No doubt about it, this Razorback basketball conference season is off to its most disappointing start since the 2008-09 campaign that started 12-1 in non-conference, only to go 2-14 in SEC play.
Everyone is disappointed, the administration, the fans, and even the football team - although they probably enjoy some relief from the pressure of last year’s 0-8 SEC record.
As with any coach whose program is struggling, there are some fans who call for Anderson to be fired after every loss. The frustration is certainly understandable, given where fans had hoped this team would be, but calling for Anderson's head right now is a waste of breath (or twitter characters, or message board threads, or whatever). When you look at this entire situation it seems pretty clear Anderson's job is safe.
Mike Anderson has a seven year deal with the Razorbacks and his buyout is $1 million for every year remaining on his contract. That leaves approximately $4 million left on his buyout. That might not be too much in football context, but it's pretty big for basketball. Arkansas paid Missouri just $550K to hire Anderson three years ago. At the same time, Arkansas paid $1.8 million to buy out John Pelphrey's contract (which they're just now finishing paying off).
Considering the building projects the athletic department is currently struggling to fund (baseball/track facility and basketball practice facility), it seems highly unlikely they will shovel out $4 million for a buyout, nor should they.
Although attendance is obviously not at the levels Arkansas enjoyed during the glory years, they're still not having too much trouble filling up most of Bud Walton Arena, particularly for bigger opponents. All four of Arkansas' SEC opponents this season have drawn solid crowds.
Paid attendance doesn’t fall below 11,000. There are four schools in the SEC (Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss) who couldn’t meet that demand in their current arenas.
It is amazing that 300 new people are willing to buy season tickets after the football team went 3-9 last year. This demonstrates there is almost always a demand for Razorback tickets. I know this doesn’t show us how many people canceled their season tickets, but the fact new people are willing to buy them says something.
Most SEC Coaches Aren't Doing Much Better
Frank Martin went to an Elite Eight with Kansas State, but has struggled so far at South Carolina. He has more career NCAA Tournament wins (6) than SEC wins (5) right now. Established coaches (minus Calipari) aren’t coming into the SEC and setting it on fire. Maybe the SEC (minus Kentucky and Florida) isn’t recruiting well compared to other conferences and no middle-of-the-pack team has been able to capitalize on this down trend. I know that is something that has made Arkansas’ struggles even more frustrating, but no one else has been able to figure it out either.
The Bill Self ship sailed over 12 years ago. Billy Gillespie, who was the alternate choice to Anderson for some of the fan base, didn’t exactly pan out like most thought. Buzz Williams at Marquette was the only name that was rumored to be interested in the Arkansas job that has had the most recent success. Look around the league and the up-and-comer types that other schools have hired. Before they were hired at their current SEC schools, Billy Kennedy, Tony Barbee, and Mark Fox are the types of coaches Arkansas would be looking at this go around.
All that to write; Mike Anderson is going to get at least five years. The buyout is too much and the alternatives aren’t there. Who is going to want to come to a place where they just fired their own son, who left a great situation to come save them?
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