Today's Paper News Sports Features Business Opinion LEARNS Guide Newsletters Obits Games Archive Notices Core Values

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Pittman gives fans something to cheer about

by Wally Hall | August 16, 2022 at 4:20 a.m.

At 11:15 a.m. Monday, several DoubleTree Hotel staffers were hurriedly setting up extra tables.

It was at least an hour before Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman would begin his talk at the Little Rock Touchdown Club's kickoff lunch.

It would be impossible to give an accurate number of how many wanted to hear Pittman, maybe 500.

When Pittman entered the room 30 minutes later it was to a standing ovation and a reverberating Hog call.

From retired folks on fixed incomes to millionaires to folks running for office, the room was full of hope, pride and expectations.

That's what Pittman has restored among Razorback Nation.

The UA has had the biggest increase in football ticket sales in the nation from 2019 to last season.

Pittman spent part of his time at the podium talking about the progress, how his team sets goals, hits them and when they do, they celebrate.

"You all missed a helluva party," he said when talking about the team beating Mississippi State to get bowl eligible.

Last season was one of healing for fans who had left the program brokenhearted or angry after the two years of Chad Morris and nary a SEC win.

Morris is a nice guy. He was just over his head, and it really never made sense that the former chancellor and interim AD made the hire.

If they had waited two days, Hunter Yurachek would have been in place as the athletic director.

Morris did his best, which wasn't much, and walked off with millions in a buyout that he should have turned down after he almost burned the program to the ground.

At that point, many coaches in America wouldn't have touched the Arkansas job. It seemed hopeless.

Then Yurachek put together a team that included Jon Fagg and former Razorback and NFL player Steve Cox who is head of athletics for the Arkansas Board of Trustees.

They interviewed several people. Most took other jobs, but Pittman's agent at the time, Judy Henry, was continuously mentioning Pittman's name. Former players backed him 100%.

Incidentally, Henry was on the stage Monday, and Pittman acknowledged her in his friendly manner.

It took one interview, about an hour, and Arkansas had its new coach.

At the time it seemed like a gamble -- hiring a career assistant -- but Pittman has always been learning and knew in his mind what he needed to do.

"Kids either say, "I hope," or "I know," and it is our job to get them to say, "I know."

That means better performance and better lives.

The UA almost had to expand its trophy case as the Hogs won the Southwest Classic, the Golden Boot, the Battle Line and the Outback Bowl trophies.

Pittman wasn't shy about this season either.

"We have a pretty good football team," he said. "I don't know what that means in wins and losses, but we are going to have a chance.

"We want to win the West and the SEC and everything else."

He acknowledged that the Hogs are really solid at running back, and so far the most improved position from the first practice through the ninth is the receivers.

He spoke proudly of KJ Jefferson, who has firmed up and worked on his passing all summer.

"He's a leader," Pittman said. "That may not have always been the case last season but it is now."

There's still a lot of work to do before the season opens against Cincinnati, which last season became the first non-Power 5 school to make the College Football Playoff.

All 12 of the Razorbacks opponents were either in a bowl game or made the FCS playoffs last season.

"We are Arkansas, we want that kind of schedule," Pittman said.

The standing-room only crowd knew it was true.

Print Headline: Pittman gives fans something to cheer about


Sponsor Content