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 member and past president 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. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
LIKE IT IS: Arkansas coach may be down to last shot
LITTLE ROCK Hours before the Arkansas Razorbacks were handled by Ole Miss on Saturday, the latest round of rumors had begun.
Someone had seen Arkansas Chancellor Dave Gearhart with a member of the board of trustees, and they were with someone who was unfamiliar.
For some that meant there was an emergency meeting of the board of trustees regarding basketball.
Well, the board cannot, by law, meet without notifying the media, so it was unlikely that anything official was happening.
It might have been that a potential candidate for president of the UA system was making an unofficial visit and Gearhart, being a gentleman, and a member of the board were showing him around.
That’s just one possibility, but there was no emergency meeting of the board of trustees, and the basketball situation continues to be what it has been for several weeks - wait and see.
Since the 88-78 loss to Mississippi State at home last Wednesday, which assured the Hogs of not being above .500 in SEC play for the eighth time in the past 10 years, rumors have been taking off faster than Southwest flights out of Love Field.
Some rumors seem feasible, others don’t. But one seems to be practical.
If John Pelphrey doesn’t win the SEC Tournament, he’ll resign.
He’ll go after the tournament’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with all he has, and if he comes up short, he’ll step down.
That is not confirmed, but knowing Pelphrey wants to be part of the solution and not the problem, it is the one rumor that makes sense.
That puts the ball squarely in Pelphrey’s corner with his players.
It is the one possible situation you could go to the recruits with, ask them how they feel about it, and get a true feel if they want to be Razorbacks or Pel’s players.
Personally, anyone who chooses to ask for a release didn’t want to be a Hog, and there’s been enough of that the past decade.
Of course, where Pelphrey’s situation is right now has something to do with victories and losses. But the biggest thing is the empty seats in beautiful Walton Arena, which was once one of the most feared places for opponents to play in America.
With approximately $4 million per year being left on the table - and that doesn’t include concessions and donations to the Razorbacks Fund - there is grave concern in this economic time.
By all, including IMG, which paid the Hogs millions to represent them.
Winning puts butts in cold seats.
Not to mention that the SEC is wide open for someone to stake a claim as king of the league.
From top to bottom, the SEC is by far the softest seen since Arkansas and South Carolina joined the league.
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina were winless against top 25 teams in nonconference play, and Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State didn’t play any ranked teams before league play.
The SEC was 118-51 overall in nonconference play, and the winning percentage of .698 was the worst since 1996-1997.
Against other BCS conferences, the SEC was 19-24.
Which no doubt compounds Pelphrey’s situation. For a second consecutive season, he went 7-9 in conference play, but for the fourth consecutive year the SEC continued to slide in competitiveness.
No doubt the inability of the Razorbacks to be consistent had a huge impact on all those empty seats.
Now Pelphrey apparently has one more shot. A final opportunity to put together four victories in four days.
It won’t be easy, but ask Nolan Richardson if it can be done. Or Georgia. Of course, within two years after accomplishing that, Richardson and Dennis Felton were replaced.
Still, after a 25-39 SEC record in four seasons, that’s not a bad deal, if indeed that’s what the deal is, and it makes sense that it would be.
Sports, Pages 25 on 03/06/2011
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