Ask Mike 6-1-2020

Pig Trail Nation
  1. Our first question comes from billmontgomery10 who says: You keep using the phrase ‘when they decide it’s safe to return’ to Reynolds Stadium for football fans. Just curious who ‘they’ is? Scientists, SEC, NCAA, Gov. Hutchinson? I’m sure not going to games just because the President says so, the same guy who said the virus would disappear this summer when it heats up and won’t wear a mask in public. When would you personally feel safe attendIng sporting events in Fayetteville?

This is a question and answer show devoted to Razorback athletics. I’m not interested in political opinions or questions. I am always happy to answer Razorback related questions. I can tell you that “they” is not Donald Trump. I have said that in my opinion the University of Arkansas will not have fans in the stands unless “they believe it is safe.” “They,” in this case, would be Hunter Yurachek, the school chancellor, the U of A system president , the board of trustees and various health officials that they are consulting with. I’ve also said the situation may look a lot different three months from now. As of this moment, with the spike in cases in NWA, if it were September I doubt there would be fans in the stands.

  1. Sed76 asks: When the football team eventually stops playing in Little Rock do you think we will see more neutral site games? Or do you think we will just try to keep playing in Arlington every year? Other SEC teams have opened the season with games in places like Atlanta, Houston and Jacksonville, FL.

Bret Bielema, several years ago, talked about the possibility of Arkansas playing neutral site games in football at various pro sports venues, But my best guess is that when the Jerryworld game with Texas A&M goes away it will be replaced with Big 12 teams in Texas. Only one such off campus game like that per season seems likely and Jerryworld is the perfect place for it for obvious reasons: Jerry Jones’ connection with the U of A, the closeness of Jerryworld to the state of Arkansas, the easy travel situation for Hog fans in this state and the large number of U of A alums in the Dallas-Ft Worth metroplex.

  1. Hog Fan n Tx says: I enjoyed your interview with Joe Kleine on the passing of Eddie Sutton. Joe mentioned how much Jim Robken and the Hog Wild Band did to pump up the players. I know theere will never be another Jim Robken but surely the noise meter could be revived. I have not been to a basketball game in Bud Walton Arena in several years, does the present band seem to help the atmosphere?

The current band is fine. It’s just that disc jockeys and ampilfied music which started at NBA venues has taken over in the college ranks. The band is a smaller part of the equation. They also bring on these various show business-type acts at halftime so the Razorback dance team is not what it was. It’s canned. Artificial. Look, opposing coaches call time out for a reason. They want to take the crowd out of the game and far to often these days that’s exactly what happens. The crowd is going nuts but in the timeout break they settle back down. Robken didn’t let that happen. He made fans keep standing and cheering all through the break. When the opposing team came out of a timeout break the noise was just as lond as when the break started. Could there be another Robken? Maybe but Bud Walton doesn’t have a concourse visible to the fans and that’s what Robken used to run around on. The noise meter was a great idea in Barnhill because of where it was located and where the band was located. Everybody could clearly see it no matter where their seats were. That’s not the case in Bud Walton.

  1. HangTenHog says: One coach that really, in many ways, set the standard for Arkansas gets little mention….John McDonnell. I’ve met quite a few Razorback coaches along the way and he always was such a great, and authentic person. In addition, he racked up National Titles like Alabama does in Football. Maybe even better. When you truly think about it, he’s in a league of his own. What is your favorite memory of Coach McDonnell? Will his string of National Championships ever be broken (my two cents, doubt it).

Records always get broken. My favorite memory? Gee. One of them goes back to his first outdoor national championship which was in Austin. Arkansas had a shot putter who didn’t like his first throw so he scratched on purpose. The next time up, he did it again. Now you only get three chances to advance to the finals so the field events coach said to him, Hey man, there are only six competing so everybody goes to the finals. But you have to get off a legal throw. I don’t care if you toss that thing six feet. Don’t scratch. Well the guy gets off a decent throw and ended up scoring points in the meet which is all they wanted. But later I was laughing and telling John about it because he’d been busy watching events on the track. Only he didn’t think it was funny at all. When I told the story his eyes narrowed and John said, HE DID THAT? WHY IF I’D SEEN THAT I WOULD HAVE KICKED HIM SQUARE IN THE BUTT. John didn’t fool around when it came to winning national championships.

  1. WizardofhOgZ says: Imagines the logistical challenges IF we are not able to open the football stadium 100%.
    If, say, the occupancy level allowed was 25%, the question no one is talking about is WHO and HOW would those 25% be chosen?

Hunter Yurauck says he’s planning for a full crowd. But if that ends up being not possible he’ll start with season ticket holders. Right now 33,000 have bought season tickets for next year. My guess is those fans would get in and their seat location would be based on their donation level. They might have to limit the number of tickets in the sky boxes. All of that is a guess because he hasn’t gone into great detail about how he would handle such a situation but what I do know is, he’s got a plan for just about every possibility.

  1. LZH wants to know: Have you seen any differences in Sam Pittman from the days he was the OL coach here to now that he’s the Head Hog? Is he just as relaxed? Is he as wide open in conversation as he was? I understand he’s a blast, so I don’t mean personality differences – just more aware of what he says/does since all eyes are on him. I guess I’m asking do you sense that he’s taken a more guarded or harder stance, maybe out of necessity, now that he’s ‘the man’?

I really have been around him very little. I joked with him that the one why I’ll know if he hasn’t changed is if he comes to a press conference after practice and takes his socks and shoes off before he talks to us like he did when he was the O-line coach.
Barry Odom, the defensive coordinator, has said that Pittman is a great guy and will ask your opinion on almost everything. But, he said, when the man makes him mind up on something that’s it. Conversation over. Look, he’ll be different. He has to be. But most of the time I don’t think we’ll notice it. The coaches on his staff will see it but not the fans and the media. That’s my guess.

  1. Hogfan88 asks: Is there a particular reason why men’s basketball last adopted the classic 1994 home uniforms as their permanent home uniforms. We rarely saw the previous home white uniforms last season yet on the road Arkansas wore the previous away uniform. Do you see this continuing in the future? As I recall they wore more than one home uniform. Musselman strikes me as a guy who will have his players wear multiple uniforms and change them year to year.
  2. DeltaBoy wants to know: Are there any uniform changes coming this fall for the Football team?

So far the athletic department has not released any information on the uniform to be used this coming season.

  1. Arkansas redneck says: Last week you said you didn’t think Casey Opitz was coming back to the baseball team but a few days after that he indicated that he would come back if he’s not drafted. So I go back to the question that was asked last week. What happens to those two grad transfer catchers if Optiz decides to come back?

In Zoom interviews that we did with both of them they said playing time was not a concern no matter who the catcher ends up being. One of them can play first base and left field. The other one has a history of playing multiple positions. My guess is, if Optiz comes back, the grad transfer with the best defensive skills will end up playing quite a bit as a back up catcher. Van Horn has always wanted at least two strong catchers to allow his starter to take a break from time to time. Over using a catcher usually results in hitting problems later in the season when his legs get fatigued. Also both of the grad transfers are better hitters that Optiz so I could see one of them being inserted into the batting order in the late innings of games to provide an offensive punch. The other grad transfer will almost certainly become a starter at another position on the field. Both of those guys are are projected as .300 plus hitters at the SEC level. They’re not gonna sit.

  1. NuttinItUp asks: Who do you consider our top rivals in football nowadays and in what order do you consider them?

At this point I’m not sure there is a rival. After two straight years of zero SEC wins most Arkansas fans just want a win. They don’t care who it is against. Once Sam Pittman gets the program going again, I’d list Ole Miss, LSU, Auburn and the Aggies in that order. Ole Miss is close enough that a lot of Hogs fans from Arkansas made that trip every other year. The same is true of LSU although the trip is farther away. I think Auburn is a bigger rival than normal right now because of Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris. There’s still some of that old SWC stuff going on with the Aggies. Mizzou is the closest SEC school to campus but that rivalry has not taken off. A lot of Hog fans that I talk to don’t like the way the SEC office has tried to create a rivalry between the two schools.Their attitude is, we’ll decide who our rival is, not some guys in an office in Birmingham.

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