A little historical perspective

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.

Sobering.

Reality is a smack in the face.

Tidbit add–

We have the same amount of 10 win seasons since 1964 as LSu.

I bet very few people would have guessed that.

So while 10 win is the benchmark, even the big boys like LSU don’t just pop them off like it’s nothing. Now obviously Bama does.

I expect us to be a 8 win a year program, moving toward 9. This means the occasional 10-11 win season as well as a down year at 6-7 wins. I don’t think that’s unrealistic.

The past 6 years are the worst 6 year stretch in over 60 years. The first time in a span of that length that we haven’t had atleast 1 9 win season.

I think Chad puts an end to that, and soon.

The SEC West might be the most expensive division in football. Well, it’s probably not close when you add together what Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn and Jimbo Fisher are making at just two schools. That’s the perspective that kind of slaps you around. Who really tried in football in the SWC? Certainly, Texas, Texas A&M and Arkansas did. Some of the others tried at different times and didn’t during some other times. The SWC changed from the 50s to the 90s. The rich were no longer rich, and schools like SMU that tried for a period of time decided to get out of trying for a bit. So did Rice and TCU. TCU made a comeback. There was a time (but not long) when Houston was pretty good. Then, Houston quit trying for a bit.

Look, history doesn’t matter a lot, especially in the realm of college football. College football programs change. Administrators change, Fayetteville changes, campus facilities change, conferences change, conference opponents change, LR high school football changes, other HS programs get better, and coaches change (and, yes, maybe Nick Saban will retire one day).

Many other variables, too.

Look at TCU. Everyone was kicking their a** in the 70s and into the 80s. But then they decided to commit to football. Look at TCU now.

I know you despise him and that you try to manage expectations and be a sobering voice on this board, but Bobby Petrino has recently shown Arkansas can win at a high level. Sorry, but that’s just a fact. He didn’t look at and dwell on program history. He looked at what was in front of him and won. When he was winning no one in Sheridan, Mena or Hardy cared about how he treated the Cotton Bowl folks, his office staff, or whether his defensive recruiting was up to par. The fact is he won and everyone loved it. We need to put more emphasis on winning. Period.

I’m 100% sure there are other coaches out there that can win at a high level at Arkansas, even more than Petrino. Nice guys, mean guys, whatever. I’ve said I believe Coach Morris is one of them (and one of the nice guys), and I truly hope that’s the case. This “we’re doomed to repeat history” and “we’re little ole Arkansaw” mindset is what will hold this program back. Let’s quit talking about it. Our history is irrelevant in this context.

I think that is why CM got the contract that he did.

BAMA is on the down side of it’s recent run of excellence thanks to Father Time. LSU, MSU, Ole Miss, and Ark have new coaches to see who can fill the void. Auburn may also have change in coaches if GM does not wow them on the Plains after his contract extension. It seems to me Ark has the most upside potential compared to those listed, esp given recent history. If the new staff can get the Jimmies and Joes , the turnaround can be swift.

Will Bama give DS a larger contract than JF got at TAM to leave Clemson? Hard to see anyone continuing the efforts by Saban.

Petrino won big two years. We have no idea if he could sustain that, thanks to the ditch and the blonde. He’s not winning 10 a year at Louisville in a weaker conference. Nutt won big with Ford’s leftovers and then with DMac and Felix. He got out of town when the getting was good, just like Hatfield. You can pine for Petrino, but 124 years of history says I’m right and you’re not.

I have little doubt that CCM will do well at Arkansas. And we know the vast majority of those years 12 games were not played. We’re not poor little Arkansas. We have great reason to expect better in the future. However, we also have to understand everybody else in the SEC West is trying to do what we hope to do (and some aren’t trying; they’re doing). Everything is cyclical. Eventually, Alabama will come back to the pack. Someone else will fill their void. Hopefully, it’s Arkansas, but at best it’s 6-1 odds against us, especially with the money A&M, Auburn and LSU have to throw at it. Petrino showed it can be done, at least for two seasons. When and if Arkansas excels to the 10-12 win seasons, maybe Alabama and LSU won’t stand in the way, and we won’t be a distant third.

Oh, I’m pretty confident I’m right. I’ve been a lot “righter” than you the past couple of years. I’ve said Bielema ought to be fired and that Chad Morris ought to be hired. Lo and behold, that’s what happened. You, on the other hand, act intellectually superior and belittle those who are fed up with the utter crap the Bielema era produced.

Hog football can do better, Swine. I know it can. And so do you. It takes the right guy. We know the right guy can win and the wrong guy will fail. Just like every other football program. It may take a “scientific rocket” as Danny Ford says, but it can be done. I’m just hoping CCM is our rocket. I think he is.

While history does show trends and reminds us of many things, it certainly does not have to be the standard for the future.

Americans should know and appreciate that more than anyone. You use your history to shape your future into something great. Or you can be complacent and not achiever greater things. You can also be ignorant and let the history begin to repeat itself.

Here’s to optimism!

What teams have risen from the middle of the pack to a to tier team in the last 10 to 20 years? Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, ??? I can think of lots more teams that were usually rank in the top 10 it seemed every year that aren’t now. USC, Texas, ND, UCLA, etc. History is old and recent. In old history, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, SMU all had there day. I am a believer and a sun shine pumper for sure. I think Coach Morris is the right man for the job. We need to give him time to right our ship and get us going in the right direction. I think I will stop here.

And when you add in the $$ players get at some of the west schools the cost goes up even more. :shock:

BTW - that was sarcasm. Kinda…

:wink:

College athletics is all about the coach. TCU did not decide to get serious about football, they got lucky and hired Patterson who decided to stay there., Alabama has only been dominate with the right coach, every school you look at it comes down to the coach. Basketball is the same way.

Swine, I agree with the historical perspective of Arkansas football. But I do have a couple of comments in response.

First - while we may have only had twelve 10 game seasons, you have to remember that Frank had four 9-2 seasons; three were produced during regular seasons that only had 10 games. The other was recorded in the first year of 11 game regular seasons (1970); but, due to unusual circumstances, that excellent team didn’t even go to a Bowl game. Also, the 1966 team went 8-2, was ranked in the top 15, yet chose to not play in a Bowl after the stunning death of Claude Smithey and loss at Texas Tech (which deprived them of a third straight Cotton Bowl appearance). All of those seasons project to 10 win seasons in a 12 game regular season (with a Bowl game making 13 games).

On the primary point of your post, I understand that historically, Arkansas is a team that fluctuates between the 15th and 50th best team in the country, most years (a notable exception was the decade of the 1960’s, when that was dramatically improved upon). But, here’s the thing - for me. If someone can come into Baylor . . . BAYLOR! . . . and in a few years take them to the kind of success they had under Art Briles; well, if that can be done there, it most certainly can happen at Arkansas (again). Ironically, CCM seems to be (in a FOOTBALL sense) very similar to what Art Briles was coming into Baylor - a GREAT Texas HS coach with an exciting offense that kids want to play in.

Where I agree with you is in acknowledging that even though many of us “olders” grew up in an era when the Razorbacks WERE elite, history shows us that period was an aberration, and it is not our “birthright” to have a dominant football program. Schools like Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, USC, Georgia, etc. have the demographics within their local recruiting region that allows them to have such expectations. We do not. That doesn’t mean, however, that it can’t happen at Arkansas. It did before - I saw it with my own eyes - and it can happen again.

It was a lot easier to be elite in the old weak, top-heavy SWC than it is in the modern SEC West. We did not exactly dominate quality non-conference opponents in the regular season or bowl games in those SWC days, but nostalgia makes a lot of folks think we were better than we really were.

Correct on all points, Dave. Frank never coached a 12-game regular season and only had 11 games for the last 6 of his 19. His last 10-win year required the Cotton Bowl win over Georgia to get to 10-2. But even with his success in the '60s, '63 and '67 were eminently forgettable other than the closing win over Tech in '63 setting the stage for the glory to follow. And the '66 and '70 teams might well have been in a New Year’s Six bowl today (no way a team would turn down a bowl now, death of a teammate or disappointment at losing to Texass notwithstanding).

Baylor had a huge upward blip over their historical norm under Briles; whether the end justified the means is another question. Ditto TCU under Gary Patterson (without resorting to recruiting/covering up for rapists), although TCU’s historical plateau is higher than Baylor’s. The Frogs have twice as many conference titles all-time as BU and they’re at 54% all-time wins to 51% down I-35 in Waco.

We have had periods where we rose above that historical level, so it absolutely can be done. Sustaining that success has been the problem. JFB, Holtz, Hatfield and Petrino all did so. Nutt was pretty much a 7-5 coach overall. Bielema, Crowe and Ford were below that historical level.

And I can see parallels between what Briles did at Baylor and what CM hopes to do here. Rev up the offense, attract speedy skill-position people to play in it, and play basketball on grass. I hope it is wildly successful. But it’s by no means certain.

Buzzard, I will agree and disagree with you.

It depends what era of the SWC you are talking about. I will agree that the SWC never quite got to the level (relatively speaking, for the times) where it had as much high quality across the board as the SEC usually does these days.

By the same token, in the 40’s through the 60’s, the SWC was - on any given year - just as salty as the SEC of THAT era. Someone 40 years old today doesn’t really remember when the SEC wasn’t THE dominant conference. But if you go back and look closely at schools like LSU, Florida, Georgia and even Alabama, they all had real up-and-down stretches for most of those years. Meanwhile, Texas, TCU, SMU and even Rice had some really, really good teams. It’s just that all of this happened before anyone younger than 60 remembers.

By the time the SWC fell apart, it was weaker than it had been. And, that’s about the time the SEC really stood up and moved to the top of the line.

As for the non-conference results, I believe that the SWC - in general - showed well (50-50) in Bowl contests. It often seemed like the match-ups favored the SEC in those Bowl games. By which I mean, it was lower ranked SWC teams matched up against SEC Champions. You didn’t see it the other way around nearly as often. So, those results are a little misleading, in that they followed form pretty much.

I agree that the SEC was not as tough in the SWC era either. But… the fact remains we won a lot of games against weak teams, giving us the appearance of being better than we usually were, which from the late 60s until we left led to more disappointments than joy when we played quality non-conference teams.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is possible for us to win SEC championships, which of course puts you in the running for a national championship. But it takes more to to win big in the SEC as it has existed in the last 25 years or so than it ever did to win big in the SWC from the 60s until our departure. The talent level you have to have just to be mediocre in the SEC West, I believe, is higher than what was needed to win at a much higher level in the SWC. We play in the toughest division in the toughest conference in the country now, and it’s just hard.

This is the right answer. Spot on. Can’t screw up the coaching hire (Bielema) or, also in Long’s case, the coach firing (Petrino). Good coaches that can win at Arkansas need to be treated as precious commodities. Petrino is way over and done. But that’s why I was so mad about Long firing Petrino back when it happened. Petrino brought big time football back to Arkansas. When you have a guy like that and play on the SEC West you make, let’s just say, accommodations. Long didn’t do that. Look at him now.

I find myself agreeing with you a lot, but must part ways re: Petrino. You just can’t hire your mistress and then lie about it when confronted by your superiors. Had to go.

Otherwise, I agree with your broader point. The right coach is so much more important at Arkansas given our other disadvantages as compared to our peers.