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Bud Walton Living off Reputation, Not Reality

Razorback basketball fans have gotten soft over years; need work to return to den of fury slobberin' Hogs' arena once was

Arkansas fans, you have homework. 

Set your DVRs to record the replay of the Auburn-Kentucky game. Before the next Razorback game at Bud Walton, we need you to watch it and see what high energy in a pivotal game looks like. 

Note the students lining the entire bottom of the arena. Don't only observe their coordination of orange shirts, but also that they're up yelling and bouncing all over the place while non-students, even the high dollar donors and head football coaches feed off it also. 

Auburn football head coach Bryan Harsin joins the students section as Auburn Tigers men's basketball takes on Kentucky Wildcats at Auburn Arena on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Auburn Tigers defeated Kentucky Wildcats 80-71.

Close your eyes and listen to the waves of deafening roar after deafening roar.

For those middle-aged and older, you will be reminded of what it was like at Arkansas during the '80s and '90s when "Fayettenam" was the most feared placed in the country to play basketball.

Not even Rupp Arena at its height could hang. 

Maybe years, perhaps even decades, of apathy and being average wore fans down, but Bud Walton is currently living on an unearned reputation. 

Razorback fans sit in their seats calmly observing Arkansas Razorbacks guards JD Notae (1) and Davonte Davis (4) scrapping with South Carolina Gamecocks guard Erik Stevenson (10) for control of the loose ball they knocked away with active defense in the second half at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas won 75-59.
Arkansas Razorbacks guard Stanley Umude (0) dunks the ball in the second half against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas won 75-59.
South Carolina Gamecocks guard Devin Carter (23) and Arkansas Razorbacks guard Stanley Umude (0) reach for a loose ball in the first half at Bud Walton Arena.

Fayetteville has become the Texas football of college basketball. A lot of hype without delivering substance. 

A handful of fans tried to blame the relative quiet of the arena for much of the Texas A&M game on ESPN setting its crowd microphones to low levels, but it was clear late in the game that this wasn't the issue as the fans finally found their energy.

In the past this could be blamed on the teams, but Musselman has delivered squads worthy of the same energy Auburn got this past weekend. 

Long ago, Nolan Richardson captured the spirit of Barnhill in a crystal bowl and carried it over to Bud Walton as a symbol that Razorback spirit would never fall below the level established beforehand.

That spirit appears to have slowly leaked out of the building. 

For much of the year, the "sellout crowd" has represented itself with giant swaths of empty seats. Some nights it feels half full at best. 

Saturday night against A&M there appeared to be actual butts in seats instead of debit card placeholders, but the problem is there were butts actually IN the seats. 

I've spent most of my life in Arkansas. The people there don't sit that much at church on Sundays and Wednesday nights. 

The only time the majority of people weren't just sitting around looking like the preacher is working his way through the begats until the last couple of minutes of regulation was when "YMCA" played during a timeout.

Cheerleaders-Texas A&M
Cheerleader-South Carolina
Cheerleaders-Texas A&M

It should be so loud and rowdy from beginning to end that cheerleaders shouldn't have to do much more than start a Hog call. There should be a non-stop adrenaline rush for players to pull from that is intimidating to the most ice-veined players in the league.

Sit the pep band director down and make him watch hours of film featuring Jim Robken running all over the place whipping every fan and Hogwild Band member into a slobbering fury and then give him a cardio test to see if he's up to the challenge. Bring back the spirit stick meter as a visual reminder as to whether Hog fans are actually getting loud. 

It took until around the 3:16 mark of the second half for fans to be noticeable outside of a bad call or two by the referees. Even then the energy fell off a cliff less than a minute later in the middle of an important defensive stand.

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Something has to be done. The A&M game never should have gone to overtime. Close games like that are ones fans win.

It can't be enough for pregame shows to say Bud Walton is one of the most intimidating venues without it being backed up throughout the course of the game.

There can't be anymore chunks of hundreds of seats empty. Fans can't sit around for 37 of the 40 minutes. 

It has to feel like it did the last minute of overtime all night. Fans should leave as exhausted as the starters.

When Arkansas made back-to-back championship runs, the players had intensity throughout practice and the games, the pep band blew the roof off from beginning to end, and the fans reflected all that effort and the intensity of Nolan Richardson from 10 minutes before the game until five minutes after.

If Arkansas fans want a championship teams again, then it's time to be championship fans.

Fans-Texas A&M
Fans-Texas A&M
Fans-Texas A&M

It's time to will this team to two or three more wins that it would normally get off talent alone. 

Bud Walton has a reputation it no longer deserves. That doesn't mean it can't be earned back. 

Until further notice, Auburn is the best environment in the SEC and the gap is wide.

However, Razorback fans have two home games, a non-conference pride game against West Virginia on Saturday and a revenge game against Mississippi State the following Saturday, before the chance for their own redemption presents itself. 

Tuesday, Feb. 8, is your championship game Hog fans. If you want to walk around claiming Bud Walton is an intimidating place to play, then you will have to bring a fervor that hasn't been seen this season. 

If you can't, then it's time to stop calling Bud Walton anything more than just another arena.

If this offends you, Hog fan, then get your butt up out of those red plastic seats and actually do something about it. 

Otherwise, make like it's the first half of a Razorback game, just sit there quietly while the mystique of Bud Walton fades away into the past where it can join the distant memories of Dallas Cowboy Super Bowls and Texas Longhorns football as a national power.

It's up to you.

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