting – they could have gone out and chosen a proven head coach, and they ended up with a top notch coordinator. So, I’m certainly not going limit my head coaching search to only current head coaches. There are a lot of offensive coordinators, defensive coordintors, who make that step like a Bob stoops did 10, 12 years ago when he went from a coordinator at Florida to a national championship in two years.”
WHEN WILL YOU DECIDE?
“I’m hopeful that we will have a decision made within a couple weeks after the end of the regular season.”