Hog Calls

Winning conference championships still matters

Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam celebrates with the Razorbacks after winning the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championship in Baton Rouge, La., on May 13, 2023.

FAYETTEVILLE — Seems the national obsession with national championships belittles conference crowns.

That struck home this past Arkansas weekend.

In Baton Rouge, La., the Razorbacks men of Coach Chris Bucknam and Razorbacks women of Coach Lance Harter won their SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

In baseball at Baum-Walker Stadium, Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks took 2 out of 3 from South Carolina.

Going into this Thursday-through-Saturday SEC baseball wrap, Arkansas, which is 38-13 overall, closes at Vanderbilt while standing 19-8 alone atop the SEC. The Razorbacks perch a game and a half ahead of 17-9 SEC West runner-up LSU, and overall one game up on SEC East leader Florida, which is 18-9, and two up on East runner-up 17-10 Vanderbilt.

Harter, retiring at this Outdoor season’s end, and Bucknam had just moments to digest winning the SEC Outdoor off their 2023 SEC and NCAA Indoor crowns when they were asked about next month’s NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas.

It’s not winning the SEC, but can Van Horn’s Razorbacks advance to the College World Series most weighing on Arkansas baseball minds?

More from WholeHogSports: The latest Arkansas baseball coverage

Comparing apples and oranges should comprise comparing winning national vs. conference championships. These days it seems comparing filet mignon to leftover Spam.

Heavy stamps the emphasis on basketball’s Final Four, football’s playoffs, baseball’s College World Series and track’s NCAA Championships.

Winning the national championship is an ultimate.

But it seems winning the weekly grind of SEC baseball’s bastion or winning a total track team depth meet like the SEC track vs. purely elites outpointing elites at the NCAA meet also marks major accomplishments.

LSU rightfully celebrates winning women’s basketball national championship.

Does that discount SEC/SEC Tournament champion South Carolina going 36-1, including lashing LSU by 24?

If Van Horn’s injury-plagued Hogs win the SEC yet not advance to Omaha, does that trash their season?

Three coaches winning the most Arkansas national championships rebut, “No!”

The late John McDonnell took as much pride winning 84 Southwest Conference and SEC Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor Track Championships as his unprecedented official 40 NCAA Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor Championships.

Bucknam, head coaching 29 SEC championships and two national championships with his 2023 Hogs ranked No. 1 Outdoors, vouches for that.

“What we do at Arkansas started with Coach McDonnell back in the day,” he told the SEC Network post swamping runner-up LSU 149-89. “He told me when I took over that ‘Hey, these [conference] championships mean a lot.’ They were his favorite thing to win. It involves everyone on our team.”

A Hall of Famer as of course is McDonnell, Harter, with 45 three-sport SEC Championships aiming next month for his eighth national championship, said this SEC Outdoor became especially special. Florida last year Outdoors snapped his Hogs’ 10-win SEC Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor string.

“It stuck in our craw,” Harter said.

Sticking it 134-112 over Florida in Baton Rouge gleamed Harter’s eyes like winning Nationals.

Their apples and oranges don’t contrast like filet mignon and leftover Spam.