Losing is taking a heavy toll on Arkansas State’s once proud fan base.
Perhaps more than most people, I’m a big fan of Red Wolves Bowling. Though they have yet to bring that national bowling title to Jonesboro, The Scarlet Ladies of the Lanes have never let me down. The team is ranked in the top five year after year. My fandom of Red Wolves Bowling is an endorsement of quality. They make me proud to be a Red Wolf.
Funny thing is, we sort of accidentally got good at bowling. Head coach Justin Kostick literally used the alphabet to get the job. “You used to be able to see which schools offered bowling on NCAA.com,” explains Coach Kostick, “So I just went down the list. Alabama State was first. Just so happened, the Arkansas State coach, Chris James, had just resigned, so I sent Dean Lee a résumé. He called me back in three hours.”
Dean Lee got a résumé, and three hours later he checked “hire bowling coach” off his to-dos. Turns out, such as stroke of luck is one moonshot in a billion. You can’t count on good people to randomly call you, looking to transform your program.
I’m an Arkansas State fan, and right now, Bowling is one of the few things I got. Soccer brings a few tingles of excitement. Track & Field is always solid. But if you only have enough bandwidth for the Big Three College sports, well, Arkansas State isn’t your program. Not anymore.
This legacy of losing is eroding the A-State fanbase. One look at the stands tells the entire story. But it’s more than just attendance. There is a frustration that has festered into apathy – an apathy that has begun to seep into my own feelings for the Red Wolves. After Arkansas State’s 72-67 loss to UCA – a program that hasn’t defeated us since the 1950s – I felt zero anger. Not an iota of chagrin. It was as though I was presented with the raw data of another loss, and I filed it in a folder without hardly a thought.
Well, obviously I care enough to write this post, but then again, I need the clicks.
Arkansas State was once a program of potential and promise. We were going to build our own identity! We were going to expand our niche. We refused to know our role! I barely remember those times, even if it was just a few years ago. Today, we are so far away from building our own identity we’ve all contracted a form of mass amnesia. In the spring, the baseball team will lose to somebody like SEMO and we’ll say “Well, SEMO always has a strong baseball team!” and that will be that.
Jeff Purinton, hired as
athletic director Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics in May, promised not to “sit in the AD box and drink wine,” but have we seen much movement since he arrived from Tuscaloosa? Our head baseball coach has led the program since 2009. His record is 340-397-1. The team was worse last season than the season before. Why hasn’t leadership made a change?
Similarly, Mike Balado is in his sixth year coaching A-State basketball, and we’re looking at a 5th losing season during his era (after all, how can a team that loses to UCA and Prairie View hope to compete in a Sun Belt that is growing in strength?). When does leadership bite the bullet and start taking steps to reverse this downslide?
I have an old boss who used to say to underperforming employees, “Everybody has a place, but your place isn’t here.” He would eventually say that to me. I had to go. Sometimes you have to go.
Photo/Graphic Credit: mine