Arkansas is still considered among the better jobs in SEC basketball because of the number of fans that passionately follow and support the team, but take a quick look through the conference and it's clear the program is sorely lacking in facilities - particularly the lack of a practice facility.
It's always hard to generate financial support from fans for a struggling program, but now that not having a modern facility is being blamed for losing recruits, which is what Jeff Long said on the radio last week, how much longer can Arkansas afford to go without one?
A facility is not a cure-all. Building one won't immediately put Arkansas back in elite national status or even make the program a regular tournament team, but the facility will show recruits that the school is investing in the program and at least put it on equal recruiting ground with every other SEC school. It will give Mike Anderson a much better chance to succeed.
This is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Sporting Life Arkansas. You can read it in its entirety here.
The Arkansas Razorback basketball program absolutely, positively, desperately, urgently, uncategorically and unequivocally needs a practice facility.
Although many people have known this for some time, the topic was re-energized last week when Jeff Long went on the radio and suggested Arkansas’ lack of a facility may be directly to blame for a recruit spurning the Razorbacks in favor of another program.
In the last month, Arkansas native Jamal Jones chose Texas A&M over Arkansas, and Rutgers transfer Jerome Seagears chose Auburn. Both players made their decisions within days after official visits to Arkansas. That’s a bad look.
Last fall, the Arkansas Board of Trustees did approve the facility, but there has been no timeline announced for its construction, which is contingent on reaching fundraising goals to help afford the estimated $20-25 million needed to build it.
But the biggest benefit in having the building is recruiting.
I don’t know that many players select schools purely because one practice facility is bigger or better than others. I’d think when most schools all have similarly nice facilities it becomes a wash. But I do think players will eliminate schools for poor or nonexistent facilities.
While we strongly endorse promoting the history and tradition of the Arkansas Razorback basketball program, the school can build 100 statues of Nolan Richardson and put his name on all four corners of the court, players want to know a school is at least as invested in the future of a program as it is the past.
It’s also important to understand that it’s not just basketball-mad schools like Kentucky, Missouri, or Vanderbilt building these facilities for their players. It’s everybody. LSU has built a near-palace adjacent to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Look at the facility Texas A&M offered Jamal Jones. Or even Georgia, or South Carolina, or Auburn. And those aren’t "in construction". They’re already built.
Making fun of Ole Miss’ near-universally loathed Tad Pad is an SEC tradition, but the Rebels recruit decently because their players spend far more time here than they do playing in the damp darkness of their game arena.
And this part is extremely important: it’s not just the practice courts that attract players. These facilities are stocked with lush player lounges, spacious locker rooms, larger, better equipped weight rooms and training rooms. So even if players don’t necessarily want to shoot around or scrimmage, they still have comfortable places to go to develop stronger chemistry and comradery among themselves.
Again, you can read this in its entirety here.
Doc Harper is the managing editor of Arkansas Expats and is a columnist for Sporting Life Arkansas and College Football News. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @doc_harper.