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"Arkansas is a brutal job."-- an otherwise unidentified "industry expert" quoted Sunday by a writer for espn.com.

_

Here we go again, drunk as skunks on another hogaholic binge.

We drink heavily from the high-dollar bottle of hype. Then those contents age into a bottle of heartache. So, we pour them out. Then we reach for another high-dollar bottle of hype, something to restore the buzz.

This is the Arkansas Razorback way. It is what we do.

We were lured in the 1960s into the happy buzz of college football prominence. We've been unable for nearly six decades now to purge our systems of those old feelings and urges.

We were excelling artificially then, in times of racial segregation and in a little Texas conference that we could typically handle for eight or nine wins and a bowl game we'd probably lose to Alabama or Ole Miss. Every once in a while, we'd beat Texas. Horns would honk all night on Dickson and Markham.

It's not been the same since, though it has been nearly like that for fleeting moments, first with Lou Holtz and then Bobby Petrino. But those temporarily successful coaching eras ended in catastrophe, of course--in Holtz losing favor by getting political and letting down on recruiting, and with Petrino in an off-road motorcycle tumble with a former volleyball player.

It's been that way both in football and basketball, even with a national championship in the latter. The coaching legend who achieved for us that national basketball pinnacle, Nolan Richardson, wound up leaving amid his charges of racism in a federal court lawsuit.

It's not every sports-crazed culture that can mess up a national championship and turn against the icon who brought it home.

At least much of that has been somewhat reconciled.

In football, a coach got fired on the spot for losing one game, to The Citadel. Ken Hatfield, a playing legend from the happy '60s, had great coaching success but left in a huff because he couldn't co-exist with his old coach, Frank Broyles, by then the athletic director. Houston Nutt became a folk hero until he wasn't, caught up in a soap opera produced in Springdale. Bret Bielema had a moment, then gained weight.

Now we have the brief passer-through on the left lane named Chad Morris. He was supposed to be the answer--a master of high-octane offense and certain recruiter of Texas talent--except that his teams got worse the longer he was in charge.

Now he's quickly vanished--a bottle of heartache poured dry--and we're doing a nationwide tour in search of just the right new bottle of hype.

Through it all, truer words were never spoken than those quoted above by the unidentified "industry expert."

Football coach at the University of Arkansas is a "brutal job" because fan expectations are stuck in the Southwest Conference of the '60s while our realities are beset as a permanent weak sister in the modern Southeastern Conference, where we have descended to Vanderbilt's equal partner in doormat-ship.

It's because we are at a talent disadvantage as a relatively small school by SEC standards situated amid remote hills in a place that is lovely and prosperous with a high quality of life but wholly detached from the fertile football recruiting territory of the teams we play.

There are far fewer elite football prospects in the high schools of southern Kansas and Missouri, eastern Oklahoma and all of Arkansas than there are in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, from New Orleans over to Atlanta and down to Miami, where our conference bullies are located.

As for the talent wealth in Texas, you have the University of Texas, Texas A&M and a dozen other in-state teams competing better than Arkansas for those players, not to mention Oklahoma, which dips down and does well enough to be highly ranked nationally year after year.

Hiring a guy who'd been successful coaching high school in Texas was not the answer, as evidenced by the fact that his recruits in Texas who started de-committing Sunday on news of his firing were three-star recruits.

The recruiting gurus impose a five-star system to rate prospects, and Alabama and Georgia and Ohio State and maybe LSU get the five-stars. Most of the other teams in our conference get the four-stars. Arkansas frets that a three-star might bolt for Rice.

It's a "brutal job" indeed, except for buyouts upon firings, which pay well at Arkansas.

Please understand that I'm merely explaining, not complaining.

I grew up in the '60s adoring Jon Brittenum, Harry Jones, Jim Lindsey, Bobby Crockett, Ronnie Caveness, Loyd Phillips, Bill Montgomery, Chuck Dicus and on and on. One of the three or four highlights of my life was getting invited to a joint reunion of the 1969 team and the Texas team it famously played for the national championship.

I'll even share something I'm ashamed of: When a rumor broke during Petrino's era that he might go to Florida, I sent him an email pleading with him to stay. I confess it. I did it. A grown man, at least by the calendar. I'm not proud. I'm just honest. I'm just pure Arkansas.

And the live-tweeting irreverence I do during Hog football games ... it's a defense mechanism deployed to cope with the frustration to which I've long become accustomed.

It helps keep me sober through the hogaholic binges.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Web only on 11/13/2019

Print Headline: BRUMMETT ONLINE: It's the Razorback way

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