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Andy Hodges

No rush to decide fate of sports as we don’t know what we don’t know

With “corona fatigue” starting to sweep across the country, predictions about our fate seem to change multiple times daily and sports fans are almost at the point of desperation to find out something.

That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.

“We just gotta wait and see what happens,” WatchStadium.com college football analyst Brett McMurphy said Thursday afternoon with Derek Ruscin and Zach Arns (Ruscin & Zach) on ESPN Arkansas.

In other words, sports fans, none of us really have a clue what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen.

Granted, in Arkansas we haven’t had mandatory shut-down orders. There’s been some suggestions and guidance but by and large the good citizens have been allowed to decide what risk is comfortable for them.

McMurphy doesn’t know, either, but he’s been talking with everybody in the world of college football and there’s hope.

“It’s very realistic to have a full 12-game schedule this year,” he said about college football, but he didn’t mention any specific timetable for that schedule to start. “(Commissioners and athletic directors) stress anything and everything is on the table.”

SEC presidents and chancellors are scheduled to vote May 22 on whether to allow their schools to open athletic facilities to athletes for voluntary workouts in June, according to a story at ESPN.com from college football writer Sam Khan, Jr.

In March, the league voted to suspend things through May and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was confirming or denying anything Thursday.

Again, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Around the SEC the total number of positive tests for the combined states in the league is far below that of New York. Testing is a hot-button topic, although the leaders on the whole coronavirus mess testified before the U.S. Senate this week that it’s not really that accurate.

You could take the test that’s negative and be positive 10 minutes later when you go to the first door outside the doctor’s office. That comes from the top scientist in the country on the national task force.

What are the real numbers? We have no idea.

The numbers show a staggeringly low number of deaths among healthy young people. Even testing positive the odds are you won’t get sick, much less die.

There won’t be a vaccine by football season and that’s a little misleading. According to the top scientist in the country on the nation’s task force again, out of every 100 people that get the vaccine 40 are still going to get it. The numbers say 2 of those people will, unfortunately, pass away.

That’s if they duplicate the results of the most successful vaccine in history on viral infections (the flu). Treatments are improving daily, which is why the death rate percentage is dropping and likely why we’ll see college football start on time.

You can’t look at the daily numbers without looking at the overall context. We will likely never really know what the exact number actually is and there will likely be positive results for a while.

In the end, though, the guess is economic necessity will bring college sports back.

Which is what McMurphy sounds like he expects the powers that be to do.

“They want to try to start Sept. 5,” he said Thursday afternoon. “The one thing to count on is how critical the money is … they’ll figure out a way to play.”

Nobody has a clue what that’s going to look like, though.

And making a decision (or even predictions) now is a little silly.

“I don’t see the big rush out west to cancel stuff that far off,” McMurphy said. “We need to wait a little bit more. We’ve got until we have more information. It looks like the country progressing better. What will it look like in a month?”

Well, we don’t know because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next month.

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Andy Hodges

Nutt hasn’t lost touch in talking up Hogs; how Gazzola praised Pittman years ago

Houston Nutt doesn’t know Sam Pittman at all, but he got a ringing endorsement years ago and it’s something he remembers well about the new Arkansas coach.

It came from the late Pat Gazzola, the owner of The Catfish Hole, several years ago when Pittman was an assistant under Bret Bielema.

“He couldn’t say enough about coach Pittman,” Nutt said Wednesday afternoon to Derek Ruscin and Zach Arns (Ruscin & Zach) on ESPN Arkansas.

Nutt, now working with the CBS Sports Network as a college football analyst, has heard about Pittman and had nothing but praise.

“When I listen to him talk he just embraces it,” Nutt said about Pittman’s genuine love for the state and the team. “That comes through.”

It’s something that’s been missing over a string of coaches that have basically run the football program into the ground.

Nutt was 75-49 (60.5 percent) over a decade with two SEC Championship Game appearances. Since then, the Hogs have gone 71-79 (47.3 percent) that includes a two-year run of 21-5.

Don’t bring the excuse it would have continued if there hadn’t been a motorcycle in the ditch near Elkins because it wasn’t. Bobby Petrino never sustained success anywhere he has landed and the talent level (especially on defense) was running low in a hurry.

Nutt didn’t talk about any of that, but nobody since then has truly embraced the unique situation that is Razorback football (and it is whether you believe it or not).

“When you go corner to corner in this state, go into a restaurant and somewhere in there is a Razorback,” Nutt said. “I remember growing up in Little Rock and coming across channel 7 KATV and they start calling the Hogs.

“It gives you the chills when you’re 7 or 8 years old. That’s big when you have a state that gets behind your team.”

Things have changed over the last 50 years. Mostly the number of wins.

Arkansas has tried it several different ways over 12 seasons since Nutt departed Fayetteville but there hasn’t been much consistency.

Petrino was all offense and not much defense at a time when he won over 10 games two seasons in a row and still finished third in the SEC West. He never could win the games you had to win to get to Atlanta.

Don’t ask me what the other guys were trying to do because it appeared they didn’t really have a clue. None really understood Arkansas and tried to re-create successful programs elsewhere … which has never worked.

Even Frank Broyles discovered that. His first season he tried running the offense that was the hot item at the time (the Delaware Wing-T) but gave up at the halfway point of the season and went back to what he knew.

Broyles even dabbled with the Wishbone and won one game that counted (1974 over USC in Little Rock) before committing to the Veer and reaching the Cotton Bowl.

Nutt won with a dropback passer in Clint Stoerner, a scrambler in Matt Jones and a running attack with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. It was crazy to do anything but run D-Mac and Felix, in my opinion unless you wanted to try a pass to let them catch their breath.

Nutt knew how to win at Arkansas and Broyles was the only one with more wins.

And he offered some encouraging words for fans.

“It can turn in a minute,” he said.

Which is what fans are hoping happens.

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Andy Hodges

Musselman: ‘It’s nonsense’ for basketball to not have uniform rules for all levels

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman had a good point Wednesday afternoon.

“College basketball keeps doing the same thing,” he he told Phil Elson, Matt Jenkins and Matt Travis (Halftime) on ESPN Arkansas. “So now, all of a sudden, the NBA and the G-League have become in some people’s eyes as competition for college basketball.”

With the announcement of the G-League Special League it allows players to make the leap straight to the professional level without getting lost in the shuffle of trying to play in the NBA.

“Obviously the money is astronomical with some of the salaries they’re getting,” Musselman said. “My thought process is we need to sell our game to all the great high school players. We have to be adaptable

“We need more rules like the NBA because that’s where these players want to get to.”

Talking like that may cause some folks to faint. Men’s college basketball has always been a little different with two halves while nearly everything else has four quarters like women’s basketball and high school.

Women’s college basketball even lets you take the ball at half court after a dead ball late in halves.

“When I go watch coach (Mike) Neighbors’ team play they have four quarters, the NBA has four quarters,” Musselman said. “Why does college basketball not have four quarters? I wish all of us could get as close as possible.”

Part of the problem is high school basketball nationwide that has a knack for making it up a little different from state to state.

“Even the high schools are reluctant to change,” he said. “The more uniform we can be the easier it is to attract fans and not confuse them. We should all have the same rules.”

There is a disconnect within the overall sport of basketball which requires almost a complete set of rules books every time you go to a different level.

“It’s crazy,” Musselman said. “The people that are making the rules are not talking to people that have played both rules. You can’t go talk to a college coach that’s been coaching at an institution for 25 years and ask him about advancing the ball.

“I can already tell you what they’re going to say. You need to go to talk the coaches who have coached under both umbrellas. Go ask coach Neighbors what he likes best. Go talk to coaches who have coached both college and the NBA.”

Getting the ball at midcourt late in games would completely change what a lot of coaches have done with strategy and they don’t like change.

“It gives the offense a better chance to score,” Musselman said. “The defense now has to guard closer to the rim and there’s more strategy than inbounding the ball with four seconds to go and then going the length of the floor.

“It really just turns into luck as opposed to being able to get your team in a huddle, diagram something with two or three different options. It’s nonsense we don’t have a uniform set of rules.”

Hopefully he won’t hold his breath waiting on that.

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Andy Hodges

Are regional matchups like Hogs-Memphis becoming more likely now?

There aren’t a lot of benefits for college athletics right now with far more questions than answers but the economic hit may force schools like Arkansas and others to start scheduling by geography.

My view is there would be more fan interest in playing schools like Memphis or even the community college in Jonesboro than bringing in the likes of Nevada or Charleston Wherever.

It’s not just my opinion, but CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander had the same thoughts Wednesday morning with Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft (The Morning Rush) on ESPN Arkansas.

“We will see (geographic rivalries) well established a year or two from now,” Norlander said. “The financial impact of all this will be realized in ’21, ’22 and ’23. When it comes to who you can play, geography might end up having a real impact on that.”

The guess here is the current coronavirus crisis is going to change a lot of college athletics and that might not be all that bad.

With Penny Hardaway and Eric Musselman having a cordial relationship, it really doesn’t make sense to NOT play in that sport. Exactly why the Razorbacks don’t play Memphis every year in basketball and football has been a head-scratcher.

It won’t be surprising to see that happen.

“Given what Penny has said since he’s taken the gig he just doesn’t seem like a coach who’s scared of that kind of stuff and not worried about any previous politics with that,” Norlander said.

The coaches can get the ball rolling, but it’s going to take Hunter Yurachek to just lay out the numbers and increased fan interest for the games to actually happen.

“This applies to college football as much as college basketball,” Norlander said. “It is such a good thing for the health and interest of the sport when you have natural geographic rivals that aren’t in the same conference that are willing to play each other — ideally — annually, but short of that at least frequently.

“For Memphis and Arkansas there’s almost no reason not to do it.”

He’s got a point there that some have wondered about for awhile. If nothing else, the Hogs have struggled mightily against lesser teams the last few years in football.

Musselman is upgrading the schedule in basketball by taking his team to neutral-site matchups, leaving a chance for home matchups that could boost some of that attendance that falls a bit in November and December.

Even going to Memphis for a game every other year would probably create a hot ticket for a road game in an NBA facility in a downtown where Razorback fans usually find a way to have a good time.

“Why wouldn’t you?” Norlander said. “At this point Memphis and Arkansas are essentially on even footing. Playing each other would benefit both programs, the fan bases would be into it.

“Both coaches certainly seem to see the game in a lot of ways that would help it. It would be terrific.”

Quite possibly it could get both programs some solid early-season exposure on a broader scale.

“Is a Memphis-Arkansas game going to bring in wide national appeal?” Norlander said. “Not necessarily, but it’s not going to be a thing where only people in the region care.

“If you tell me Arkansas Memphis, we look up in two years from now and they’re playing a game, both of these teams have made the NCAA Tournament, both of these teams are bringing in five-star recruits and have really strong classes, yes that becomes a game on a given day.

“Say they play on the first Saturday in December and both teams are in the tournament, that becomes a game — almost certainly — that’s a top three game that day. It would be one of the top games that day.”

It’s something Norlander feels the sport needs.

“We need more coaches, athletic directors and their schools to be willing to do that.” he said. “It inherently helps the sport. Sometimes ego gets in the way. Missouri and Kansas are doing it in football and basketball. I would love to see it.”

That may be a big boost after this shutdown business as they start to sort things out. The guess here is expenses are going to be scrutinized more closely … at least for a few years.

Which may force some of these schools to do what they should have been doing for awhile.

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Nate Olson

Pittman has right attitude to lead Hogs through uncertain season

When Sam Pittman took over the Arkansas football coaching job last winter, he knew he was in for a challenge.

After all, two years of the Chad Morris Era had sunk Razorbacks football to an all-time low.

But Pittman’s road to a rebuild has gotten even tougher thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has put college football on hold and left Pittman without a crucial spring practice evaluation period.

Pitttman needs to evaluate the talent he has on campus and his staff needs to fill in offensive and defensive schemes. Pittman probably realistically needs a 10-week spring practice to get all the work in he needs.

Now he has none.

New offensive coordinator Kendal Briles admitted on a teleconference last month, he hasn’t seen Florida graduate transfer Feleipe Franks throw a pass yet.

Not only did the Hogs not have spring practice, but they have missed valuable time in the weight room. Part of Pittman’s charge was to make this team more physical and athletic.

That happens during two key times — January to March and May to August.

With the campus closed, Hogs players are working out on their own scattered across the country.

Earlier this spring, star sophomore wide receiver Trey Knox caught passes from Arkansas State sophomore quarterback Layne Hatcher at Hatcher’s indoor facility in Little Rock. Knox was with Hogs teammate J.D. White, a former high school teammate of Hatcher’s at Pulaski Academy.

The point is, the staff is limited in the instruction they can do with Zoom calls, emails and text messages.

They also have to rely on players to work out on their own and wonder if they have a proper weight room to work out in or a place to run and work on fundamentals.

Some don’t, so strength coaches have to get creative. I’ve seen different college athletes doing home workouts such as lifting water jugs and the old-school sit-up and push-up calisthenics.

Most of us know all too well how easy it is to get sedentary during quarantine.

That’s the battle for the staff, to keep the players conditioning and off the couch and away from the snacks. Some college football players will report in terrible shape when practice does finally begin and it will take weeks to get them ready to play.

Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek said one of the plans is to have football players on campus by mid-July with the first game with Nevada as scheduled on Sept. 5.

There are still several hurdles to clear to make that a reality including keeping the state’s case trend down and determining the landscape of college football. Ultimately, the NCAA will dictate when the season can start and if there are enough teams in each conference with campuses open for all students, which will be a requirement from the NCAA.

But, if all of that does work, Pittman and his staff are experienced enough to have the Hogs ready for a game in September. It will be a crash course physically and mentally, no doubt, but they will work around the clock to instruct and prepare.

I like Pittman’s “can-do” attitude, and it’s really fitting for this situation. The pandemic is a big setback established programs such as Alabama or defending national champion LSU.

It could be catastrophic for a struggling program such as Arkansas. Pittman knows there is nothing he can do except for stay positive and continue to communicate with his team and recruit hard — which have done successfully since arriving in Fayetteville.

Even if this season doesn’t go well, Pittman won’t use the pandemic as an excuse.

But in his mind, and more importantly the players’ minds, this is going to be a year of progress and improvement and a building block to bigger and better things.

That may be half the battle of conquering one of the more bizarre seasons Arkansas has seen in program history.

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Andy Hodges

Knox says new offense under Briles is all about ‘tempo, tempo, tempo’

Arkansas’ new offense under Kendal Briles may actually be able to do what the previous one promised, according to wide receiver Trey Knox said Friday afternoon.

“It’s really, really fast,” Knox told Phil Elson and Matt Jenkins (Halftime) on ESPN Arkansas. “Faster than I ever thought it would be. The way we go down the field and the options, the routes that we get we can stop, or curl or do whatever are the big differences.”

Chad Morris promised when he was hired in December 2017 the Razorbacks’ offense would be in the left lane with the hammer down, then proceeded to stall and run it all in the ditch over two seasons.

“We’re definitely going to be moving fast … very fast,” Knox said. “That’s the key to (Briles’) offense. Tempo, tempo, tempo.”

It should actually look different just lining up.

“We’re going to be taking a lot more shots so we’re going to stretch the field, our splits are going to be wider,” Knox said. “We’re going to move people out, stretch them out and try to attack them down the field.”

For two seasons we’ve seen the Hogs not being able to consistently do much of anything right. Now the virtual learning the players are having to do may actually be beneficial.

“Our staff is doing a great job with that,” Knox said about the virtual learning. “We meet almost every day. We’re learning enough ball plays to win games. I trust and believe our staff will have us ready.”

Knox is looking at a lot of film, doing cut-ups of what the new offense does and getting an idea of it. That’s about all the players can get done now.

“That repetition standpoint is not in effect right now,” Knox said. “We didn’t get any spring ball in. We haven’t run any plays. Just knowing it on paper will get you ahead when we come back anyway so hopefully you know what you’re doing when we come back.”

He hasn’t adjusted to the camera thing well, though. One of the more personable guys on the team, Knox is learning how to deal with being in front of a camera.

“I don’t know what it is but it’s tougher talking to a camera than talking to people,” he said Friday afternoon.

Knox had a few months to get to work with new quarterback Feleipe Franks, the graduate transfer who was actually drafted by some baseball teams before college, mainly due to a 94-95 mile-an-hour fastball.

“That boy can sling the rock,” Knox said. “You can see why he was drafted.”

The players also know he’s got something the others in the revolving door at quarterback the last couple of years haven’t had — a winning track record in the SEC.

“We know Feleipe has the experience and he’s won in the SEC, which is the hardest conference in the country,” Knox said. “I trust coach Briles will have him ready, his ankle will be allright and he’ll be able to make plays for us.”

With a talented group of receivers, Knox was a little hesitant to say it’s the best group on the offense, which is probably the most political thing.

“That’s a tough question,” when asked by Elson. “We’re all pretty talented. It’s just a depth point of view, how many bodies you have in each room and I pretty much think we’re all even. The quarterback room, the receivers room, the running backs room. We’re pretty stacked on offense.”

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Andy Hodges

You have to wonder how comfortable Self is with Long behind him

The NCAA basically put Kansas basketball squarely in the crosshairs and loaded the gun directly at coach Bill Self.

But he’s got athletics director Jeff Long behind him. You almost feel sorry for Self.

Exactly how much comfort that is remains to be seen. It is kinda surprising that Long hasn’t run like a scalded dog from this considering it all went down before he got the job in Lawrence

Late Thursday afternoon the news broke about the official allegations against the Jayhawks by the kangaroo court that is desperately trying to keep the programs it can still control under it’s thumb.

In case you weren’t aware, the NCAA lost most control of football in 1998 with the BCS and it sailed completely out the window with the College Football Playoff. That’s why coming out of this health pandemic you hear what’s going to happen from the conferences first, then basically a memo of concurrence from the NCAA.

Kansas’ basketball program committed “egregious” and “severe” rules violations that “significantly undermine and threaten the NCAA Collegiate Model,” according to a story at ESPN.com by Mark Schlabach.

The NCAA alleged Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend “embraced, welcomed and encouraged” Adidas employees and consultants to influence high-profile recruits to sign with Kansas.

Uh-oh. Never fear, Bill, you’ve got Long behind you. In case you haven’t figured it out yet that’s probably not where you want him. The guess here is he’s distancing himself as much as possible from the whole mess and he probably would have already moved Self out of town if it was up to him.

Basketball in Kansas is so big you can pretty much bet Long has about as much control over Self as the NCAA does over college football these days.

Long sailed through a decade at Arkansas as athletics director with no problems I’m aware of with the NCAA. Of course he didn’t have any coaches in basketball or football with much interest in doing a whole lot of recruiting.

Bobby Petrino had other issues, but breaking NCAA rules has never been charged, basketball didn’t have anybody capable and Mike Anderson wouldn’t even do certain things that are NOT against the rules.

The Jayhawks are charged with five Level I rules violations (the most serious) including lack of institutional control. Self is charged with head-coach responsibility violations.

Just to look like they had a sense of fairness they threw a couple of smaller violations at the football program. Even the NCAA came close to waving those off in the notice.

“The institution, in taking its defiant posture in the case, is indifferent to how its alleged violations may have adversely impacted other NCAA institutions who acted in compliance with NCAA legislation,” the NCAA wrote.

Of course, Kansas is denying everything.

“The enforcement staff’s assertion that KU refuses to accept responsibility is wrong,” Kansas responded in a release. “The university absolutely would accept responsibility if it believed that violations had occurred, as we have demonstrated with other self-reported infractions. Chancellor (Doug) Girod, Jeff Long and KU stand firmly behind coach Self, his staff and our men’s basketball program.”

To be a little fair, Long had nothing to do with the allegations, but this sets up perfectly for one of his typical self-serving moves.

That usually ends up with somebody getting fired or looking bad while Long finds a microphone, works up a tear or two and laments the decision he had to make.

In this case, though, the guess is Long will figure out a way to put as much distance between himself and the whole thing as humanly possible.

Which could leave Self dangling in the wind.

And some folks in Arkansas incredibly glad Long is there to have his back.

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Andy Hodges

Sherrill remembers playing Hogs at ‘loud’ War Memorial Stadium

Jackie Sherrill coached just about everywhere across five decades and he really liked playing in Arkansas … except when playing in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium back in the day.

“For a small stadium it was the loudest stadium of any place we played,” Sherrill said to Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft (The Morning Rush) Tuesday morning on ESPN Arkansas. “For the people that never experienced games in Little Rock it was a hard place to play for the opponent.”

Sherrill’s long career started at Alabama where he played and was a graduate assistant for a year under Paul “Bear” Bryant, then came to Arkansas for a year as a GA for Frank Broyles, but he got to know Johnny Majors, who was on the staff then.

He followed Majors to first Iowa State (where he was on the staff with former Arkansas player and another pretty good coach in Jimmy Johnson). Pittsburgh was next as defensive coordinator before going to Washington State for a year and when Majors moved to Tennessee, Sherrill got his first head coaching position.

In 1981 he came to Texas A&M as the first college coach to make over $100,000 a year and he found out pretty quick the old Southwest Conference was as good as anything in football.

“The SEC today is probably as close,” Sherrill said. “The rivalry in the old Southwest Conference was because you only had one school out of state in Arkansas and the rest were in Texas.”

After Arkansas bolted to the SEC it started a chain reaction of teams moving around in conferences and the old SWC ended up in the Big 12 and Texas greed blew that up mainly because Tom Osborne at Nebraska got tired of it when the Longhorns got their own television network.

Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds was the one trying to impose Texas will on an entire league.

“The biggest thing is DeLoss got really greedy,” Sherrill said. “When they would go to conference meeting he wanted most of the conference TV money. That was the start.”

They came close to going to the Pac 10 along with Oklahoma and some others but the Longhorns weren’t giving up the Longhorn Network that pays them reportedly around $15 million a year.

“The Pac 10 was going to take all the teams to the Mississippi River,” Sherrill said.

Texas could have given up a little bit of their television deal and the landscape of college football would be completely different.

“The economics drives college football,” Sherrill said. “Everything. The money comes from the television plackage (the SEC Network). No one knows today what that package really is because they don’t want the other conferences to know how much they pay the SEC.

“It comes back to one thing — fan base. That’s where they sell the advertising because that’s where they make their money. You look at the fan basein the SEC all are at over a million in each school in fan base and the only other conference that can challenge that is Big 10.”

Coaching under Bryant, Broyles, Majors

Sherrill worked for Bryant, Broyles and Majors over a three-year period from 1966-68.

“Broyles was probably a CEO,” Sherrill said. “He was very intelligent and approached it differently. Coach Majors was a different PR guy and approached it very differently.

“They all approached it differently, but all three were very successful.”

Praise for Razorback fans

“Arkansas fans one of the ones that is true and loyal,” Sherrill said. “If you’re a head coach you want the fan base in the stands.”

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Andy Hodges

Orange Bowl plan great, but Calcagni still remembers no-call against Texas

In 1977, Lou Holtz was confident Arkansas was going to win big against Oklahoma, but he had to convince everybody else including his quarterback, Ron Calcagni.

Holtz even left legendary athletics director Frank Broyles speechless before the game.

“Holtz came into coach Broyles’ office a few weeks before and said, ‘Coach Broyles, if we beat Oklahoma by 30 do you think we have a chance to win the national championship?'” Calcagni said Monday morning to Tye Richardson, Tommy Craft and Clay Henry (The Morning Rush) on ESPN Arkansas.

Considering there were three key offensive starters kicked off the team and All-American guard Leotis Harris injured, Broyles might have wondered if this guy that rolled to a 10-1 regular season replacing him and slipped a little in the process.

Calcagni was the most experienced member of the backfield that was even making the trip to Miami and Holtz was going to put the ball in his hands early to settle things a little for the Razorbacks, who weren’t given a chance by many in the game.

“When we kicked off and they fumbled, we had a great plan that Holtz orchestrated,” Calcagni said. “We knew then we had an opportunity to do what coach Holtz thought we could do.”

Holtz, as he had a knack for doing, had figured something out looking at the Sooners’ vaunted defense.

“A little wrinkle in blocking scheme that messed with OU’s block scheme,” Calcagni said. “We had a whale of a coaching staff and a great plan. We orchestrated the plan. OU fell apart and the momentum carried us through.”

That win shot the No. 6 Hogs to third, but they didn’t have the strength at the polls to overtake Notre Dame (that beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl) or Alabama (who dominated Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl).

Arkansas had as good of a claim as the other two, but it was the midseason 13-9 loss to Texas that still nags at Calcagni.

“One play chaps my butt to this day,” Calcagni said. “We were inside the red zone, it was third down and I went option and it was clearly a face mask. The official looked at me and said no face mask. We could have been on the porch or went in for a score.

“An official was right on it and I couldn’t understand.”

Calcagni was jumping up and down like a shortstop that just won the World Series.

“I was so upset, Steve Hinds grabbed me, pulled me aside and pushed me back,” he said. “That still bothers me so badly.”

That team had one of the greatest coaching staffs in Razorback history. Pete Carroll was a graduate assistant on that team along with John Jenkins as an example of how deep the staff was.

“We were so blessed to have a great staff,” Calcagni said. “You always have to have a strong staff and you lean on that staff. Lou Holtz was a pretty tough guy to play for.”

Especially the guys running the offense because Holtz was a master at getting in their heads.

“He threw me off the field one time after I made a mistake,” Calcagni said. “I started walking to the north end zone back to the facility and he yells out, ‘Calcagni, where the hell are you going?’

“My senior year it was revolving quarterbacks (as Holtz rotated Kevin Scanlon heavily into the mix). He was real tough on you.”

Holtz even nitpicked with Calcagni about the Sports Illustrated cover in 1978 that they were on along with running back Ben Cowins.

“It hasn’t been too many Razorbacks on the cover of Sports Illustrated,” Calcagni said. “They made us No. 1 and I’ll never forget the day we took that photo. Coach Holtz wasn’t that excited. He pulled me into that office, ‘Calcagni, you ruined that picture … attention to detail … little things make people great.’

“A little string hanging from the V in the shirt. That string is erased when it’s photo-bombed these days.”

Calcagni’s record as a starter at Arkansas was 25-4-2, ranking him in the elite of wins for a Razorback quarterback.

But he still can’t shake that Texas game in 1977 when his helmet was nearly yanked off his head by a Longhorn and the official refused to throw a flag.

He’s not alone in that.

Categories
Andy Hodges

‘These guys are football coaches,’ Campbell says about new Hogs’ staff

Louis Campbell has coached at just about every level of football, been around some of the best in the history of the game and from what he’s been able to see, he likes the new football staff.

“The thing I’ve been impressed with this group is they’re not into cliches and they may not be the best speakers on Saturday or Sunday night, but I really think these guys are football coaches,” Campbell told Tye Richardson, Tommy Craft and Clay Henry (The Morning Rush) on ESPN Arkansas Friday morning.

Even though they haven’t gotten on the field with a ball for a real practice, the direction they’re heading in is positive.

“They know what it is to go out and work and get their hands dirty and coach a player hard,” Campbell said. “I’m not talking about being physical. I’m just talking about hold them accountable, making them do what’s right and that respect goes both ways. I think they’ll earn the respect of their team and when they do Arkansas will turn the corner and start getting better.”

He’s been in the spot Sam Pittman and his staff are in … more than once.

Campbell, who intercepted three Tennessee passes in the Liberty Bowl in 1971 against Tennessee, was on Jack Crowe’s staff, then with Joe Kines, Danny Ford and Houston Nutt. He was also on Nutt’s first staff at Ole Miss, then at Mississippi State under Sylvester Croom.

But he started his coaching career at Alabama under maybe the best ever, Paul “Bear” Bryant.

“If I had to send my son to play or coach under somebody it would be him,” Campbell said. “He was what coaching is all about. If you played or coached for him It was two things he had a team do — be physical and you win by being tougher than the other guy.

“Not smarter, not call better plays, just go out there and kick his butt on that particular play. That’s what he was.”

Off the field, though, Bryant was a lot different.

“He’d give you the shirt off his back,” Campbell said. “When we got to Alabama, we’d been recruiting and my wife picked us up. She was a teacher and coach Bryant looked in the back seat where she was and said, ‘honey, you working now?'”

Campbell’s wife said she hadn’t gotten anything yet. Bryant asked a couple of questions and then didn’t bring it up again.

She had a teaching job the next day.

“Unbelievable person,” Campbell said of Bryant.

It was Bryant that also gave Campbell an important lesson about making excuses when he’d moved on from Alabama and was on Ron Meyer’s first staff at SMU.

After picking Bryant up at the airport in Dallas, Campbell made the mistake of making excuses for the previous season and Bryant just listened.

“Mustang Mania hadn’t kicked in yet,” Campbell said. “We were awful.”

He detailed a list of excuses for the “awful” season. Bryant finally had one line about excuses.

“Poor workers find fault with their tools,” he told Campbell after a long pause.

“For the next hour not another word was said,” Campbell said Friday. “I learned that one the hard way.”