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:
Wise investment would be to secure Musselman
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman reacts to fans following a first round game against Colgate at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Friday, March 19, 2021, in Indianapolis. Arkansas defeated Colgate 85-68. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Eric Musselman is in a bubble in Indianapolis, but his name is being spoken of favorably all over the country.
He has led a team to the Sweet 16 for a second time, but the great masses who are just now seeing his Arkansas Razorbacks play are impressed, especially with their defense.
There is great pride again in Arkansas, where the once feared program is back where it belongs — on the national radar.
There is also a concern.
Some are worried Musselman might take another job.
Like the one 54 miles south of where he is right now — Indiana University. Like Arkansas, the Hoosiers fell on hard times after a strong leader and basketball coach was terminated.
There have been four good coaches who have tried to fill Bob Knight’s shoes since he left in 2000.
None could do so.
Mike Davis did get them to a Final Four, but once wasn’t enough.
Kelvin Sampson got them an NCAA investigation.
Tom Crean fit the mold, but he did not produce the expected postseason success.
Archie Miller was fired after four mediocre years. One fan was so fed up with Miller he ponied up the $10 million buyout.
Now the Hoosiers are searching for another coach, and all the college basketball experts have short lists of who could be the next guy to move to what has become one of the toughest jobs in America.
Musselman’s name is on everyone’s list. No one knows whether he is on Indiana’s list.
If not, he should be. Still, there’s no guarantee he would be interested in them.
Granted, Musselman makes $2.5 million a year, which is a paltry sum in the SEC that ranks 13th. It might be worse but Vanderbilt is a private school and doesn’t release salaries.
Musselman also has earned a $250,000 bonus for making the Sweet 16, and a couple of more wins raise that to $350,000. Win it all and it’s $500,000.
Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said last month that he would visit with Musselman after the season.
No doubt an extension and raise are the two subjects on the agenda, unless Yurachek feels a need for a job evaluation, which would be mind-blowingly fantastic.
Now that the Razorbacks have made the Sweet 16, the numbers his agent will be talking about are greater than they were a month ago.
When Yurachek was courting Musselman and his family — and it is a family affair — he was looking for someone who could appreciate all the University of Arkansas job offers.
Musselman’s wife Danyelle seems happy. She’s even doing a TV spot encouraging Arkansans to get their covid-19 shots.
Yurachek also was looking for some security, and Musselman’s contract calls for him or a school to pay Arkansas $5 million if he leaves.
Most Razorback fans are well aware of what the pandemic has done financially. It has done the same at every school in America.
It might seem like a bad time to try to find some serious money for a raise, but word is CBS is working on paying the SEC what it owes.
The debt was deferred several months ago, but it is about to be due again and each SEC school stands to receive north of $20 million.
This is the first financial break Yurachek has received since he became AD of the debt-heavy Razorbacks program.
Another plus for Yurachek is if the pandemic is gone, he can put all the seats in Bud Walton up for sale.
Musselman will fill them.
There are no longer Eddie Sutton allies or Nolan Richardson allies.
The Razorback fans are united and excited about the future of their basketball team.
Yurachek will do everything possible to keep Eric Musselman.
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