JOHN BRUMMETT: A woman in charge

By: John Brummett
Published: Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Arkansas interim athletics director Julie Cromer Peoples speaks at a news conference Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville. Cromer Peoples announced the firing of football coach Bret Bielema following a 48-45 loss to Missouri.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Arkansas interim athletics director Julie Cromer Peoples speaks at a news conference Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville. Cromer Peoples announced the firing of football coach Bret Bielema following a 48-45 loss to Missouri.

There could not have been more gender politics lathered on the Razorback football coaching drama Friday night if Al Franken had been cupping behinds and Roy Moore randomly asking out high school girls.

For a woman to take aside a big old corn-fed man at the end of a Razorback football game and tell him he was fired as the head coach, and then for that woman, brimming with command, to say she didn't need any search committee because all you need to hire a football coach is an interim athletic director and she is one ... well, it caused one man, David Bazzel of Razorback ubiquity, to wonder on Channel 7 what Frank Broyles would be thinking.

First, before chancing commentary on the gender issue, please allow me to defend the interim UA athletic director, Julie Cromer Peoples--not that she needs defending by a man, or anybody--in the execution of Bret Bielema's termination.

She did not fire him on the field after the game. She waited until he got off the field, informing him in an office.

It makes sense that she didn't want to let his termination linger after the game when he had a pointless recruiting trip planned the next day and the hiring market is ablaze.

It makes sense that Friday night provided the best opportunity for him to bid farewell to his players he loved--and who loved him--before those players dispersed on the season's sad end with no bowl game to play.

Now, about gender: I got called a misogynist on social media midway through the excitement Friday night.

All in the world I had done was post on Twitter the relevant fact that Kevin Wilson compiled a 26-47 record in six years as Indiana's football coach. That was upon hearing Peoples cite her experience as an associate athletic director in helping to select Wilson.

"Misogynist much?" came a woman's reply.

What'd I do? Was Kevin Wilson a woman?

I suppose the point is that men have been universally in charge for so long that criticizing them is not an attack on their gender, but that a woman daring to assert herself in a traditional male role gets subjected to an immediate double standard, which might only look like a single standard.

It's not Peoples' fault that the UA finds itself needing to hire a football coach before it gets a new athletic director.

It behooves her to send a message of command and control.

She did say that she'll be seeking the advice of many people--old Hog fraternity boys among them, maybe. She did acknowledge the special considerations of our state and region.

It could be that many male longtime Razorback fans are distressed about the changing culture encompassing both that the Razorbacks aren't any good anymore and that a woman is maybe going to pick the next coach.

It might be that it's high time a woman hired the Razorback football coach, considering the recent male record producing Danny Ford's blundering, Jack Crowe's Citadel, Houston Nutt's drama, Bobby Petrino's motorcycle, Bielema's last-place niceness and whatever John L. Smith was.

But may I also dare to suggest--in the interest of greater understanding--that there really might be more to it than simple gender bias?

For some, it could be less that Peoples is a woman than that she is interim. It could be that a male interim athletic director put in a seat-holding role only last week would be similarly resented if speaking similarly.

It could be that lifelong confirmed male Razorback fans understand that the once-proud football program is at risk of long-term noncompetitiveness.

It could be that they want this seminal hire to be made with a strong sense of rich Razorback history.

It could be that a fourth-year assistant athletic director formerly of Wright State, the NCAA main office, and Indiana University, whether male or female, can't be expected to possess that sense.

It could be that these lifelong confirmed male Razorback fans were distressed that "uncommon" was a mantra where "woo pig sooie" once sufficed, and that anthracite uniforms were being worn where only red-and-white ones used to be.

Bear with me in all that, if you can. We 60-something men are struggling. We can remember a national championship, the Big Shootout and the Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma.

Even those of us trying to keep up and adapt--to embrace that things change for the better--can't help but reveal occasionally the steep challenges of our evolution.

Of course, it could be that the powers-that-be already have a new coach in mind or lined up and that Peoples is merely going through the motions until convenience permits the announcement.

Or it may be that, oops, I've done it again, suggesting that the woman merely might be fronting for the men really in charge.

I'll stop typing now.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 11/28/2017


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