State of the Hogs: Headed South

It must be time to watch football. I'm headed to Ft. Smith on Tuesday to speak to the Ft. Smith Quarterback Club.

Actually, it's not the Quarterback Club anymore. Because of pressure from the NCAA, that group now goes by the name of the Ft. Smith Razorback Club.

It predates the formation of the Razorback clubs around the state (and the Razorback Foundation) and kept its old name until the last few months when folks in Fayetteville asked them to change it and restructure its by-laws to more closely follow NCAA guidelines.

Doesn't really change things for me, or the club. On the first Tuesday before the Razorback season opener, I'm still going to be headed to Ft. Smith. Per the usual, I'll speak to the group at the Oaks Club at 7 p.m. The doors are supposed to open at 6 p.m., although president Len Bauman knows a ton of folks will be there around 5:30 p.m. Hopefully, they've called 452-3372 or 452-5440 to reserve their $15 spot for catfish and fried chicken.

There will be the usual auction of tickets and several other neat items like signed jerseys from Marcus Monk and Peyton Hillis. I can pretend they are coming to hear me, but I know they come for those season tickets, parking passes and other auction items.

The Ft. Smith group, no matter the name, has always been one of the state's top contributors to the Foundation. It was founded in 1954, the year I was born, and been on solid footing ever since.

Men like C.A. Fawcett, Roy Gean, Tom Blake, Randy Cutting and Chuck Fawcett have been the ramrods of the club through the years. I feel a certain relation to all of them through my father, their speaker on this annual date for about the first 40 or so years.

OH asked me to take his spot about 10 years ago. It made me nervous for a few years. I knew they weren't coming to hear me. I felt like they would always be disappointed to find me there instead of my father.

But I'm starting to feel at home. I look forward to hearing from Bauman or his messengers every summer to remind me of the August speaking date. And, I now recognize so many of the faces my father called his friends.

I know who is going to ask the questions, and sometimes even the questions. For example:

Steve Rappaport, often asking three to four questions, will invariably want to know when Frank Broyles is going to retire. My answer Tuesday will again be that Coach Broyles is never going to retire.

Ricky Cross may ask the follow-up question. He'll say, what about that rumor that Houston Nutt is about ready to take over as athletic director and Butch Davis will be the new coach? I will be ready. Look at the salary of each job. Nutt makes around $1.3 million, give or take $250,000. Coach Broyles just makes the give or take amount. I don't figure Houston wants to cut his salary by that amount when he still has 8-10 more prime years left to coach. Coach Broyles isn't leaving anyway. Heck, he's only 80.

Roger Meek will then ask about the kicking game. I can tell the group that the kicking game is still a question mark and that the punting job is still unsettled between Jacob Skinner and Southside product Jeremy Davis. Chris Baleseiro has yet to grab the placekicker's job by the throat and Davis may yet take that job from him.

I'd be willing to bet that Randy Cutting will ask me to pick an exact record. I'll remind him that OH has always instructed me to go with 11-0 because that sends the folks home happy and excited and ready for the season, but my nature is to be more realistic. After reminding that I picked 6-5 (if Matt Jones stayed healthy) or 5-6 (if he didn't). He wasn't healthy all year and 5-6 was the result. I'm still hedging on the record for this season. I'll wait until Tuesday night to stick my neck out.

Larry Burnham will ask a question or two. He'll probably want to know a little bit more about the offensive philosophy. Are we going down the middle of the field a little more this year? Yes, I'd say at this point, with more emphasis on passes to backs and tight ends.

Mike Bock will then blurt out, "We are throwing to the tight ends?"

It's always fun. I especially enjoy when I sit down after the Q&A session, take a long gulp of sweet tea, for the start of the auction. The sing-song of the auctioneer's voice is worth the trip. The only thing that makes me feel better is that thought about the trip home. It will be on I-540 and not a "scenic by-way."

It's easier to think about the answers you wished you'd given while cruising I-540 than it was in the old days when you were dodging deer on old US 71. And, then there's that annual thought when you hit the Bobby Hopper tunnel (the point you know you are almost home) when you try to remember if you saw Scott Faldon, the Times-Record sports editor. Would you be quoted in the paper on anything controversial?

Not this year. For once, it's already in print.

CLAY HENRY IS THE PUBLISHER OF HAWGS ILLUSTRATED, A STEPHENS MEDIA GROUP PUBLICATION. HIS COLUMN APPEARS EACH FRIDAY. E-MAIL: CLAY@NWAONLINE.NET

Hawgs Daily Top Stories