On Friday night, the Arkansas State men’s basketball team welcomed Morehead State to Jonesboro, and the Eagles greeted their host with an impolite 75-51 clobbering. The next afternoon, the A-State women’s team was treated just as shabbily, this time by formerly the winless Oral Roberts Golden Eagles 81-62. By the end of the day, the Red Wolves had achieved a trifecta of defeat, losing to a terrible Texas State Bobcats team 24-22, the university’s third home loss within 24-hours.
How did this happen to us?
In 2011, Arkansas State football began to pull itself from mediocrity’s orbit, setting in motion a decade of winning seasons and a burst of construction – not just on sport facilities, but across the entire campus. The university expanded, the branding became more sophisticated, the academics broadened its scope. In that time, the University saw improvement and growth from its Bowling, Golf and Soccer programs. The track & field programs have become conference juggernauts. Since Hugh Freeze led the Red Wolves to a conference title in 2011, the football program won four more Sun Belt championships. Arkansas State was the benchmark of the Sun Belt conference.
However, behind the glint of the conference trophies was a troubling reality. Arkansas State baseball has not hoisted a conference championship since the days of Keith Horn in 1994. Arkansas State basketball hasn’t won conference since Chico Fletcher led the program in 1999. Arkansas State women basketball has never won a championship, earning runner up honors in 2014 and 2015.
It was all good because we were a football school, and that’s what matters most. Now, after turning in a 2-10 season – the second consecutive losing season – we can’t even claim that. Arkansas State has become less than mediocre in all of the flagship sports, and it’s taken a significant toll on the fan base.
Fans need something. If you’re rebuilding on the gridiron, give us a competitive team on the diamond. If the men’s basketball program is struggling, have a women’s team capable of giving us something to cheer for. But there’s no balance. We pushed all of our chips into football, and for ten years, it looked like a good gamble. Now where are we?
The basketball loss to Morehead State is especially disheartening. Red Wolves fans need this team to elevate us from the doldrums after a depressing 10 loss season. Instead, we lost by 24 to a team we only lost to by six points last year. To be fair, Morehead State won 23 games last season and had a cup of coffee in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Morehead is not a pushover. But the Red Wolves didn’t look even remotely ready to win the game on Friday night. Caleb Fields opened the scoring with a 2-point bucket and the Red Wolves never saw the lead again.
Maybe the Red Wolves bounce back against Kansas City on Sunday. Morehead State beat the Roos by eight on Saturday. Perhaps Mike Balado will have the team ready by 3PM on Sunday.
I hope so. Red Wolves really need somebody to get behind. We appreciate the Bowling championships and the wins on the links. The women’s soccer has make impressive strides – maybe the volleyball program will someday rediscover its swagger. But right now, we fans of big ticket sports are dangling by a fraying thread. We just lost to Texas State because we simply could not advance the football one measly yard when we needed it most. We’ve enjoyed one winning men’s basketball season in the last six. When was the last time we’ve enjoyed a special baseball season?
Give us something, Red Wolves. Anything.
Photo Credit: MEEEEEE!