Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Farce and Scandal in Arkansas Basketball

It has been an annus horribilis for Arkansas basketball. After a lackluster regular season in which the Razorbacks went 7-9 in the SEC, they did manage a bid to the NCAA tournament on the strength of a good run in the SEC tournament. They then proceeded to crash out of the tournament in the first round and Stan Heath, coach since 2002, was fired for his efforts despite leading Arkansas to two consecutive 20 win seasons for the first time since 1997-1999.

Then followed one of the most tortured coaching searches in recent history. Initial speculation surrounded Billy Gillispie of Texas A&M, who rebuffed Arkansas, before bolting less than a week later to take a job at Kentucky, where Tubby Smith had resigned to take a job at Minnesota, but not before Gillispie signed a new contract with the Aggies, who hired Mark Turgeon of Wichita State as his replacement. (Got all that!?!?)

Next, the Hogs set their sights on Dana Altman of Creighton, who traveled to Arkansas on Monday, April 2 to accept the job, and rehearse the WOOOOOO! PIG! SOOIE! hog call in a press conference. The next day, he was on a plane heading to Nebraska, where he (successfully) begged Creighton to take him back. Altman took the high road in his statements, citing family issues, but it soon emerged that this was not the whole story. It turns out that two Arkansas players had recently tested positive for marijuana, and that there were issues of academic ineligibility. Altman had not been informed of this information until Tuesday, April 3, although the Athletics department managed to put its best spin on things.

Less than a week later, Arkansas succeeded in hiring John Pelphrey of South Alabama, and have, so far, managed to keep him Hog Calling. The pigs were joyful, although it should be noted that Arkansas is now paying three basketball coaches as a result of buyout clauses in the contracts of Heath and his predecessor Nolan Richardson. The joy lasted until Saturday, when starting forward Charles Thomas was arrested on suspicion of third-degree domestic battery. Can the situation in Fayetteville get any worse? One hopes not.


PhilipVU94 said...

The only thing dirtier than SEC basketball is.... well, you know the punchline.

Can't say i'm sorry for what Altman did to them. In fact i think he handled that about as professionally as possible.

Profane said...

Altman might be the coach of the principle rival to SIU, but even to fans here, his picture appears next to 'classy' in the dictionary.

If the rumors are to be believed, he did not even bail immediately when he found out about the drug tests and academic ineligibility - the final nail in the coffin was when he was denied in his request to import his own academic/compliance staff and was denied.

Since Altman is studiously keeping his mouth shut with the exception of the party line about 'family concerns' I doubt we will ever know the entire truth.