Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Media attendance at UA practices can stop misinformation
Arkansas coach Chad Morris directs his players Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, during practice at the university practice field in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- At least from the beginning of Arkansas' Frank Broyles-coaching era in 1958 through all his coaching successors he hired from 1977 through 2007, media watched nearly all Razorbacks football practices.
Then late in his tenure, Houston Nutt turned practices into a scene from Airplane II.
If you haven't seen the 1982 comedy movie still surfacing on TV, the scene referred showed security aggressively frisking little old ladies against a wall while terrorists bearing bazookas marched unimpeded past the X-ray.
Kind of like if concealed weapons been allowed at Razorbacks games while adhering to the SEC's umbrella ban.
The Nutt-created scene similar to Airplane II stemmed from media after watching the initial practice periods ushered out while prominent boosters remained. The boosters often spread information, or too often misinformation, on message boards and such.
It reminds again, this time from others' accurate information after media received inaccurate information.
Several Razorbacks players and receivers coach Justin Stepp posted on social media Saturday night their concern for senior receiver Deon Stewart. Their posts led to revelations Stewart suffered an apparently season-ending knee injury during Saturday morning's closed to media scrimmage.
Post-scrimmage Saturday, Morris was asked by media about injuries.
He replied, "Health standpoint, I think we're all right. We had a couple of guys get a little banged up. Nothing major."
Morris had no cause to hide a season-ending injury two weeks before the Aug. 31 season opener. So give him benefit of the doubt about obfuscating intentionally. It was a long scrimmage. He likely forgot all who were hurt and the injuries' severities couldn't by then be fully ascertained.
But had media attended, somebody would have asked a memory-jarring question. So Morris wouldn't have quotes sprouting Pinocchio's nose.
To Nutt's credit, he remains the last Arkansas head football coach availing himself to media after every practice and then allowing media to interview players and assistants.
Jeff Long, the 2008-17 athletic director, and a string of four handsomely paid head football coaches through current AD Hunter Yurachek and Morris continue doing less for more regarding daily accountability to media on their public university team.
It led to some UA embarrassments.
Bobby Petrino, incisive when media did get to interview him and actually holding more open practices than have his successors, left offensive coordinator Garrick McGee instructed to duck media questions even as thousands saw running back Knile Davis carted off during an open scrimmage.
Bret Bielema didn't bother revealing a closed practice season-ending injury to tight end Austin Tate. Bielema then took umbrage because Tim Horton, the by-then-former Arkansas coach who recruited Tate, posted a social media get well encouragement inadvertently announcing Tate's injury.
Whether from Petrino's infamous UA end by lies to the heat exerted on former UA Chancellor John White urging UA employees not to answer media's questions but like the question you prefer asked, the UA should learn a lesson it apparently still hasn't.
Shielding itself from media only drives stakes through its credibility's heart.
Sports on 08/19/2019
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