I let a number of stories fall by the wayside last week in order to give the space over to something far more pressing than any immediate condition of our football program. A recent academic progress report issued by TIDES (The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport) sheds a startlingly harsh light on our academic track record. Since the rest of the Arkansas media seems content with the current situation, likely worn down to apathy by years of execrable graduation rates, I thought I might spell the most damning numbers out one more time. They bear reiteration:
The University of Arkansas, over six years covered by the study, mustered a diploma for its African-American football players at a rate of only 40 percent. That's the lowest in the conference, by a wide margin. Shockingly, during the same period, Arkansas bestowed diplomas on its white athletes at a rate of 78 percent. Let those numbers sink in for a little bit: A 38-percent difference in the number of white and black athletes who graduate. No other bowl-eligible SEC team displays such a discrepancy between white and black players save for Auburn, an institution that actually graduates black players at an 8 percent higher rate than the Razorbacks. (The Tigers just do a better job of educating in general, seeing that 94 percent of their white athletes receive a diploma.)
Arkansas could lose up to 10 percent of its scholarships if its overall APR (Academic Progress Rate) falls below 925. What's Arkansas's current APR? 927. That's a knife's edge from penalty territory and second worst in the conference. Thank God for Mississippi?
Now, if you can still conjure some interest in the more mundane details of amateur athletics, we have several developments to discuss.
• Paul Petrino's departure couldn't have been handled more smoothly. Razorback fans tend to give Bobby Petrino the benefit of the doubt, so if losing your offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach going into a vital recruiting period seems like it should sound some kind of alarm in the news coverage, it's a testament to our deep belief in Petrino's foresight that the whole thing came off feeling planned from the beginning. Sure, you'll hear a few cracks about itchiness running in the blood, but most folks know that Paul Petrino needs an opportunity to perform out from under his big brother, and they'll grant him that while also granting Bobby Petrino Garry Kasparov-like prescience. Garrick McGee slides into position as the OC naturally and even with a little anticipation on our parts. Change isn't always bad.
• By all accounts, Ryan Mallet's on the fence about entering the draft as a third-year sophomore. Tyler Wilson reportedly took a large share of first-team snaps last week, and you have to think that Mallett's having an understandably hard time focusing on Jan. 2nd. He should seek the advice of close family and friends, and he can hear the fans out, but in the end he needs to keep his own counsel.
• Celebrate Arkansas stepped in a steaming pile of it with that photo spread. As if the basketball program didn't have enough worries at the moment. Everyone's pointing fingers, but the editor of the Northwest Arkansas lifestyle magazine seems to be spending the most time under the bus. If the simple transgression – using the photo spread to apparently advertise the clothing the players wore – seems rather innocuous, the result of a perfectly explicable miscommunication, then think of the thick folder of nitpicky rules young athletes have to commit to memory in order to maintain their amateur status. If a person who supposedly lives by the word can't keep things straight, how's a busy college freshman gonna keep left of trouble?
• And about those other worries of the moment: Somebody's been uploading a lot of vintage footage of Razorback basketball games to YouTube. The SWC days. Back when we had swagger. Pel's red blazer gestured toward that time in a positive way, but there's no evidence of it anywhere on the hardwood floor of Bud Walton Arena. Last year would have been a nightmare sophomore season for any coach, but nothing changes the fact that Pel needs to find that lean quick-like. Fans didn't have much patience to lose, and it's sure enough long gone.