Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Golden Boot

I was reading this post earlier today over at Paul's Health Blog.

Yes, it seems Paul was excited that his beloved East Carolina Pirates were playing in the Conference USA championship against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (yes, we know how fierce those hurricanes are in landlocked states like Oklahoma, don't we?) Paul must really be excited because his team won, 27-24, and is headed for the Liberty Bowl.

Good for them. There's an East Carolina connection in that Skip Holtz is the head coach. He's the son of Lou Holtz, a man who had some success here in Arkansas as the head coach of the Razorbacks and even more success at Notre Dame. There's an Arkansas connection at Tulsa, too -- Gus Malzahn was the offensive coordinator for a season before Houston Nutt and his flunkies ran him out of the state.

Malzahn, of course, is in his second year as an offensive coordinator over at Tulsa and has been doing relatively well. Apparently, we didn't send Nutt and his sideshow packing to Ole Miss early enough.

At any rate, there's not a whole lot we Razorbacks fans can do these days but follow teams with Arkansas connections and hope they do well. The Razorbacks, after a miserable 5-7 season (2-6 in the SEC), are going nowhere. We're also hoping the rumors that our head coach, Bobby Petrino, won't be heading off to Auburn to take the open job over there.

I won't dwell on the whole Auburn rumor as we seem to get pounded with such talk at the end of every season.

At any rate, at least Arkansas won the Golden Boot this year. What's the Golden Boot? It's the trophy awarded every year to the winner of the Arkansas-LSU game. The trophy was first awarded in 1996 in an attempt to manufacture a rivalry for Arkansas (I'll talk about that in a bit).

Arkansas and LSU play the day after Thanksgiving every year and, for the second year in a row, Arkansas won that game. So, the Golden Boot is something, I suppose. It's also worth mentioning that the team improved consistently throughout the year, so it appears everything will be fine with Bobby Petrino at the helm. This was his first year and Nutt didn't leave him with much to work with, sadly.

Now, I mentioned something about manufacturing a rivalry. Let me explain. In 1991, Arkansas left the old Southwest Conference and joined the SEC. Regardless of what anyone says, the SEC has been a terrible fit for Arkansas since the day the Hogs joined.

The main problem, of course, is that Arkansas isn't exactly in the Southeastern part of the country. Go ahead and take a look at a map and you'll find something fascinating -- every team in the SEC is east of the Mississippi River with the glaring exception of Arkansas.

Actually, this is Big 12 Conference territory and I don't care what anyone says. We've got more in common with Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas than we've ever had with the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Florida and ought to be competing for recruits in our region of the country.

Besides, Arkansas had a rivalry with Texas for years and a lot of fans still nurse a lingering hatred for the Longhorns (I'm odd in that I've always respected that team -- I've got a lot of kin in Texas, so perhaps that explains it).

Arkansas hasn't had a good rivalry since leaving the Southwest Conference and losing that guaranteed, annual game with Texas. It looks like the Hogs are in the SEC for better or worse, of course. Besides, we may be revamping a long-dormant rivalry with Ole Miss.

That is an historical rivalry that both schools kind of put an end to after too many fights were breaking out during the annual game between the two teams. Ole Miss has our old coach now, so perhaps our statewide hatred of Nutt will transfer to the team.

Meanwhile, I figure we'll still be playing for that Golden Boot annually.


Don said...

Ole Miss v Arkansas could surely become a good rivalry. Time will tell, but I have to agree that Arkansas v Texas, Ok v Ne were great days over there (west of Ms.) If you aren't or have not established a rivalry in the SEC chances are by now that hell will freeze over before you can create a good one. said...

Hawg, I would give ANYTHING for East Carolina University to be in the Southeastern Conference.

After being an Independent for years, we are now stuck in Conference-USA (CUSA), and that name speaks for itself. We have absolutely NO rivalries, except maybe for Southern Mississippi. Our true hatred game is against N.C. State, which is in the ACC. And because of politics, we don't play the Wolfpack every year.

East Carolina fans yearn for the day we can get into a BCS conference. Our most likely hope is The Big East, but that often looks more of a long shot, than anything. Only time will tell.

A membership in a BCS conference will do wonders for East Carolina and their athletic programs, particularly football and basketball. Money, recruiting, exposure, and the opportunity to play for a nation championship in football, among other things.

With a current student enrollment of 26,000, as well as a city population (Greenville, N.C.) that approaches 100,000, and a school that is football crazy, I'm not sure what else a BCS conference is looking for. Television ratings? The television market for Pirate football is not small potatoes. Besides, people are not exactly knocking down the door to watch the likes of Wake Forest, Duke, Vanderbilt or Syracuse play football on television. So that rationale goes out the window.

And as for your respect for the Texas football program, the Longhorns have won 10 games or more every season for EIGHT years in a row. How's that for consistency?

Finally, I'm glad the Razorbacks beat LSU again this year at War Memorial Stadium. I saw the 4th quarter, and it was great to watch Casey Dick, a senior, throw the winning touchdown pass at the end of the game. He has been made the scapegoat far too many times for the up and down Razorback football program.

Give me Liberty (Bowl) or give me death! GO PIRATES!

Hillbilly Willy said...

SEC is the better conference. Willy comes from Texas and would rather see Arkansas play those Texas teams of the old SWC but Willy likes them where they are at.

Petrino to Auburn - maybe.

10-4 Willy