In the upcoming seasons, Arkansas Razorbacks' head coach Bret Bielema faces more challenges than restoring the team to its winning ways. While the Hogs faced adversity on the field during the 2012 season, they also faced a lack of positive attention from the national media.
If Bielema is to continue the task of pushing the team back to national prominence, he will have to do a better job of promoting the program than his predecessors.
Arkansas’ football program has once again been named in the top 10 of Forbes’ most valuable college football teams. The Razorbacks came in at No. 10, down from No. 8 last season.
What is curious about these rankings is that even though Arkansas’ program has proven to be a moneymaker for college football and the SEC, it still does not enjoy the media attention of other programs.
Even though Arkansas has ranked in the top 20 for the last three years in Forbes’ list, the Hogs are still not part of the national conversation as far as sports pundits or highlight reels are concerned. If Arkansas is mentioned, it seems to be in quick blurbs between USC or Boise State highlights, even if those teams are not performing as well.
Arkansas seems to be all but ignored, even when they are having a successful season. It’s not just the Razorbacks versus the SEC on the field; it’s the Razorbacks versus the world off of it.
This cannot be from lack of fan support.
Arkansas is bringing in more money than teams that have bigger stadiums and higher ticket prices. The interest from fans is there, but the national media just does not seem to want Arkansas fans’ eyeballs when it comes to viewership.
Of all the areas that Bret Bielema needs to change at Arkansas, this is one area that he cannot ignore, and there are a few things he can do to help raise the program’s national profile.
College football purists hate it, but with lucrative television deals and valuable corporate sponsorships up for grabs, a team needs to dominate in more ways than on the field. Football is a sport, and sports are entertainment. Coaches have to wear the extra (unfortunate) hat of not only teaching the game of football but of providing some sort of show for the media.
The days of the stoic football coach analyzing and describing game performance in post-game interviews is over.
Fans and the media want a show.
It is no coincidence that the headlines following LSU’s victory over Ole Miss were not about the team’s performance in the game, but about head coach Les Miles’ performance in the press conference afterwards.
Sad? Yes. But that is the way it is in the modern sports culture.
Bielema doesn’t need to swear and put on a negative spectacle in order to get attention, but he does have to show some level of enthusiasm that will prove to be contagious when dealing with the media.
Fans like excitement after a win. They like to see that the coach is as happy as they are with a team’s performance. There is nothing wrong with having a positive and entertaining attitude for the media and the fans after a game.
Promote His Players
Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis were mentioned as possible Heisman contenders over the last two years. But there was not as much talk about them in the national media as there was about Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, even when the attention he was receiving was for positive reasons as opposed to his negative off-field issues.
The last player for Arkansas who made a sizable dent in the public consciousness was Darren McFadden, but that was almost five years ago. Ryan Mallet also received a fair share of media attention.
But Arkansas has had many great players since those two left Fayetteville.
Tyler Wilson passed for 3,638 yards with only six interceptions in 2011.
That same year, Andrew Luck passed for 3,517yards and 10 interceptions.
Luck did have a higher completion percentage, more touchdowns and a higher rating. He was the superior quarterback and deserved every bit of attention he received. But comparatively, Luck inspired a media frenzy, and Wilson was only a blip on the radar.
Would it have been different if Wilson had played for Stanford?
Arkansas has just as many talented players as everyone else, but the program doesn’t seem to promote its players as well as other schools. That is a problem that Bielema can work to solve.
Arkansas has the financial numbers to prove that the Hogs have enough of a following to warrant the attention of the national media for things other than the Bobby Petrino scandal.
Hopefully, Bielema will be the new face that can help the Razorbacks and their fans attain the level of national attention they deserve.