By now you’ve no doubt heard that the No. 21 Arkansas Razorbacks (8-4) will play the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5) for the first time on New Year’s Day in the Outback Bowl.
The game kicks off a day full of football at 11 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
That might not be the ideal time of those up late celebrating the New Year, but if you are watching football before noon CT. on New Year’s Day, you’ll be watching the Razorbacks.
Next up for the Razorbacks
Opponent: Penn State (Outback Bowl)
When: 11 a.m. Jan. 1
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
The trip is a great reward for the Razorback program that stood on the brink of oblivion just over two years ago when athletics director Hunter Yurachek had no other option but to pull the plug on the Chad Morris regime with two games left in the 2019 regular season.
Since then the Razorback football program has gone from being the laughing stock of the SEC if not the entirety of the Power 5 to one that has earned respect for its play on the field against one of the toughest if not the toughest schedules in all of college football.
There are many deserving teams making bowl trips this year, and some of them have proven to better than the Razorbacks, but no team has come as far in such a short period of time as Sam Pittman’s Hogs.
For their work and their success, the Razorbacks have more than earned the right for an all-expenses paid trip to Tampa to close out the year as well as the opportunity to tack on a ninth win to their resume against one of the blue bloods of college football, Penn State.
No doubt the Razorbacks will have fun when they reach Tampa on Dec. 26, but Pittman reminded everyone Sunday that it is a business trip, too.
I’m sure the Hogs will get tired of that message before they break for Christmas on Dec. 23, but the Hogs owe it to themselves to not only have fun in Tampa but also to lay it all on the line to bring home a bowl victory.
Pittman said Sunday that winning is what makes every bowl trip a good one.
Arkansas’ bowl record is spotty at 15-24-3. Interestingly enough, a lot of that had to do with the clout former athletic director and head football coach Frank Broyles earned through the years
Often times Broyles’ influence proffered bowl invitations that might have been a bit higher in the pecking order than possibly what some of the Razorbacks deserved, creating some imbalances on the playing field.
Broyles viewed bowl trips as rewards for good and great seasons, and he used all of his connections to make sure the Hogs garnered the best trips possible.
With the four-team playoff and the SEC coordinating the bowl bids for its member institutions with its bowl partners rather than individual programs jockeying for position as in the 1970s and ‘80s, things are a bit more cut and dried and even.
The Arkansas-Penn State matchup should be a good one. Most of Penn’s State’s losses were close ones. The Nittany Lions boast an outstanding defense that gave the best of the Big 10 trouble. It should be a challenging game for the Razorbacks and a fun one for fans.
All the details are set. See y'all in TAMPA. pic.twitter.com/xvo9CQENqT
— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) December 5, 2021
The other big news over the weekend was the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s report that Pittman had signed with super-agent Jimmy Sexton. Pittman confirmed the report Sunday in the bowl press conference, explaining that Sexton would be in a better position to negotiate for him and the needs of the coaching staff than his previous agent Judy Henry of Wright Lindsey Jennings, who is a Razorback fan herself.
Pittman also reiterated what he has said on a number of occasions that being the head coach of the Razorbacks is going to be his final job. In other words, the change in agency doesn’t mean he’s looking for another opportunity.
Sexton’s name should be well known to Hog fans. He not only represented former head coach Houston Nutt, but he also orchestrated the Gus Malzahn-Chad Morris bait-and-switch when the Razorback program was rudderless without an athletics director.
Boosters moved land and sea to oust athletics director Jeff Long and head coach Bret Bielema in an attempt to hitch a ride on the Gus Bus.
When Malzahn signed that sweet, sweet new contract with Auburn that guaranteed his family generational wealth, Sexton left Arkansas holding a bag full of Morris.
That fiasco nearly drove the program into the ground, but it also seeded that ground for Yurachek to become Arkansas’ athletics director and Pittman the head football coach, which are both very good things.
There is often pain before pleasure.
If I were a major college football coach, Sexton is the agent I would want representing me.
As rock musician Don Henley of the Eagles once said about his band’s agent Irving Azoff, “He’s Satan, but he’s our Satan.”
I’m guessing Sexton’s clients may have similar feelings.
And what a client list. Sexton represents Alabama’s Nick Saban, Georgia’ Kirby Smart, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin, and even Penn State’s James Franklin among others.
A funny story about how Sexton became an agent involved NFL great defensive lineman Reggie White. Sexton who knew White as an undergraduate at Tennessee basically delivered the future NFL Hall of Famer as a client to the Memphis agency fronted by Kyle Rote Jr. That got Sexton’s foot in the door at the agency.
The funny part, though, actually involved White’s feet. Though White is best known as a star pass-rusher and run-stopper first with the Philadelphia Eagles and later with the Green Bay Packers, the late defensive lineman started his professional career in the USFL for the Memphis Showboats in the 1980s.
After signing his first contract, White’s agents took him shopping at the famous Memphis clothing store Lansky Bros. on Beale Street. Lansky Bros. not only provided the most nattily dressed men in Memphis with fine suits, but they also were involved with creating those rhinestone-studded jumpsuits Elvis wore in the 1970s.
Well, Lansky Bros. not only dealt in rock-star apparel, but evidently the finest tube socks the Mid-South had to offer. On that shopping trip, some salesman sold White a life-time supply of tube socks for a reported sum of $2,000.
When the story got out around Memphis, Showboat fans began to bring tube socks to the football games and wave the around and around much like Pittsburg Steelers fans do with their Terrible Towels.
Now, I don’t know if Sexton had anything to do with that sock sale or not, but if he ever asks Pittman to go sock shopping, Sam ought to run.