Could be that bad year for Van Horn

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, April 18, 2016
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn argues a call with first base umpire Darrell Arnold in the first inning against Auburn on Saturday, March 26, 2016, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
( Michael Woods)
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn argues a call with first base umpire Darrell Arnold in the first inning against Auburn on Saturday, March 26, 2016, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Coach any sport long enough and even the greatest will experience some bum years.

Arkansas baseball Coach Dave Van Horn proves it now,just as several now-retired Hall of Fame Razorbacks coaches,, showed before him.

You can look it up.

Frank Broyles, Arkansas' winningest football coach and lone Razorbacks football national championship, is regarded among the greatest of his era. Even Broyles coached some teams to wallowing 4-5-1, 5-5 and 5-5-1 finishes.

Lou Holtz, a national champion at Notre Dame; Nolan Richardson, Arkansas' winningest and only national champion basketball coach; Eddie Sutton, Richardson's predecessor initiating the Razorbacks roundball renaissance, all coached some sub .500 clunkers.

Norm DeBriyn, Van Horn's Hall of Fame baseball coaching predecessor, posted 1,161 victories and 4 College World Series, as well as the Hogs' lone national runner-up finished.

DeBriyn coached an 8-20 SEC team in 2000 after winning the SEC in 1999.

Even John McDonnell, Arkansas' track and cross country coach and the greatest coach of any NCAA sport with 42 national championships and 84 conference championships, saw his SEC Outdoor champions skid to a horrific (by his standards only) 17th in his final NCAA Outdoor meet.

It happens to the best of them. This year, it's happening to Van Horn, one of the best.

From 1989-2015 Van Horn compiled almost always great years at Texarkana (Texas) Junior College, NCAA Division II champion Central Missouri State, Nebraska, including the Cornhuskers' only two College World Series appearances. At Arkansas from 2003-2015, he entered the season 524-295 with four appearances in the College World Series, including last year.

This season seems way more woeful than Arkansas' 21-15 overall record would indicate. In SEC games the Razorbacks (4-11) have lost eight consecutive SEC games, and haven't had the lead in any of them.

Arkansas starting pitchers have routinely been ousted in SEC games by the fourth inning or before, confounding Dave Jorn, regarded as one of college baseball's all-time best pitching coaches, renowned among college baseball's all-time great pitching coaches serving both DeBriyn and Van Horn.

Meanwhile, the hitters have stranded base runners like a stalled New York subway would passengers.

It all baffles, given these nationally preseason ranked especially after the Hogs were ranked in the preseason and early in the season swept nationally ranked Rice, Houston and Texas Tech in Houston.

Last year's Hogs salvaged a 40-25 season that ended in Omaha, college baseball's College World Series mecca, after a 15-15 overall start.

Postseason hopes for 2016 remain, but the odds are shrinking. Arkansas' 17-12 SEC finish came off a 9-6 start in SEC play. The Hogs, based on their current SEC mark, would have to go 14-1 in their final 15 games to top last season's finish.

It would hurt Arkansas, of course, if its string of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances ended at 14.

But it wouldn't hurt like allowing this year's losing to seep into next year, too.

"It's about the process," Van Horn said after Saturday's SEC loss to Florida, which gave the Gators a sweep of the series in Fayetteville.

Sounds like coachspeak, but it's true.

Inevitably, lettermen from Broyles' 11-0 1964 national champions will tell you that championship would not have occurred without persevering returnees from the 4-5-1 team of 1963 learning from losing, including to loathe it.

Sports on 04/18/2016


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