Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
State has so many reasons to be thankful
NWA Media/JASON IVESTER -- Arkansas senior running back Dennis Johnson looks for running room against Mississippi State during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss.
LITTLE ROCK As most of the country is sharing a family feast today, here are a few things, in no particular order, Arkansans can be thankful for:
Tomorrow is the last Arkansas Razorbacks football game of the season. Yet, these seniors should be commended for holding this team together through the train wreck that began on April Fool’s Day and continued through last Saturday in Starkville, Miss.
Arkansas State, UAPB, UCA, Henderson State and Harding have had great football seasons, and all but Harding still have a shot at a championship.
John L. Smith, who has taken the criticism and blame for this season with dignity. What most people don’t know is he regularly thanks people for being a part of the program. Not all football coaches do that.
Congressman Tim Griffin. Yes, this is not sports, but I don’t belong to a political party. There are probably others who sleep in their office when in Washington, D.C., but Griffin works to make things better for all Arkansans and all Americans, not for just a political party.
Chris Petersen and his staff at UALR, who have brought two national events to the state and are trying to bring more.
Gus Malzahn, who has taken over the Arkansas State football program seamlessly and has a great feel for where ASU fits now and where it should fit in the future. The Red Wolves are probably bowl bound.
That Frank Broyles had the vision and guts to get the Razorbacks out of the Southwest Conference and into the SEC all those years ago. As realignment has become one of the biggest issues in college athletics, UA was safely tucked away in one of the most financially sound conferences in the country.
Mike Slive and the SEC. Slive is in negotiations with ESPN and CBS that most likely will give the SEC the most lucrative TV contract in history. That impacts all 14 SEC members in a positive financial way.
Mike Anderson, who in his second year as Arkansas’ men’s basketball coach has quietly made improvements in his team that will be more obvious in February than they are right now.
Steve Shields and John Brady, who give their men’s basketball programs at UALR and ASU credibility and unbelievable work ethic.
Jeff Long, who is a professional athletic director. That is what all the major colleges and universities have now with a more corporate atmosphere. He’s under pressure and scrutiny right now, as well as some criticism for hiring Smith and not keeping a closer eye on Petrino, but he has the full support of all his bosses, including the board of trustees.
Joe Foley, the UALR women’s basketball coach, who has taken his team to two NCAA tournaments. He’s quietly rebuilding this season with a young team.
All the high school coaches who do so much for so little. That goes for teachers, too, but I’m trying to stay mostly with sports here. Educators, law enforcement and firemen never get enough thanks.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which is a very professional news gathering organization and, if you check nationally, still at a fair price. I’m especially thankful for the sports staff.
And of course, on a personal note, my family and friends. I am extremely blessed with a loving family and more friends who are good people with good hearts than one person deserves to have in his life.
I could go on and on, but I’m out of room for today.
Sports, Pages 27 on 11/22/2012