Relax. Take a deep breath. Hog fans have been through quite a lot this school year. It seems like ages ago the Razorback football team kicked off its season in Little Rock against the Florida A&M Rattlers on Aug. 31. The school year has been a rollercoaster of emotions for even the casual Hog fan, but should fans be content with where the athletic program is?
To understand if this year was a success, one must start at the beginning. Soccer kicked off its home season with a loss against No. 1 Penn State, but the Hogs finished the season with their fourth NCAA tournament bid in five years.
The Razorback football team was less than impressive, and a 4-8 record got former head coach Bret Bielema and athletic director Jeff Long fired. Chad Morris was then hired as the new head football coach by new athletic director Hunter Yurachek.
The men’s basketball team fell short in the first round of the NCAA tournament, while on the women’s side, the team showed improvement under first year coach Mike Neighbors.
The baseball and softball team are still competing, but the biggest surprise all year is how well softball coach Courtney Deifel has her softball team playing. The Razorbacks’ softball team is in position to host a regional after a sweepof Ole Miss.
Meanwhile, on the baseball diamond, coach Dave Van Horn’s squad has been ranked in the top 10 in almost every poll all season.
The men’s and women’s track and field teams have had successful seasons as well. Both teams are ranked nationally in the top 10, according to U.S Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Those are just the main sports. The women’s golf team won a Southeastern Conference championship, while the gymnastics team competed in the NCAA tournament, and freshman diver Brooke Schultz won the university’s third individual national title in diving.
It is a lot to take in, but Razorback athletics did remarkably well this year. If fans focus on the major sports, then they might be left with a bad taste in their mouths. Yes, I know almost everyone wants to be good at the major sports, but the building blocks are there for success in the future. As much as it hurts to say, patience is a virtue as a Razorback fan.
As a whole, this year was a success for Razorback athletics. Maybe the football team didn’t do as well as fans wanted, but considering the UofA was looking for a new football coach and athletic director at the same time, the athletic department came out of that situation as best as it could. The men’s basketball team should have made the Sweet 16. Six seniors and a potential first-round NBA draft pick should have played better when the spotlights came on, but I won’t let one sport ruin my entire view of the athletic department.
The UofA is in great shape to be relevant in both spring sports. The baseball Hogs haven’t lost a home series. The team finds itself in great position to hold its first super regional since 2012, and in D1 Baseball, a publication that covers college baseball, writer Kendall Rogers projected the Hogs to win the national championship.
Meanwhile, the softball team has been making some noise in Bogle Park. In Deifel’s third year as the head Hog, the Razorbacks are 12-9 in conference play and are firmly in the conversation for hosting their first ever regional.
If fans live and die by football, then yes, the 2017-18 school year wasn’t that great, but an athletic department shouldn’t be judged for just the boys that play on Saturdays in the fall. The Razorback athletic department consists of 17 sports, most of which have experienced growth over the school year.