Our fan base is the only one I know of that has had the series of crazy coaching blunders that has divided a fan base to this degree. HDN took Ford’s players did great things and then couldn’t win with his own players. I loved that HDN was an ARKANSAS guy and many fans loved him and especially in Central Arkansas. HDN could motivate but he was not a good coach. He was a Cheerleader for Central Arkansas and WMS. Enter Malzahn via pressure from the NWA super church of Ronnie Floyd, Shiloh Christian, and SHS. Malzahn created a following that was as emotional as HDN’s following, but conversely Malzahn was a NWA cheerleader. Malzahn created a package deal with his Springdale players that was counter to the ethics he and his supporters espouse.
HDN was forced to accept Malzahn so he and his coaches treated Malzahn badly. It was hard for me personally because I loved HDN, but started to see his problems. I liked Malzahn at first but didn’t know how bad the dynamic was between HDN and Malzahn. Many fans chose sides and it came down to planes flying banners about HDN. HDN was fired and took off to rival Ole Miss to have immediate success with Orgeron’s players. Our fan base was divided into HDN vs. Malzahn and a worsening of the Central Ark vs NWA divide.
We hired Petrino and his checkered past while we struggled to get by with HDN’s players in Petrino’s offense. Petrino was fortunate to have a stellar recruiting class since Tim Horton was kept on staff after HDN’s firing. Petrino attracted Mallett, Adams and Wilson to come add to the signing class and it immediately paid off. Petrino wasn’t able to recruit if there wasn’t a great Arkansas HS class of talent. Petrino’s ethics and behavior caught up to him and almost ruined our program. Smile is a mess that isn’t all his fault because he was in a terrible situation. Eventually the house of cards was exposed when the under classmen were so low in talent during Smile’s season.
Petrino forced the hands of the UA to fire him after he would not accept some punishment and that seems to be forgotten by his fans. I was one of his fans and fought the immediate backlash against him, UNTIL the evidence came out. Many fans loved the swagger and wins that came with Mallett and Wilson throwing to Adams, Childs, Gragg, Wright, etc. We were in the top 5 for a bit one season- it felt good and fed the chips on our Arkansas shoulders. Petrino was worshipped in Arkansas. He had just finished a 3 season run that was one of our best ever when the motorcycle crash happened with a blonde on the back of the bike.
Wheels were set in motion that forced our hands to punish him or fire him. Very seldom does a coach get FIRED when he is winning and going to BCS bowls, so our predicament was rare. Our fan base was ALREADY divided into HDN vs. Malzahn and a worsening of the Central Ark vs NWA divide. The firing of Petrino created another division in the fan base that took a harsh turn, because HDN loyalists said I told you so, Malzahn loyalists tried to force him to be the new Head Coach. Everyone was pointing fingers and trying to tear down the other segment of the fan base. We ceased to be Hog fans and broke into camps of HDN, Malzahn and Petrino with some duplicity in the “Hate Long” camp.
We needed a great coach with a pedigree to come in and heal the fan base. We were fortunate to hire Bret Bielema and any other fan base would have been giddy with his hiring. Not ours. We are too divided to be happy with anyone unless each segment gets their man back; but that isn’t realistic with our divisions being so deep that NO single coach other than Saban would unify this fan base. The same deep divisions that won’t be happy with anyone unless their man is brought back, is creating constant bickering and tearing at the scab so it won’t heal. The Petrino loyalists are out in full force before this week because he is winning big at Louisville this season. The Malzahn loyalists were quiet because Malzahn was on the hot seat, but now his team is on a roll and so are his loyalists.
AU beat us in a manner that turns my stomach because I know it will pick at the scab worse than ever. Bielema is encountering challenges but I think he is a solid coach and any other fan base would be happy. Not ours. How do we heal this fan base if we aren’t an ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS fan base anymore because of the skewed loyalties? Can this fan base ever support a good coach? Can this fan base handle a hiccup when divisions are more than willing to get on radio shows and message boards to flood them with negativity. The negativity is always tainted with, “we should have hired Malzahn, we shouldn’t have fired Petrino, we shouldn’t have fired HDN”, etc. The casual fans (that don’t understand the divisions are still raw) can be influenced by this negativity if they periodically check in on message boards and radio shows to hear the negativity. The negativity in the fan base is overwhelming progress because of the divisions. Can we heal? Can we support progress even when there are hiccups or failures? How many coaches are we going to burn until we recognize our pyschosis? It feels like one division of our fan base is always on fire with anger to tear down the other divisions of our fan base. What should we do?