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:
Razorbacks a popular topic during reunion
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman speaks Monday, December 9, 2019 during an introductory press conference at the Walker Pavilion in Fayetteville.
It was a little like a reunion.
Sports reporters from all over the country came to New Orleans to cover Monday night’s national championship game. Having been off the national scene for a few years, it was time to catch up with some of them.
At Friday night’s Football Writers Association of America past presidents’ dinner, the table was shared with Bob Ryan and Chris Dufresne.
Ryan no longer works for the Boston Globe, nor Dufresne for the Los Angeles Times. Both are still in the business either on TV or on a website.
Dufresne was full of questions about what happened to the University of Arkansas football program.
Ron Higgins, a longtime Baton Rouge journalist, watched and listened with interest, but he’s followed it closely.
It was explained that a lot of bad decisions had been made going further back than most realize.
Of course, that led to questions about new Coach Sam Pittman, but surprisingly none were skeptical about him being a good choice.
They’ve all been around long enough to know it takes time to rebuild something that has fallen as far as Razorback football. That only someone who really has a passion for the school could do it, and that apparently Pittman truly wanted to be the Razorbacks football coach when many others didn’t.
By the time Monday morning came and the Bert McGrane Award was handed out, a lot of old friends were caught up with and many conversations took place, including a reception at the World War II Museum, which should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit.
Many wanted to know how Eric Musselman ended up at Arkansas and about his reception.
They seemed to think of Musselman as a West Coast kind of guy, but it was explained that he and his family had fit in like they had been born in Searcy.
Musselman has brought back excitement on the sidelines.
Eddie Sutton had it. Nolan Richardson had even more as he roamed the sidelines yelling, pointing and chewing on officials.
Then it was gone.
Stan Heath didn’t have it.
John Pelphrey didn’t have it.
Mike Anderson didn’t have it.
Musselman has tons of it, and the fans and players both feed off of it.
The loss at LSU was disappointing, but to get outrebounded 53-24 and lose 79-77 says a lot about the Hogs’ tenacity and desire.
Then to go on the road at Ole Miss and trail by as much as 11 in the second half and come away with a 76-72 victory shows determination and defense.
The Hogs didn’t play well but found a way to win.
In both of those games, the Hogs believed in their coach.
Musselman’s preparation for games is well documented. Each game is met with the same frame of mind as when he was coaching in the NBA. Teams can never be too prepared.
The fans are getting what they richly deserve — success.
Three games are sold out, and more will be before this season ends.
No more reporting tickets sold, but actual behinds in the seats.
There are already some basketball fans disappointed that the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame inductions fall on the same weekend as the SEC Tournament.
Despite a lack of size and depth, these Razorbacks are taking the floor knowing they can win instead of believing they have a chance.
Other reporters said they like Musselman, and that what he did at Nevada was pretty amazing in such a short time.
Then on Monday morning, George Schroeder was introducing this scribe as the winner of the Bert McGrane Award, given yearly to one person for his contributions to college football.
It was a huge honor.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.