Like It Is:

Trustees appropriately honor Hogs' past

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, May 26, 2019
ADG file photo 3/18/78 Eddie Sutton, coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks congratulates Marvin Delph, forward, after they defeated Cal State Fullerton 61-58 in the NCAA Far Western Championship at Albuquerque, N.N.
ADG file photo 3/18/78 Eddie Sutton, coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks congratulates Marvin Delph, forward, after they defeated Cal State Fullerton 61-58 in the NCAA Far Western Championship at Albuquerque, N.N.

Last week, the University of Arkansas board of trustees raised tuition and ended its parade of letting bygones be bygones.

Tuition is going up all over the country.

The trustees also voted to name the Razorbacks’ practice facility after Eddie Sutton.

In its previous meeting, the board had named the Razorbacks’ basketball court the Nolan Richardson Court. That Richardson sued the school in 2002 for discrimination after he was terminated by then-chancellor John White didn’t matter.

What mattered was his 1994 national championship, two other trips to the Final Four and 389 wins. What he made look easy has become mission impossible since he left 17 years ago.

Richardson has been gracious, appreciative and thankful for the honor.

Sutton’s last words as the Razorbacks coach were: “I would have crawled to Kentucky.”

That stung the fans, but several years later — after rehabbing for problems with alcohol — Sutton explained he meant he would have crawled to Kentucky to get away from athletic director Frank Broyles.

Broyles was trying to force Sutton to get help for something Sutton refused to admit was a problem.

Now the trustees have honored the two coaches who gave Razorback basketball its greatest glory.

Together they built the program from nothing in 1974, when Sutton arrived, to 1995 when the Razorbacks followed a national championship with a runner-up finish under Richardson.

It all began when Broyles flew through a snowstorm to hire Sutton before Duke could do so.

Within a year, Sutton had the attention of the entire state. Three homegrown players — Ron Brewer, Marvin Delph and Sidney Moncrief — captured the hearts and imagination of basketball fans.

Sutton would bring in talent from all over the country such as Scott Hastings, Darrell Walker, Alvin Robertson and Joe Kleine. He’d keep Ricky Norton from going to Kentucky.

Truth is Sutton could beat you with his team, switch teams and beat you with your team. No one knew X’s and O’s better than Sutton.

He took Arkansas and Oklahoma State to the Final Four. It is rare for a single coach to take two schools to the Final Four, and even harder to take four to the NCAA Tournament, which he did.

At Kentucky, he paid dearly for an NCAA investigation and the subsequent fallout.

Sutton won there and when he landed at his alma mater Oklahoma State, but he never missed a chance to pay homage to the Razorbacks, reminding everyone he had relatives in Arkansas.

He retired with 806 wins, which is currently the eighth most in men’s college basketball.

In 11 seasons at the UA, Sutton had a 260-75 record, and the .776 winning percentage is the highest in school history.

He led the Hogs to nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments, and along the way he brought culture into the lives of every player. If they played Virginia, they were visiting Thomas Jefferson’s home. Playing Georgetown, they were exploring the nation’s capital.

In his final NCAA Tournament as the Razorbacks coach, he took his family, the team, a couple of friends and a journalist to dinner on top of the historical Hotel Utah.

It was March 12, 1985, his birthday. It was more than a pregame meal, it was a celebration, and the players were not given menus. Sutton ordered escargot and chateaubriand for everyone.

Just 20 days later, he was introduced as Kentucky’s coach.

Eventually, Sutton was forgiven for leaving and remembered for what he created. Now his legacy lives forever.

The trustees have honored two greats and given UA basketball a fresh start.

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