As per tradition, we begin Festivus with the Airing of Grievances. Here are some of mine.
Now, granted, life as a Razorback fan does seem to be in a better place right now than at this time last year, so the general mood isn't so negative. That being said, there were still things that bothered us this year. Many of those things were discussed ad nauseam throughout 2015, so let's just briefly acknowledge them before we move on: injuries injuries injuries, Bielema's whining in his impromptu press conference after Sam Pittman left, whatever the hell happened to the offensive line in September, most of the terrible points made in the Great Stadium Debate (annual grievance), when people freaked out over Bielema's Ohio State schedule comments when literally the entire Internet was making the same jokes a couple days prior, the phrases "butts in seats" and "product on the court/field", trolls who absolutely refuse to give Mike Anderson credit for absolutely anything, basketball's spring signing period, complaining that Memphis isn't any fun, Jacorey throwing a shoe along with fake bills and punches (allegedly), why did UA decide to send us a book with like 16 individual game basketball parking passes instead of just sending one season pass like the last couple of years, playing for that field goal against Mississippi State, spending way too long trying to force Khalia Hackett into being a starting middle linebacker, when people started that thing about Bielema flopping, and as always - Hogville - last year for taking SB Nation's Steven Godfrey to a Larry's Pizza Buffet (where the buffet comes to you! seriously you don't even have to get up) for the Hogville summit, and this year for getting pissed off at me for making fun of them for it.
In-state Recruiting Drama
It was a bit much this year. It seems like every year there's somebody that causes fans to lose their minds, but this year Hog fans were treated to a 3-spot of this nonsense. It started in January when K.J. Hill decommitted from Arkansas a few months after announcing his commitment at the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Hill's stepfather posted a silly response on several message boards and then everything just fell to pieces.
Then in April, when Billy Donovan left Florida, it appeared KeVaughn Allen would seek a release from the Gators after his father went on Bo Mattingly's show and said that was their plan and that Arkansas would get serious consideration. After several days of waiting (and likely costing the Hogs some time they could have spent recruiting someone else) Allen never went through with getting his release and stayed with the Gators.
And of course, in November, we were treated to the Malik Monk fiasco.
It was nearly too much to bear. Thankfully, all the 2016 in-state football players and the next big basketball player, Daniel Gafford, are already committed and seem solid. So here's to hoping we don't have to go through more of these disasters next year.
I've never understood the idea of waiting until the season is over for players to discuss their professional intentions. Those are always dismissed as "unnecessary distractions" during the season and that they'll be addressed afterward. To me, uncertainty is always the bigger distraction.
It took Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls at least three weeks to announce they were leaving. Fans spent the bulk of the last few months of the season playing will they/won't they. The length of time between the North Carolina loss and the announcements suggests there was at least some level of indecision. You'd also have to imagine knowing their decisions sooner could have helped them get off to a better start on the spring signing period.
Portis stayed in pretty much the same range of picks on every major draft projection throughout SEC play. I don't know why they would have had to have waited until after the season to have those conversations. I don't know if they did actually wait for late March to have them, but that's what was always indicated. This isn't just an Arkansas thing, almost every school deals with this the same way. I don't understand. I don't know why you wouldn't want to have the clearest picture possible of what's going to happen so you can plan for it.
The football program's going through the same thing. Bielema is planning on waiting to visit with Alex Collins and Dever Kirkland's families to discuss the draft. Why wait? Whether they go or stay could have a big impact on what to do with this recruiting class. I'd want to have those talks as soon as possible.
Arkansas got the raw end of the stick from the basketball selection committee, having to face North Carolina in the second round of the tournament. Other 4-seeds weren't quite as talented as the Tar Heels. It was an unfortunate way to end the year.
I don't know if it's fair to call whoever decides which Pool of Six Bowl to send each SEC team, but whoever decided to put Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl instead of in the Music City Bowl against Louisville is terrible at his/her job. This isn't rocket science. Why not make the bowl games as fun as possible when it's available? You know what they do in the NBA every year at Christmas? They take four of the juiciest matchups they can think to put together and showcase it on the biggest holiday of the year. They don't have Golden State vs Charlotte. They have Golden State vs LeBron James and Cleveland. That's how this should work.
To be fair, shoutout to the baseball committee for putting Arkansas in the bracket with Missouri State so the Hogs could host the super regional without even hosting a regional. That was awesome.
Early Season Mishaps
Speaking of baseball, what the hell was that in March? In case you've forgotten, the baseball team struggled to stay at .500 to start the season. Several people doubted that they'd even make the NCAA Tournament at all. They didn't flip the switch until April. If they'd played that way all year they'd have probably been a national seed, or at least hosted a regional. Thank goodness it worked out.
Baseball is set up that way, as are most sports. Just be good enough at the end to get into the tournament and see what happens. Unfortunately, football's not like that. The Hogs were awful in September, and despite finishing 6-2 with road wins over three ranked teams, the team is unranked and heading to the Liberty Bowl.
Baseball and football basically had the same regular seasons, but it will be remembered as one of the best baseball seasons ever because they made it to Omaha, and the football season will be remembered more as a routine year ending with a mid-tier bowl. Stupid Toledo. It's so dumb.
There's going to be so much pressure on Bielema to beat Louisiana Tech next Labor Day.