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OPINION | WALLY HALL: UA fans enjoy extra spring in their step

by Wally Hall | May 25, 2021 at 2:09 a.m.

It is heady times in the state of Arkansas.

Forgetting we are ranked 48th in the country in vaccinations is easy when the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team is ranked No. 1 in the nation and the softball team is the No. 6 national seed and fresh off winning the Fayetteville Regional.

Dave Van Horn didn't rest on his laurels after reaching the finals of the College World Series in 2018 and returning to the CWS the next year.

He went out and recruited pitchers and hitters.

Baum-Walker Stadium was sold out last weekend. It would have taken a barrel of industrial-strength grease to slide one more fan in to see the sweep of Florida.

Since March, things have been bright in the Natural State.

Eric Musselman led his basketball team to the Elite Eight. Since then, almost every Razorback sport has flourished.

Fourth-year Coach Mike Neighbors got the state excited about his women's basketball team when it knocked off perennial powers UConn and Baylor.

The track teams remain national contenders as UA remains the premier track and field program in the country.

Perhaps the success goes all the way back to football season. The team may have gone 3-7, but those were three conference wins. It could have been five wins, but officiating raised its ugly head in the Auburn and LSU games.

If we are honest, the expectations after three wins may be a little unrealistic after losing Feleipe Franks, a really good quarterback who completed 163 of his 238 passes (68.5%) and threw 17 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions.

Yes, there are good candidates on campus to replace him, but they lack what Franks brought with him from Florida -- experience. Franks played in 24 games before being injured and transferring to Arkansas.

If the football team is going to build off of last season, it's up to every individual who intends to play next year.

Arkansas needs its offensive and defensive lines to be bigger and stronger. There's only one way to do that, which is hit the weight room on days that aren't mandatory.

"Restoring" is the official theme for the Arkansas football team. On the UA football website, the headline is Restoring Pride, followed by Restoring Gamedays and Restoring Optimism.

Pittman already has restored enthusiasm.

They say hindsight is 20-20, and his hire couldn't have been more timely or a better fit.

Arkansas didn't need a swashbuckler, big talker or up-and-comer. The program and fans needed someone who wanted the job more than any job he has ever had.

That's Pittman.

He was born and raised so close to the Arkansas border -- about an hour from the UA campus -- in Oklahoma, he might as well be a native son.

Heck, he's one of thousands who owns a place on Lake Hamilton. Long ago he said he would retire in Arkansas.

A big reason for that is the people. This state is full of good, honest, hardworking Americans, and that's the stock Pittman comes from.

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek seems to get that, too.

Most of the Razorback fans stayed loyal through some pretty lean times -- especially in football, which bottomed out two seasons ago.

Even some supporters who said they were finished with the program have hurried back.

College sports is almost over until August, when football practice starts.

The future of Razorback athletics looks bright from top to bottom, and every time someone gets vaccinated we get closer to moving up in that critical national ranking.

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