Doc Harper: Razorbacks In Perfect Position To Take Chance On Jimmy Dykes

 

It’s way too soon to say if Jimmy Dykes is a home run hire,

but this is definitely a home run swing.

new razorabck womens basketball coach jimmy dykes

Doc Harper Bio PageI’m glad my gut reaction didn’t last long.

When I first heard on Sunday morning that Arkansas hired Jimmy Dykes to replace Tom Collen as the head coach of the women’s basketball program, my first thoughts were something along the lines of, “A broadcaster? Jeff Long hired a media personality as a head coach? He spent half a million dollars buying out Tom Collen to replace him with a local guy who’s not even a coach?

“Well, hey, if this works out, maybe I have a better shot at being a Razorbacks coach than I ever imagined!”

But once you take a step back and look at the bigger picture of women’s basketball and the Razorback athletic department, this really does make quite a bit of sense.

Whether or not Jimmy Dykes proves to be a big winner, it seems pretty likely he’ll generate more interest in the program than it’s seen in recent years. And that should count for something because women’s basketball has been leaving a good chunk of money on the table in lately.

It can be easy to forget the financial aspect of women’s basketball because it doesn’t pull in a profit like it’s male counterpart, but Jeff Long surely wouldn’t have agreed to buy out Collen if he didn’t think the athletic department was missing an important money-making opportunity in women’s basketball.

Take a quick look at the attendance numbers and it’s pretty clear that Arkansas should expect to do better. It’s not something that gets discussed a lot due to the relative lack of interest in women’s basketball, but on a larger scale, failure in this program is costing the overall athletic department hundreds of thousands, if not more than a million dollars over the last few years.

Attendance was absolutely atrocious this season. In the last five games, all SEC matchups, the team totaled 3,475 fans in estimated actual attendance. For comparison, the last gymnastics meet – a sport that’s less mainstream and competes on Friday nights, when it theoretically has more competition for local entertainment – drew 3,583 fans. The last five women’s basketball games combined did not match the number of fans that came out for a single gymnastics meet.

The last four Razorback gymnastics meets drew between 3,304 and 3,583 people each. Similarly, the average SEC women’s basketball game in 2013 was 3,520. Arkansas’ women’s basketball team in 2013 averaged less than 2,000 fans. UALR averaged 2,900 each game. In 2012 the Trojans outdrew the Razorbacks by about 500 fans a game. This is not a good trajectory for Jeff Long’s program.

If Arkansas had just met the SEC average in 2013, the athletic department would have earned another couple hundred thousand dollars in ticket sales alone, before adding in any concessions, souvenirs, etc. The discrepancy was likely even greater in 2014.

The goal is clear. Dykes is no stranger to being in the public eye and should do a fantastic job selling the program before the team ever takes its first dribble. It will be interesting to see how many more fans he can bring in immediately. Of course, if the team wins, it will only grow from there. But regardless, there’s no reason to think Arkansas can’t do much, much better in attendance.  It’s a relatively low bar to clear, and if they do, it will only have a positive impact on the rest of the department. Jeff Long does not like to leave money on the table.

So with interest in the program about as low as it can be, why not take a shot on Dykes? This is a very low risk situation. As my friend and fellow Arkansas Fight contributor Trent Wooldridge put it on twitter, “This is playing scratch offs at the gas station. Take a chance.

Arkansas is in an enviable position of not currently owing a lot of buyout money to former coaches, having just paid off John Pelphrey according to the original reporting of his buyout – and as we all know, UA owes nothing to the last football coach nor his interim replacement (For comparison, because this is always fun to note, Auburn owed Tony Barbee nearly $2.5 million when they fired him, and may end up paying Gene Chizik and his staff as much as $11 million). Bret Bielema, Mike Anderson, and Dave Van Horn all appear to be secure in their jobs for the foreseeable future, so the Hogs are in good position to take a chance on a coach with an unorthodox resume.

It’s way too soon to say if this is a home run hire, but it’s definitely a home run swing. And even if it results in a single or a double, that will be an improvement for the women’s basketball program, and that’s a win for the entire athletic department.

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Doc Harper is the managing editor of Arkansas Fight and a contributor to Sporting Life Arkansas. You can email him at heydocharper@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @doc_harper.

 

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  • Chad Mitchell

    Speaking if UALR, the obvious choice should have been Foley. The guy is a winner everywhere he goes. He has taken a Lady Trojan team that was barely in existence to the Top 25 and NCAA Tournament appearances. I would like to think Long at least made the call. Dykes. It is what it is. Taking a chance is about the best way to explain it.

  • 40 Minute Hell Razor

    I get the PR angle with Dykes, but don’t you have to win in women’s basketball, just like men’s, before the fans will show up on a consistent basis? Can Dykes win? Are they gonna hire Nolan Richardson to do the actual coaching? Can Dykes coach? This “home run” talk has me scratching my head, where I see more of a whiff.

    • Doc Harper

      Yes, they’ll have to win eventually. But I think enough people will be interested in the program initially just from Dykes’ presence that it will positively impact the program.

      That interest will only last if he wins, but even if he doesn’t, it’s hard to imagine the program at a lower spot than where it currently is.

      • 40 Minute Hell Razor

        I hadn’t realized the program was in that bad a shape; thanks for pointing it out. I don’t follow the women’s game, ’cause I don’t live in Fayetteville anymore. I like to watch the women in person but not on TV. Who was the coach before Collen? Didn’t he leave Arkansas and go down to Texas and win a national championship? I think some people in the Dept. of Athletics have their head where the sun don’t shine.

  • William Heath

    Jimmy Dykes is a 6 STAR PLUS HIRE, HE WILL WIN, AND HE IS A 6-STAR PLUS RECRUITER.