This is why the country doesn’t necessarily respect Arkansas athletics

SEC Country reporter Eric W. Bolin will candidly answer your Arkansas Razorbacks sports queries each weekday in our Mailbag Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryHogs or by email to Eric at ericwbolin@gmail.com.

Question of the Day: Monday, February 12, 2018

This is one of the more interesting queries I have received since Question of the Day began. I actually had a small exchange with #WPSMan about what exactly he meant with the question. Football? Basketball? Turns out, he meant a bit of everything. The university and athletic programs, really. Sports individually, and as a collective. Best I can tell, he is suggesting Arkansas is disrespected, not just not respected.

If that’s the case, I disagree. To get a picture of the macro, you have to add up the micros. Start with football.

Arkansas football isn’t respected. It isn’t disrespected. It simply exists right now. That’s a lot better than six years ago when, yes, you better believe the Razorbacks football program was disrespected. Bobby Petrino put a pockmark on the program and university that, frankly, still lingers. Ask around outside of SEC country, and people still associate the school with that somewhat. Bret Bielema did his best to eliminate those connotations and — for the most part — succeeded. Athletic director Jeff Long played a part in that. But they weren’t quite good enough to turn the disrespect to respect. More indifference. Average to above average to below average was the progression of the team on the field and that simply isn’t going to gain attention.

Basketball hasn’t played more than two games in the NCAA Tournament in 20-plus years. They aren’t a powerhouse. It’s unclear whether Arkansas basketball is capable of being a powerhouse. This isn’t the 1990s anymore. The sport has changed and while the Razorbacks aren’t being left behind — they’re competitive and Mike Anderson is a good coach — they aren’t beating down the door for Final Fours, either. Again, indifference, mostly.

#WPSMan brought up how he thought track and field and baseball were nationally respected. My response to him was the one you’re thinking, I’m sure. Baseball and track and field are national powerhouses. Winning games, winning meets, being top-25 ranked almost always, that gets national respect. Football and basketball haven’t done that. Or even come that close, frankly.

Facilities are irrelevant. Quality of life, beauty of the town, the campus, who cares? Adults who live in the town care. No college athlete in the world is picking the University of Arkansas because Dickson Street exists. They’re not picking the University of Arkansas because of the new Jones Center for student-athletes or weight room or the indoor facility or separate basketball practice facility. Those material things are simply Arkansas keeping up with the rest of college athletics. Sometimes they are ahead of the game, but often they are soon caught up to by competing athletic departments.

Don’t confuse disrespect with indifference, or even ambivalence. Just because respect doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean disrespect does exist.

Respect comes with wins, plain and simple. And until Arkansas produces more of those, especially in football, the University of Arkansas and its smallest state population in the SEC, will continue to be largely an afterthought to the rest of the sporting nation.

The post This is why the country doesn’t necessarily respect Arkansas athletics appeared first on SEC Country.

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