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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Harrison struck by case of Razorback fever

by Wally Hall | May 20, 2021 at 2:38 a.m.

HARRISON -- It was Sunday, and Saturday's rainstorms had cleared out some of the pollen. Even though the first stop on the One Razorback Roadshow wasn't until Monday, this city was showing signs of Razorback fever already.

While driving around, some Razorback flags were spotted flying and a few cars had Hog decals.

This has long been Razorback Country with a deep, rich history of support.

One of its heroes, Brandon Burlsworth, is honored. The street leading to the high school stadium is named "Burlsway."

He was a one-in-a-million story, from walk-on to All-American at the University of Arkansas, drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and then tragically killed in a car wreck.

His brother Marty runs the Burlsworth Foundation here, supplying eyeglasses to thousands of Arkansas children.

This city has fought for years to right its reputation, one that started when the Ku Klux Klan moved its headquarters into the area and bought some distasteful billboards, which are now gone.

Razorback fever runs high here, and it apparently did Monday night when the faithful learned that Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek had rolled over football Coach Sam Pittman's contract.

This was NOT a Jeff Long-Bret Bielema deal. No buyouts were announced, just adding a year to a contract, which will help future recruiting.

Even in the era of the transfer portal, moms and dads of 18-year-olds want to believe their son will be playing for the same head coach for four or five years.

Of course, there is no transfer portal for coaches. Only recruitment by other schools after a big season.

It was a big weekend in this vibrant city with high school graduation -- graduate Henry Oltman is on his way to Columbia and the Ivy League -- Sunday night and the Razorback Roadshow on Monday.

* * *

It was a proud but sad moment when Eddie Sutton was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Sutton passed away last year, just days after receiving the phone call that he had finally made it. He had been nominated seven times, and as a coach the honor was long overdue.

After five winning seasons at Creighton, Sutton was a rising star in the world of college basketball, so much so that then-Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles flew through a blizzard to hire Sutton before Duke could.

Sutton hired Pat Foster and Gene Keady -- both of whom would go on to have distinguished careers as head coaches -- and they turned nothing into something in one season, going 17-9 overall and serving notice in the old Southwest Conference that change was on the horizon.

By the third season, they were headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first of many visits.

After 11 seasons and while fighting a personal demon, the lure of Kentucky was too much and he became the head coach of the nationally respected Wildcats. The demon never left, and three years later he was headed into a year break from basketball.

When that time was served, he landed on his feet at his alma mater Oklahoma State and led the program to new heights. By the time the demon reappeared after 15 years of sobriety, Sutton left with a 358-151 overall record and his name forever on the Iba Center court.

He finally retired in 2008 after a short stint at San Francisco with a career record of 804-328. He was the first coach in history to take four different schools to the NCAA Tournament.

It took too long for Sutton to make the Hall of Fame, but his record will always speak for itself. Now, and forevermore, he is officially a Hall of Famer.

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