There is a lot written on this board about expectations of Razorback football. What they are, what they should be, etc. While researching an answer today to a post about playing Okie Lite in football, I came upon some information that tells me what Arkansas has been. Not what we think we were, or wish we were, but what we have been and are. And not just in the last five years, or even the last 60 (although the last 60 aren’t as good as you might think).
Arkansas’ all-time record is 713-494-40, a .588 winning percentage (I’m assuming ties are being counted as half a win, half a loss). That’s 34th best among the 130 FBS schools. Do the math. A .588 winning percentage is basically a 7-5 season on the current 12-game schedule.
But that goes all the way back to 1894, you say. It’s been a lot better recently. Well… not really. If you count the modern era of Hog football as starting when Frank and Barbara Broyles drove south from Misery to take over the program in 1958, our record since then is 436-246-10. That’s a .637 winning percentage. Or, in 12-game schedule terms, 7.6-4.4.
JFB himself won at a .707 clip, or 8.5 wins per 12. Holtz won almost 9 games per 12 over his 7 years. Hatfield won slightly more than 9 out of 12 in six years. Crowe, Kines and Ford were all below .500. Nutt won 7.3 out of 12 on average. Petrino’s per-12 average was exactly 8. JLS, we know. Bielema finished 29-37, or 5.27 wins per 12.
Ten-win seasons seem to be a benchmark some fans think should be demanded. Well… JFB had four. Holtz had two. Hatfield had three. Nutt had one. Petrino had two. That’s it; 12 10-win seasons. Not just in the last 60 years, but the last 124 years. And the first 98 of those years were not in the cauldron that is the SEC. Here, we’ve had 3 10-win years out of 26. Which is slightly better, actually, than the historical average of less than 1 in every 10 seasons.
We can climb above that 7-5 plateau, and occasionally we do. But we haven’t stayed there. With JFB’s average, he still had six years of worse than .583 (7-5 exactly). Holtz had a 7-5 and 6-5 that got him fired. Hatfield stayed above that plateau for his entire term, but who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t bailed out for Clemson; part of the reason he left was fan perception that recruiting had slipped. Ford got above 7-5 once. Nutt was at 7-5 or below four times; Petrino once. BB was 7-6 (bowl win), 8-5 (bowl win) and 7-6 (bowl loss). So that seems to be the level we keep coming back to – 7-5 or 8-4.
Is that what we can expect? History says yes. I hope to win every time we take the field, always will. But 124 years of history tells me we’re gonna lose about five out of every 12, no matter the competition level (BTW, our all-time percentage pre-Broyles was .526, or 6.3 wins out of 12, so not that much worse).
That’s what we can realistically expect. Maybe another Broyles comes along and bumps that up to 8+ or even 9. I hope Chad Morris does that. But I don’t know that we can expect it.