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Clarke Granted Release From Arkansas

Last week, basketballer Rotnei Clarke decided to get word to the press that he’d asked for a release from his Arkansas scholarship.  Over the weekend, new coach Mike Anderson considered the situation.  Yesterday, the Razorbacks’ leading scorer from a year ago was given his release.

“Upon receiving a written request and meeting with (Clarke), as part of our review process, it is clear to me that it is in the best interests of everyone for Rotnei to continue his academic and athletic career elsewhere,” AD Jeff Long said via statement yesterday.  “We wish him well and hope that he finds what he is searching for at a new institution.”

Anderson also released comments yesterday: “Shortly after I arrived, I met with him and was given every indication that he wanted to be a part of our program moving forward.  Recently, Rotnei informed me of his intent to leave the University of Arkansas.  At that time, I informed him that he would need to speak with the athletic director regarding his request.  I then recommended to Jeff Long that we grant him a release to allow him to speak to other schools.”

“We will continue to build our program with student-athletes who are committed on and off the court to being Razorbacks,” Anderson continued.  “That is how this program was built, with guys who are dedicated to the hard work, pride and passion it requires to be a part of the championship tradition of Razorback Basketball.”

Last week, Clarke told CBSSports.com: “I love the school and the fans, but I just don’t feel as though it’s the best fit for me basketball-wise.”  He also said, “I have spent the last couple of months getting to know Coach Anderson, his staff and his system.  And I still feel as though it’s best for me to finish my career somewhere else.”

Clarke averaged 14.2 points per game over his 92-game UA career.  He holds the school record for most points in a game with 51 versus Alcorn State in 2009-10.  He was one of the deadliest three-point gunners in the SEC.

Without Clarke — and Glenn Bryant and Jeff Peterson who also transferred out — the Hogs will have just six returning scholarship players next season.  Four of Arkansas’ five spring signees, however, are expected to be academically eligible.

It’s one thing to have 10 scholarship players.  It’s another thing to have 10 scholarship players when trying to run up and down the court with a “40 minutes of Hell” style of play.  

Making matters worse, the departures of Clarke and Bryant will be another hit on UA’s APR score.  The Hogs are already being docked one scholarship due to a history of low scores.  (Peterson had already graduated, so his departure will not count against the program.)

As for Clarke, he’ll have to sit out a year before playing his final season of college ball at his new school.

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Fan Apathy Could Seal Pelphrey’s Fate

If fans pack the house and spend their cash on tickets, concessions, parking and souvenirs, a school’s losing coach can survive.  But when fans put away their wallets and decide to watch games on the HD sets in their living rooms, even winning coaches can be toppled.

At Arkansas, fan apathy is setting in and that might prove to be the final nail in John Pelphrey’s cardinal coffin — as if losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss to close out the season weren’t bad enough.

According to Robbie Neiwanger at ArkansasNews.com, the Hogs’ attendance figures have dropped every year under Pelphrey from 17,148 (in 2007-08) to 12,022 (this year in Fayetteville games only).  Average attendance has dropped across the country since 2007 as well, but at a much more modest 5,548 to 5,245 clip.  Attendance has declined nationally… it’s nosedived at Bud Walton Arena.

Athletic director Jeff Long refuses to comment on what effect attendance and revenue numbers might have on Pelphrey, but he did put out a statement:


We are appreciative of our fans and their continued support in attending Razorback Basketball.  Although our average attendance has fallen in recent seasons it still ranks more than twice the national average.  We are committed to returning Bud Walton Arena to its place among the national attendance leaders.


When comparing UA’s 12,022 average attendance to the national average of 5,245, yes, things do look rosy.  But when you compare 12,022 to the Razorbacks’ attendance figure of 17,148 from just three seasons ago, the picture goes from looking rosy to red.  As in, “UA basketball is running in the red.”  And that’s not a good sign for the Hogs’ beleaguered head coach.

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