Monday, November 25, 2013

From the Bench

Historic Demise of Football Program and Dwindling Interest Cause for Concern at UA

Robert Shields

Looking across the cold and dreary War Memorial golf course Saturday morning, the usual turnout of energetic Razorback fans was sparse compared to the normal, raucous standard for a game day in Little Rock.

When the Razorback team bus arrived at War Memorial Stadium around 9 a.m. for the early game at 11:21, it was the most tepid response from fans going out on Markham Street to greet the team bus in my memory.

One could blame the seven-game losing streak for the lower-than-normal turnout as that can destroy any fan’s faith in the team, but this is territory reserved for teams like ASU. Yet here we are watching ASU turn out a winning record again while your Razorbacks fall to new lows each week.

I have not seen this level of poor support for the football program since the 1992 season in a 24-19 loss to SMU in Little Rock. The Razorbacks were in the midst of a 3-7-1 season with Joe Kines taking over for a fired Jack Crowe. Hard to believe, but that was a better season than this one as that team found a way to beat Tennessee and tie Auburn on the road.

Some predicted disaster after the firing of Bobby Petrino. Some also predicted disaster when the athletic director hired an interim coach to head the program for a full season. Still others were distraught when a Big Ten coach who had previously belittled the SEC was brought in as the answer to put the program back on track.

The number, though, has to be few who actually saw the complete dismantling of this program to the point of losing a record eight games with no relief in sight. The streak could easily extend to 10 games following a loss to Auburn to open next season.

If you weren’t deluding yourself, most had to have some idea things were headed south. Saturday in the overtime loss to a horrible Mississippi State team, you got to witness the results from the last three big decisions by the athletic director.

In the movie “Jarhead,” there is the line when the Marines talk about their beloved Corp – “Welcome to the suck!” Somehow that now fits for the Razorbacks.

I don’t know who picked “Never Yield” as the tagline for this season, but nothing could have provided more juxtaposition to reality. “Welcome to the suck” actually makes more sense. It intones a sense of love and acceptance of how bad things are. Unlike the University of Arkansas that refuses to yield on public documents, its football program is giving up everything.

Little did anyone know that John L. Smith could end up with a better conference and overall record than Bret Bielema. You can try to explain it away or go back to comparing Bielema’s first year to Petrino’s, but it would be silly at this point. Eight consecutive losses and 11 SEC losses in a row need no explanation.

It’s bad. It’s really bad. As a matter of fact, you are in the midst of possibly the worst season ever in the history of Razorback football, only two seasons removed from being ranked No. 3 in the country.

One post on a message board had the headline, “Is this the worst Hog football season of your lifetime?” The answer is yes. And besides the extremely disappointing loss to Rutgers that looks worse by the day and the overtime loss to Mississippi State, the team has not been competitive in any of its losses.

Fans have to take on the new attitude that was once reserved for ASU fans who always had to resort to “next year.” Razorback fans are ready to get out of this season, and you can’t blame the players if they feel the same way. You also can’t blame the players for the state of the program.

The disappointing fan support Saturday can be blamed on the nasty weather, dreadful season, unexciting brand of football, little hope of improvement, and most certainly abandonment of traveling to Little Rock by fans that live north of the tunnel. Not that I blame them.

For those who showed up, they should all be given an autographed picture and game ball – and without having to bid on it in yet another of the UA’s money-grabbing auctions, though they are probably going to need some fundraising ideas in the future.

Understandably, interest in Razorback football is waning this season. You can see it with lower traffic on message boards and calls on the radio call-in shows coming only from a handful of overly familiar voices.

Some say after such a bad turnout on Saturday that War Memorial Stadium is being put on notice that the end is near. It very well may be with rumors flying that the athletic director is considering buying out the contract.

But I have to wonder if there is something more at play. Maybe it is Central Arkansas putting the Hill on notice that they are done, have moved on from the GSD, and have found better things to do with their time and money.

The UofA’s worst fear should be that there is no outrage when they announce they are moving games. Because apathy is much worse than dissatisfaction.

Knowing the overall arrogance of the Program, they will take the silence as approval. A sign that is not seen is indistinguishable from one that did not occur.

Send your take on the state of the program and what happens next to

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your article. But who is to blame for the state of the program?