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.
Cupcake losses result in plenty of bellyaching
FAYETTEVILLE — Off the Big 12’s sadly Sunbelted Saturday comes ghostly advice from Arkansas’ head football coaching career graveyard.
Cease complaining about the SEC’s coronavirus scheduling revision that added No. 4 Georgia and No. 5 Florida to the rebuilding Razorbacks’ already nigh impossible SEC schedule.
SEC losses tend to numb. Arkansas knows numbing, 1-23 for its last 24 SEC games.
But losses frosted by alleged nonconference cupcakes, they don’t numb. They enrage. They can haunt coaches to forced exile.
Just ask Jack Crowe, John L. Smith, and Chad Morris, terminated Arkansas coaches who slipped on nonconference banana peels.
They can commiserate with Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Kansas State’s Chris Klieman and Kansas’ Les Miles.
Those are the Big 12 coaches whose 2020 season ignominiously commenced in defeat. Last Saturday, Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas, respectively, lost to Sun Belt Conference members Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State and Coastal Carolina.
The three Big 12 teams staked financial guarantees to those three Sun Belt teams likely fancying them props for a presumed home team victory allowing the hosts tuning up for an otherwise all Big 12 season.
Now those tuneups can’t be tuned out.
Obviously the Sun Belt again emerges as nobody’s cupcake.
But that’s not how embarrassed fans of Power 5 conference teams like from the Big 12 will see it. They never do.
Arkansas fans certainly haven’t when the Razorbacks fall to teams not deemed from powerhouse leagues whether the Sun Belt, Mid-American, Mountain West or Conference USA. Or worse, a division below like the former Division 1-AA — now called the Football Championship Subdivision, below the Football Bowl Subdivision — to which the Power 5 and Group of Five conference teams and major independents belong.
The Division 1-AA Citadel team of 1992 that made “Hit the Road Jack” the Arkansas season-opening/closing theme for Jack Crowe deserved retrospective respect finishing 11-2.
Too late to help Crowe. Never mind in 1991 Crowe improved the Hogs from his 3-8 debut in 1990 to 6-6 with a victory over Texas among a 5-3 Southwest Conference finale season.
On came The Citadel and out went Jack as the Crowe flies.
Smith’s 2012 head coaching interim was doomed from Game 2. The nationally No. 8 Razorbacks Smith inherited from Bobby Petrino skidded to unranked oblivion upended by four-touchdown underdog Louisiana-Monroe. Those Hogs finished 4-8.
The Morris two-year regime went 0-16 in the SEC. Yet it’s the cumulative nonconference embarrassments vs. North Texas, San Jose State and Western Kentucky that fired Morris with two SEC games left last year.
So shed no tears for Sam Pittman, the popular former Arkansas offensive line coach first time head coaching.
An underdog every game during the SEC 10-game schedule — including seven ranked in the AP Top 25 — may appear impossible.
Therefore just closely contesting likely will be appreciated. And any victory immortally remembered.
Best of all, Pittman debuts guaranteed no allegedly ignominious nonconference loss that rueful Razorbacks rooters never forget.
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