By Derek Oxford
Arkansas didn’t have quite as successful a year in 2015-16 as it had in 2014-15, which saw the football team win a bowl game, the basketball team make the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and the baseball team make the College World Series for the eighth time in school history.
Last year, the football team did make progress, however, by improving its record from 7-6 to 8-5, which included a thrilling upset win over Ole Miss and then a dismantling of LSU for the second consecutive season.
The Razorbacks capped things off with a 45-23 victory over Kansas State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis. In the spring, a number of players were drafted, including Hunter Henry, who went in the second round to the San Diego Chargers.
Running back Jonathan Williams was drafted in the fifth round by the Buffalo Bills, and fellow running back Alex Collins was selected in the same round by the Seattle Seahawks. Quarterback Brandon Allen, who had one of the best campaigns by a signal caller in Arkansas history, was taken in the sixth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola was taken in the sixth round as well, by the Tennessee Titans.
The basketball team regressed after losing Bobby Portis to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, as well as Michael Qualls, who declared for the draft but wasn’t taken. After a counterfeiting scandal saw Arkansas have to kick Jacorey Williams off the team and lose Anton Beard for a semester, the Razorbacks were a .500 team heading into SEC play.
That’s where they would finish up as well, with a 16-16 overall mark and a 9-9 record in league competition. In the process, players like Moses Kingsley and Dusty Hannahs emerged as key contributors, and both will return this season as Arkansas tries to make it back to the NCAA Tournament.
A talented recruiting class, spearheaded by some highly regarded junior college players, has many people expecting the Razorbacks to earn a spot in the Big Dance.
Probably the most shocking thing was the decline of the baseball team. Head coach Dave Van Horn had never had a losing season as the Arkansas skipper, but after a blistering start, the team cooled off in SEC play and never recovered, finishing near the cellar of the conference and missing a NCAA regional for the first time since 2001.
No one expects Arkansas to continue that slide, however, and the team should be back in the hunt to make a regional in 2017.
Other UA varsity sports include track and field and cross-country, in which the Razorbacks have won an unprecedented 43 NCAA national championships, including 12 straight NCAA indoor titles from 1984 to 1995.
Athlete Jarrion Lawson, a Texarkana, Texas native, did something that hadn’t been done since Jesse Owens in 1936 when he won gold medals in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the long jump at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Oregon.
His performance made him a Bowerman Award finalist, given to the nation’s top male track athlete, and he is also up for an ESPY for best college male athlete.
Longtime women’s track and field coach Lance Harter won his first national championship during the 2014-15 campaign in indoor track, which was held in Fayetteville.
They also won a national championship this past year, winning the outdoor crown. Harter was named Coach of the Year for his efforts.
The success of the program has played a role in the construction of world-class facilities, including the Randal Tyson Track Center for indoor competition and John McDonnell Field, named for the Hogs’ legendary former head track coach.
UA also field teams in golf (men’s and women’s), gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis (men and women) and volleyball.
More information for all UA sporting events is available online at arkansasrazorbacks.com, or wholehogsports.com. Ticket information is available by calling (800) 982-4647.