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Salt Lake City brings back memories of Sutton

By: Wally Hall Wally Hall's Twitter account
Published: Thursday, October 13, 2022
Arkansas Democrat columnist Wally Hall speaks with basketball coach Eddie Sutton in this undated photo.
Arkansas Democrat columnist Wally Hall speaks with basketball coach Eddie Sutton in this undated photo.

My first trip to Salt Lake City — where you fly into to cover a game in Provo, Utah — was in 1985, and it turned out to be where Eddie Sutton coached his last games in the NCAA Tournament for the University of Arkansas.

We stayed at the Hotel Utah, which is now a historic landmark. Before the first game, Sutton celebrated his 49th birthday in the restaurant on top of the hotel with his family, the entire team, a couple of friends and yours truly.

He ordered for everyone, starting with escargot. He required every player to try at least one, and chateaubriand, which needed no urging to devour.

It was a tumultuous season, as Sutton and the late great Director of Athletics Frank Broyles were feuding.

Before the first game, Tom Gulley and Ted Harrod, friends of Sutton and Broyles and big supporters, got the two together in a room, and after two hours it appeared things were worked out.

Arkansas beat Iowa 63-54 in the first round and lost to St. John’s 68-65 in the second. Kentucky was also in the regional, and apparently on hand were some of the search committee who was looking for Joe B. Hall’s replacement. He had announced his retirement before the season.

The search committee members, wearing matching blue sport coats, attended both Arkansas games, but during the loss to St. John’s, Sutton got so upset at the officiating — which was pretty horrible — he left the bench and sat in the stands for a minute. He had done that once before during the season.

Kentucky lost to St. John’s, which made the Final Four in Lexington, Ky., giving the Big East three teams in the finals.

The Final Four is when the basketball coaches have their annual convention, so Sutton was there for the April 1 shocker when Villanova upset Georgetown.

He walked by minutes before tip-off of the championship and asked what time my flight was the next day.

I arrived home just in time to hear Sutton on the radio accepting the job at Kentucky, something he regretted the rest of his life, as the job came with unrealistic expectations and life in a fishbowl.

. . .

After Alabama struggled at home in a 24-20 win over Texas A&M, The Associated Press pollsters dropped the Crimson Tide from No. 1 to No. 3 with just 11 first-place votes.

Georgia moved up from No. 2 to No. 1 with 32 first-place votes and Ohio State edged up from No. 3 to No. 2 with 20 first-place votes.

Alabama remained No. 1 in the coaches poll and the FWAA/NFF Super 16.

However, Las Vegas must not have been too impressed with the Tide who now have 5 to 4 odds to win the SEC behind Georgia which is 5 to 6.

Tennessee is third and Ole Miss fourth, but after those four, the majority of the rest are at least 100-1 and Arkansas is 200-1 to win the league title. Vanderbilt, Missouri and Auburn are last at 1,000-1.

. . .

In Wednesday’s column about undefeated teams, the showdown between No. 3 Alabama and No. 6 Tennessee this Saturday in Knoxville was left out.

Call it a brain freeze while watching the Seattle Mariners jump out to a 4-0 lead on the favored Houston Astros, who won it in the bottom of the ninth on three-run homer by Yordan Alvarez.

The Tide and the Vols used to be a fierce rivalry that was generally played on the third Saturday in October.

The series is intense, and Alabama had a small lead at 43-38-7 until Nick Saban arrived at Bama and won 15 consecutive games.

Josh Heupel is the Vols’ sixth head coach since Saban was hired at Alabama.

Rocky Top will ring through the mountains, but is there really a home field advantage against Saban?


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