In essence, we’ve exchanged proven commodities for assets with tantalizing promise. The entertainment value associated with “tantalizing promise” is the elixir of season ticket pitches and offseason content like this. But tantalizing promise is also the mana of transforming a good football team into something special. Thus far, new Red Wolves head football coach Butch Jones has sipped deeply from this chalice.
But if you watched last year’s version of the team, you had to like what you saw on the floor. Omier is a double-double superstar, and the young roster can only become better by Eaton’s well-practiced hand. If ever were to come Balado’s make-it or break-it year, this is absolutely it.
Arkansas State has won six of its last eight, including two against Sun Belt West contender Georgia Southern behind masterful pitching performances that yielded all of two earned runs. Among the losses, an epic 12-15 defeat at Ole Miss, indicating that the Red Wolves bats are more than capable of producing mid-week runs against a ranked SEC opponent. Arkansas State has never been hotter in 2021, and it will need every degree of that heat in Fayetteville on Tuesday.
Remember what the great George Costanza tells us: It’s not a lie if you believe it. Everybody thinks Rowdy Roddy Piper was a great wrestler, but have you ever seen him win a wrestling match? Nope. Moxie was his greatness, and it can be the Sun Belt’s too.
Whoever or whatever is at fault, it’s now Butch Jones’ problem to fix. But let’s be real. It’s not Jones’ job (nor was it Anderson’s) to get guys into the NFL. The job is to win games (oh yeah, and to make better men or something). But you have to believe that Jones’ focus on detail and drive to smash his critics’ teeth will result in better Combine evals and Pro Day scores.
For any reason you’d like to select, NFL Drafting isn’t a top skill in the Sun Belt toolbox – not historically, nor will it likely improve in 2021. In fact, I was a bit surprised to see how few viable Sun Belt draft prospects are in this class, given how well the conference performed on the gridiron. For health reasons, my expectations are reasonably lowered.
What we didn’t learn was much about the 2021 Red Wolves. That’s really the function of a Spring Game – getting nothing and liking it. After all, aan offense that puts 500 yards in the Spring can easily average under 300 in the fall. All fans can really expect is to put an eye on some prospects, gauge the attitude of the new coach, and inventory the stars who are too injured to suit up.
The Sun Belt isn’t going anywhere but up, and yet the instinct among many fans is to get out. Like clockwork, the moment an SBC finds success, the fans begin to lobby for another conference. Why not devote that energy to pouring pride into the conference that has made your success possible?
Mohajir has guided Arkansas State Athletics to 25 conference titles. In 2015 he hired Mike Hagen to lead the men’s golf team, which after decades of futility delivered a championship in 2019. During Mohajir’s tenure, we’ve seen growth in soccer, tennis, bowling and track & field – and the construction of facilities to amplify that growth.
Sun Belt hoops still grandly sucks, but the performance of Red Wolves men’s basketball in recent weeks has compelled me to write something more cheerful. It was only about a month ago when I pronounced A-State basketball an “endangered species.” It may well still be endangered. But something has happened to Arkansas State hoops since dropping two to ULM in Monroe: they’ve become hugely entertaining.