It is time once again for our weekly segment “Ask Mike” where Razorback fans get a chance to ask our veteran analyst Mike Irwin questions. Below is this week’s Q&A with Mike.
Q: Our first question comes from “razorbackfaithful” who asks: If you are going to potentially limit the number of fans that can attend a game, wouldn’t it make most sense to start with not offering tickets to visiting teams fan bases? Traveling fans would be a good way to potentially spread the virus.
A: Good question. I have not see where this has been mentioned as a possibility. Obviously it would need to be an SEC policy. A few weeks ago Hunter Yurachek mentioned that Navada has indicated they they were planning to come to Fayetteville and Arkansas was planning to go to Notre Dame but he was talking about the teams not fans. We’ll check into this and try to get you an definitive answer on next week’s show.
Q: “AlabamaHog” says: Coach Crutchfield left the UA basketball program for a head coaching position at a D2 program. Do you have any insights into the sudden departure of Coach Crutchfield? Was it simply his seeking to lead his own program or were there issues with Coach Muss? Also, are you hearing any names to fill the vacancy and who would be on YOUR wish list?
A. He said he wanted to spend more time with his kids. I assue that was a reference to all the recruting an assistant coach has to do. Pretty sure is releationship with coach Musselman was fine. I haven’t heard any names emerge yet. ASs far as who I would want, I don’t care. Coach Muss doesn’t need my help in hiring an assistant coach.
Q: “myriad_rocker” wants to know: Is there a conference game or games that you think are must win for the football team this year in terms of launching the program forward? I know that showing progress will be one of the main goals for this team, but fans are itching for some wins that put a bit of wind back in the sails of Razorback football. Also, I don’t miss Bobby, but I sure miss his exciting teams and season records (Joe Adams!). Do you think that, with Briles, we’ll see a return of some of the exciting offensive plays that give a reason for Razorback fans to scream until they lose their voice again?
A. The only must win, is any conference game. Breaking that SEC losing streak is really important. As far as an impact win, snapping that streak against the Aggies would be great although some are saying they might win the west this season. A win over Auburn with the whole Gus Malzahn/Chad Morris thing would be nice too. As far as Briles, there is an anticipation that the offense will get an immediate jump start with him as the OC but I’m worried about no spring training and so far the limitations on what the coaches can do in the summer. I’ll continute to say this, July ought to be opened up a one month period of practicing with a ball involved. Not contact tacking in full pads but let the plahyers run plays with the coaches involved.
Q: “WizardofhOgZ” asked about the likelyhood that with a limited major league draft and a limited amount of money availble for signing bonuses if this will mean more high school seniors will go the college route rather than sign pro contracts.
A: I’d say yes. Undrafted players could still sign as free agents but the money is down across the board so it’s not a good time to jump straight to the minor leagues. Even among those who are drafted I could see a lot of them deciding it’s not a good time to sign a pro contract because of the money crunch in MLB right now.
Q: “BaconTheSaddleAgain” says: I’m a firm believer that sports have played an important role in cultural healing. The most obvious example that I remember in my lifetime was how baseball in New York helped to lift the spirits of the country after the 9/11 attacks. Do you agree that in our culture sports plays an important role our nation’s healing process, and what role, if any, do you think sports may play in the healing of our country as we rebound from the pandemic, civil unrest, and economic hardship?
A: That’s a really good point and it’s one of the main reasons why we need to more forward with the various sports, pro, college and high school. People are tired of being shut up indoors. Many of them are tired of being lectured and shamed and how dangerous it would be to go to games and have fun again. I continue to say that the people who will make the decisions will not put fans in a stadium if it’s not safe. But we all need to have some fun again and for many live sports is a part of that.
Q. “hobhog asks:” Do you think the teams that didn’t get any spring practice due to Covid will be able to get any additional practice considerations in the summer, or did coach Pittman just lose out on 15 days of practice.
A. Whatever it is it’s probably not going to come close to what players and coaches do during spring football. I doubt there will be pads on. I’m not even sure if coaches will be allowed to use a ball. What we may see instead is players going off campus and running plays on their own in shorts and tee shirts. I supposed there is a slight chance coaches will force the issue on their conferences and therefore the NCAA to wake up and allow at least a simulated spring football like situation in July but right now it’s looking like that’s not going to happen.
Q: “Swine American” wants to know: Do you know how Sam Pittman is going to handle access for you folks in the media to observe practice(s)? There are lots of fans who would be glad to wear masks and practice social distancing and follow other strict rules for the opportunity to just watch some non strategic practice sessions and feel a part of the program again. Correct me if I am wrong but neither Bielema nor Morris would let fans watch and would limit you (the media) to 20 minutes then make you leave. I think Sam Pittman would curry favor for himself and the program if his support staff could find a way to rotate small groups of fans to a designated area to see a few practice periods and then leave so other fans might see some of the action as well. What do you think?
A. We still don’t know about his policy about the media and fans watching practice because Arkansas has not had a single practice under Pittman. I seriously doubt that the media or fans are going to be watching anything that happens until at least August and that’s because of the COVID thing. What happens once August Camp arrives probably hasn’t been decided yet. But letting fans in probably is not going to happen. Not in the fall. I don’t know anybody that does that. Maybe in spring football.
Q. “parallaxpig asks:” Have you seen/heard any protocols on how they will handle a positive COVID 19 test after they begin contact drills or after a full scrimmage?
A. All we’ve been told is what they are doing right now, One athlete tested positive before he or she was to report back. That athlete is doing fine and is in quaranteen off campus. They aren’t going to test athletes unless they show symptoms. I assume the process will be the same this fall. If an athlete tests positive he or she will be quarenteened away from the other athleties.
Q: “tusksincolorado” wants to know: Have you heard if the NCAA has any contingency plans of stopping play if some teams experience a outbreak during the football season? Alabama just had 50 players test positive for CoVid-19.
A. First of all the number you used is from a report that indicated as many as 50 Alabama players had participated in off campus workouts during the NCAA shutdown. So far only five have tested positive The word behind the scenes is if players are going to test positive schools want it to happpen now and not later. Honestly that’s part of what’s going on now. Get em back on campus. Deal with any cases before the season starts and maybe this virus will be gone by September. But obviously if there is a mass breakout on a team in-season that team would probably have to forfeit games until those players are cleared to return.
Q. “Lanny” asks: Is Hunter’s Yuracheck’s decision to allow Arkansas to play Arkansas State in sports other than football a mistake? What if he agrees to playing them in football five years down the road?
A. Only time will tell. Let’s back up. When Yurachek agreed to allow Arkansas to play other schools in the U of A system in spring sports it was done to help those school who were struggling finsncially. With COVID it’s been expanded to save travel costs for Arkansas. Baskball and football playing Arkansas state is a whole different situations. The only time that’s happened is in mens and womens’ basketball and it was done by the NIT selection committee. The atmosphere in both games was over the top angry. Now if you intentionallly schedule Arkansas State in football or basketball there’s no going back. You’ve go friends in this state who are fans of one school or the other and they’ve been arguing with each other for years. Imagine the argument among non friends if they play? No matter the oputcome the rivalry is on. You won’t be able to stop it because fans determine rivalries. Is that good for Arkansas? Would it be good for LSU if their big rival was Tulane? How about Auburn and South Alabama? Tennessee and Tennessee State? Texas and UTEP? Arkansas does not have a natural rival in the SEC. If they start playing Arkansas State that will become the rivalry game at least with the fans. Arkansas State will benefit and Arkansas won’t.
Q. “Arkansas redneck” wants to know: Did Sam Pittman do the right thing showing up at the protest rally in Fayetteville last week?
A. Yes. College football is filled with black athletes who believe that there are too many examples of excessive force being used by the police against blacks across the country. As their coach he’s got to stand with them. The best way to do that is to go to the rally with them. He’s not paying lip service. He’s there. But he was also there in case the protest turned into something else. He could get his players out of there if the police had to deal with the protesters. That didn’t happen but he was prepared.