Several years ago, around the time Red Wolves athletics was enjoying the croutons of its salad days, there was a call from fans of more privileged programs to “know your role.” For example, the “role” of Arkansas State was to be subservient to the state’s flagship program – to gladly accept the second tier status it had made for us. “We did not know our role,” we’d often say after big victories.
Former Arkansas State
athletic director Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Terry Mohajir embraced the Never Know Your Role philosophy. With blustering bravado, Mohajir declared that Arkansas State would become the best program within the Group of Five and a regular in the AP Top 25. A-State Fan Arrogance was stronger than the snickers from outside programs. We had a goal! It was lofty, but leadership made us feel it was attainable. Fans did what they could to make this dream a reality.
That, ultimately, we didn’t achieve those goals isn’t what plagues Arkansas State. Our problem is that we no longer appear to have a goal at all. While the program was building luxury boxes and monetizing parking and tailgating, missions pertained strictly to athletic achievement became secondary – and then nonexistent.
Mohajir could be bombastic and even reckless with his statements, but fans always knew where he stood. Once, while losing to Georgia State on a bitterly cold November afternoon, Mohajir took the field and delivered an impassioned halftime speech. He was known to performs sets of pushups with the ROTC after Red Wolves touchdowns. He never avoided interviews; he sought them out.
When Mohajir left Jonesboro for Orlando, he took the the moxie with him. Mohajir’s immediate replacement, Tom Bowen, provided managerial, closed-door leadership. He was not interested in matching Mohajir’s electric public presence, and he never endeared himself to fans. When he abruptly left after a year on the job, few regretted his departure.
Jeff Purinton, Bowen’s successor by way of Alabama, is a young man who has a reputation for fundraising, which Arkansas State needs. However, fundraising works best when swimming in a pool of enthusiastic donors, and that’s where Purinton will likely find a challenge. Enthusiasm is a form of moxie.
We are without moxie.
What the Red Wolves need is a voice from leadership willing to stand on the edge of sanity and announce to the public, “Our goal is to go to a Bowl game, make the NCAA Tournament and participate in the college World Series every year, and if we don’t, we have failed.” I want somebody to say, “We’re going to be among the top five baseball programs in the the Sun Belt.” I want to hear, “Red Wolves endeavor to become the state’s dominate basketball program.”
I want us to stop knowing our role.
Red Wolves fans need a vision. We need belief. An aspiration. We need moxie to come back to Jonesboro. Asking Jeff Purinton to adopt Terry Mohajir’s persona is both unfair and unnecessary. Let Purinton be Purinton. But share an outlandish vision with us. Be bold. Be unrealistic. Be completely insane.
Put on your scarlet-colored glasses and deliver to us a statement of action worthy of a “Howl Yes!”