New Coach, New Season, New Buzzword
Razorback fans passionate about Petrino
By Maylon T. Rice
Chuck Barrett says “passionate” is more than a just a seasonal moniker or buzzword when it comes to winning football games this fall. He says it’s developing into a way of life that thousands of Razorback gridiron fans have begun living: A passion for Hog football reminiscent of the former glory days that has been building since the hiring of new Hog coach Bobby Petrino.
“Now, true Razorback fans have always been passionate about the program,” said Barrett, the broadcast voice of the Hog football program in a recent pre-season interview, “But I can tell you from attending about 20 Razorback Club meetings all over this state with the coaching staff last winter, this spring and summer – the word “passionate” is being used and not in whispered terms about winning and making this program be the best it can be.”
Barrett sees a movement that is more than a temporary groundswell for the fall.
“The real passion of Razorback fans has returned and returned big time. And boy, oh, boy, are the true Hog fans “passionate” about this new coach and his new way of doing things,” Barrett said.
A new sheriff and a new system, is indeed, well established in Hog Town U.S.A. A businesslike, no nonsense approach, and up speed tempo are all in place, Barrett said.
While saying the Razorbacks should be fun in 2008, Barrett acknowledged that the program isn’t where the current coaching staff wants it to be. But as always, the program will be scrappy and may, actually surprise some people.
Barrett enters his 15th season as a part of the broadcast crew and his second season as the actual play-by-play announcer.
There are few changes in the in-booth staff this fall with Keith Jackson of Little Rock, joining Barrett as color analyst (it’s Jackson’s 9th year); former Hog quarterback Quinn Grovey as sideline reporter (in his 11th year) and co-host Scott Inman, the Little Rock television broadcaster (in his 10th year).
Barrett, who took over the slot a year after the death of longtime voice of the football Razorbacks Paul Ells, won’t talk about it, but he was selected as the 2007 Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
The day for the Clarksville native is a busy one on game days. And for Barrett, one of his favorites things to do it literally open the stadium.
“I like to get there early, I mean real early and watch the stadium fill up,” he said. “I love to watch the crowd file in and fill up the stadium. At first it is slow with the early birds getting there and pretty soon it is a wave of red and white filling all the seats. It still gives me chill bumps to watch the stadium come alive with Razorback fans.”
As not only the voice of the broadcast, Barrett wears the hat of producing many, of not almost all, of the pre-game shows and much of the post game shows. He is also the on-camera host of the Sunday morning taping of the Bobby Petrino Coaches Show, when the previous Saturday’s game is dissected by the head coach and fans can get a first glimpse of next week’s opponent.
Barrett takes it all in stride. His duties have expanded with the addition of new athletic director, Jeff Long, and there have been some major changes in the Razorback program. For instance, Barrett has taken on the role as the “talent” in the daily Razorback website updates on Razorback sports.
“Oh, there is plenty to do when the fall season kicks off,” Barrett said. “Sometimes you almost look forward to being on the road. At least there you can hide out in the hotel room, away from the phone, friends and family in town for a Razorback game to get some work done.”
Barrett notes, as do many Razorback fans, that the Texas game on Sept. 13 in Austin looms large.
“It will be my first time behind the microphone in Memorial Stadium and to me that’s a big deal,” Barrett said.
Barrett, like all fans, is hoping for a win in Texas. It would be a sweet win over what is historically one of Arkansas’s biggest rivals.
But a bigger circle on most Hog fans’ calendars is Oct. 25 for the game in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Frank Broyles Field when Ole Miss comes to town.
“That will be a big game,” Barrett said. “No doubt about it, that’s a big game.”
In fact it was the Ole Miss game a year ago in Oxford, Miss., that led Barrett to the funniest highlight of the Razorback broadcasts.
“The Ole Miss folks had some balloons and fireworks at halftime. Well some of the stuff got tangled in some high voltage wires and there was some big time popping going on. We went off the air, but when we got back on the air, my broadcast partner Keith Jackson had the best line about the popping noises and fireworks.”
Barrett explained that it went something like this: Jackson said ‘Chuck me and you, we come from different neighborhoods. Chuck, you stood up thinking it was something patriotic like a 21-gun salute, me, I hit the floor thinking is was a drive-by shooting.’
While no one is asking for another impromptu power outage, Barrett does think some of this renewed passion for Razorback football may lead to some fireworks on offense for the Hogs in 2008.
“And for true Razorback fans, the winning can’t start soon enough.”
Broyles, Hatfield, Schaeffer at book signing
Hog fans can attend a book signing from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on North College Avenue across from the Northwest Arkansas Mall.
Former coaches Frank Broyles and Ken Hatfield and longtime UA sports information director Rick Schaeffer will sign copies of Schaeffer’s book “The University of Arkansas Football Vault: The History of the Razorbacks.” Hog calling is welcome.
Razorbacks ranked high by some, low by others
The farther from Fayetteville you get, the higher the Razorbacks are placed in pre-season rankings.
What’s a sports fan to think after reading all the pre-season rankings of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks?
Only an accountant’s crunching of power ratings and rankings is likely to bring a resolution to the fact that this year’s football squad is literally ranked up and down and all over the nation’s gridiron map.
Why, the men’s magazine that proudly proclaims itself as “Entertainment for Men” has the Hogs ranks as high as 19th.
What? Nineteenth in a national poll?
Yep. Read all about it in Playboy’s preseason Top 25 that’s on news stands now. Nineteenth! Woo Pig Sooie.
But Sports Illustrated, the national sports magazine that devoted its southeastern United States cover to the University of Georgia Bulldogs, hints that the Dawgs in red and black are going to be the SEC’s No. 1 team. And alas the magazine also chooses the Georgia folks as college football’s No. 1 overall pick. But remember sports fans, the SI cover is a longstanding jinx in some minds.
The Razorbacks, in SI’s poison pen rankings, fall to last or sixth in the Southeastern Conference Western Division and 69th overall in the U.S. Yes, 69th out of a possible 119 in Division I major college football. That’s just behind No. 68 Central Florida. Thanks, SI. Thanks for the vote of confidence.
How ever Arkansas winds up, in the SI rankings the Hogs appear ahead of Kentucky at No. 72, and Vanderbilt, which is even further down the list.
SI is not the only publication that has the Hogs in the bottom of the SEC West. Hooten’s Arkansas Football Magazine’s own Barry Groomes also has the Porkers dead last in the SEC West.
In a story in Hooten’s by Jon Mark Beilue, Beilue has the Razorbacks ranked as No. 51 in the nation, with Georgia as No.1. The only SEC schools behind Arkansas are Kentucky at No. 52 and Vanderbilt at No. 70.
Jim Harris’ Arkansas 360 preseason magazine puts the Hogs next to last in the SEC West. Thank God for Mississippi State in that publication.
So what’s a fan to do?
Write it all off to a rebuilding year? A new coach? A coaching and athletic director change? A new sheriff in town?
Well, as many of these preseason pundits and ranksters well know, few teams end up as they were ranked preseason when the season comes to an end. So four months from now before Bowl Season begins, we shall all know how the Razorbacks fared. And in most polls, the Hogs have nowhere to go but up in the rankings — even the high perch awarded them by the editors of Playboy. Maylon T. Rice