Arkansas State’s Southland Bowling Championship gives us hope moving forward

I don’t pretend to understand bowling tournament formats. All I know is that it appeared that the Red Wolves were cruising past Sam Houston State on their way to their first Southland Bowling title since 2018, strengthened by Maggie Thoma’s seven straight strikes in the traditional point portion of the contest, powering A-State to a 1087-940 victory over Sam Houston for a “1-0” lead.

But in the Baker best of seven series, the Red Wolves suddenly looked mortal, losing the first four of five. However, that’s when Justin Kostick’s team found that hidden gear, rallying behind anchor Faith Welch and winning the Baker in seven. Presto! The Red Wolves are your conference champions, earning their 15th appearance in the NCAA Bowling Tournament.

Sure, the Red Wolves always make the NCAA Tournament. But this is only the fourth time the program has won a conference title. And Thoma won Tournament MVP! This year feels a bit special, no?

With a new head basketball coach set to take over on Monday (and his first act of recruiting being to pull team leader Caleb Fields out of the transfer portal), the Arkansas State athletics program seems to be trending upwards. Coach Bryan Hodgson, fresh off a magic season at Alabama, promises to infuse the basketball program with a new worth ethic. Destiny Rogers, after a rocky start, finished strong in her first season as head women’s coach. Coach Butch Jones signed his second conference-leading recruiting squad, and the roster looks bigger and stronger. Arkansas State Track continues to rack up indoor and outdoor championships. Volleyball clawed its way to the conference tournament finals, and A-State soccer continues to be among the best in the Sun Belt.

Is it possible that A-State Athletics is back? Maybe not back back, but maybe back to providing its fans with a measure of pride? Now that the Red Wolves have their first NIL Collective up and running, fans not only have reason to hope, but a means to contribute. This feels good, right?