“Reaching the one-year anniversary of my start date here at Arkansas State Athletics last week, this 17th and final 2022-23 edition of State of the Pack holds special significance for me personally. When I arrived, one of our very first initiatives was to strengthen our Athletics Department’s communication and engagement with our community and fan base.
Reflecting on these newsletters (along with our “State of the Pack Live!” event), we wanted to find new ways to strengthen our relationships with all of you – the lifeblood of our program. I want to thank our donors, season ticket holders and fans for the great support they’ve shown.
I want to also thank everyone for a special first year and for the warm welcome our family has received from the A-State community. I talked about finding the right fit in terms of the people, school and community at my opening press conference, and our family couldn’t be happier with the transition from Tuscaloosa to Jonesboro. We enjoyed getting out during our Howl on Wheels caravans to meet many of you, and I think that is a great example of the alignment our athletics leadership and coaches have with campus and Dr. Shields.
In terms of our athletics department, we have made some significant strides in several areas. We have a lot still to do as we move forward, but we’re proud of our six conference championships claimed this year and posting the highest finish among all Sun Belt programs in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings. We also continued to achieve great things in the classroom, most recently posting a 3.165 all-department GPA in the spring with 70 percent of our Red Wolves appearing on the Athletics Director’s Honor Roll.
Our staff is committed to helping our student-athletes reach their full potential both athletically and academically. We want to graduate our Red Wolves, bring home championships and represent this University in a first-class manner. It will take all of us pulling in the same direction to reach those goals.
Hope everyone has a great summer and gets some time to recharge before our fall sports start again. We are excited to see you at our next A-State event.”
Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
We look forward to resuming our State of the Pack communication in August, but here are a few things to be on the lookout for this summer and leading up to the start of our fall sports!
- Red Wolves Foundation newsletters
- Football game themes, giveaways, promotions, tailgating information and home kickoff times
- A-State Athletics App & Mobile Ticketing Updates
- Sun Belt Conference Football Media Days in July
- 2022-23 A-State Athletics End of Year Review appearing on AStateRedWolves.com
- 1200 Club updates
- Red Wolves Preseason Kickoff Banquet information
- Start of fall camps and practices for football, volleyball, soccer and cross country
- Student-Athlete Welcome Back in August
LEARFIELD DIRECTORS’ CUP
The final 2023-24 Learfield Directors’ Cup standings were revealed this week, and we had the highest finish among all Sun Belt Conference programs at No. 128. A-State not only had the best score among all Sun Belt schools for the fourth time in school history, we jumped 52 places in the standing this year after coming in at No. 180 in 2022-23. Our finish tied our fourth best in program history since the Directors Cup national all-sports standings began in 1993-94.
Representing our men’s and women’s track and field teams at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Pauline Meyer, Camryn Newton-Smith, Bradley Jelmert and Aimar Palma Simo all earned All-America recognition.
Pauline and Camryn both finished eighth in their respective events, the 3000-meter steeplechase and heptathlon, to give our women’s program multiple first-team honorees in the same season for the first time in school history. Camryn broke her own school and conference record in the heptathlon (5,887 points), while Pauline became the first women’s distance runner to earn All-America honors (indoors or outdoors).
Bradley and Aimar both made their national championship debuts and were honorable-mention selections after placing 20th in the hammer throw and 21st in the pole vault, respectively. Congratulations to these four student-athletes, as well as our entire team on a fantastic season!
2023 WOMEN’S SOCCER SCHEDULE
Head women’s soccer coach Brian Dooley released our 2023 schedule last week, and the 17-game slate features seven non-conference fixtures including matchups with Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma State. We’ll get our 2023 campaign underway Aug. 8 with the first of two exhibition outings ahead of our season opener Aug. 17 at Arkansas. The schedule features nine regular-season home contests, and we look forward to seeing you at the A-State Soccer Park this year to cheer on our Red Wolves!
2023 VOLLEYBALL SCHEDULE
Led by head coach Brian Gerwig, our volleyball team will play 11 home matches inside First National Bank Arena as part of our 2023 schedule that was announced this week. We begin the upcoming season by hosting Louisiana Tech, North Alabama and Little Rock Aug. 25-26 before going on the road for three consecutive tournaments.
Our Red Wolves start Sun Belt play Sept. 22 at Georgia Southern, but we also play eight league games at home. Season tickets are available by calling the A-State Ticket Office at 870-972-2781 or by visiting AStateRedWolves.com/tickets. We appreciate everyone’s support of our volleyball program and student-athletes!
FOOTBALL GAME TIMES/TV DESIGNATIONS ANNOUNCED FOR FIRST THREE CONTESTS
With our football season less than 100 days away, kickoff times and television designations were announced May 31 for our first three games of the year. We begin our third season under head coach Butch Jones with a third all-time meeting against Oklahoma, but then play three straight home games in the month of September for the first time in school history.
We visit Oklahoma Sept. 2 for an 11:00 a.m. kickoff with a nationally-televised game on ESPN following College GameDay. Our home slate begins with a 6:00 p.m. matchup against Memphis that will appear on ESPN+. Ahead of our conference opener against Southern Miss on Sept. 23, we’ll host Stony Brook at 6:00 p.m. on Sept. 16 with the game broadcast on ESPN+.
We hope you’ll #CommitToSix and join us on all six of our home game days this season at Centennial Bank Stadium. Your support and commitment to our football program not only helps our student-athletes, but it also elevates the fan experience by creating a great game day atmosphere and home-field advantage.
We’re proud of the way our student-athletes continue to participate in important community service projects in Northeast Arkansas. Some recent examples of their outstanding work in the region includes the football team’s participation in the Community Health Education Foundation’s (CHEF) Corporate Olympics and visiting with the Chess Club at University Heights School of Medical Arts. Earlier this week, our men’s basketball team assisted with various projects at City Youth Ministries while learning about the great work the program does across Northeast Arkansas.
ATHLETICS DEPARTMENT ADDITIONS
We were excited to announce three new staff additions recently. Taylor Hall is joining our executive staff as our Senior Associate Athletics Director for Compliance and NIL Initiatives. Taylor spent the last five years working in the compliance office at Alabama, including the last 14 months as Assistant AD for Compliance and NIL Initiatives. After earning his Juris Doctor from Charleston School of Law, his path to A-State also included a pair of stops in the athletics compliance offices at Montana State and The Citadel.
Our head men’s basketball coach, Bryan Hodgson, also continued to build his staff as he gets ready for his first season in Jonesboro. Derek Rongstad was named an assistant coach after spending the last four seasons with Bryan at Alabama, where helped the program make three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Logan Ingram joined our men’s basketball staff as Video Coordinator after previously serving as a team manager at Alabama, holding down an important role that included coordinating practice and game video, preliminary scouting with the coaching staff and providing analytics assistance, among other responsibilities.
SOUTHLAND BOWLING LEAGUE ALL-ACADEMIC HONORS
Following a runner-up finish at the National Collegiate Bowling Championship, seven members of our women’s bowling team earned Southland Bowling League All-Academic recognition. Congratulations to Shalee Bradley, Vanessa Noftsier, Sarah Sanes, Emma Stull, Maggie Thoma, Karlie VanDuinen and Faith Welch on this achievement!
Postseason honors continued to roll in for Bandon Hager this week, earning All-South Region accolades from the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings. He was also named to Natural State Baseball’s All-Arkansas Team last week and tabbed the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week following our sweep of South Alabama. Congrats to Brandon on these well-deserved honors!
SPORTS MEDICINE GOLF SCRAMBLE
The 24th Annual Arkansas State University Sports Medicine Golf Scramble is set for Monday, June 26, at the Jonesboro Country Club, and registration is currently open for the event directly benefitting our student-athletes through our Athletics Department’s sports medicine and athletic training program. Click HERE for more details and to download a copy of the tournament brochure.
Congrats to women’s golf senior Olivia Schmidt, recently named All-Sun Belt Conference. She becomes our first three-time all-conference selection since Amanda Beeler (1998-01) and third player in program history to earn three or more all-conference nods, joining Beeler and Rachel Stewart.
RECAPPING HOWL ON WHEELS: RED WOLVES ROAD SHOW
We appreciate everyone who was able to attend our “Howl on Wheels: Red Wolves Road Shows” in Jonesboro, Bryant, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Memphis. Our coaches and administration (and Howl) enjoyed connecting with and sharing updates regarding our Athletics Department with donors, fans and alumni. We were excited to bring back the coaching caravans this year, and I thought we had five events that turned out really well thanks to the support we received from the community. We look forward to hosting more events like these in the future as we work to remain actively engaged with our fan base.
MEN’S GOLF COMPLETES SEASON AT NGI
Head coach Mike Hagen and our men’s golf team finished strong at the inaugural National Golf Invitational, surging from 12th place entering the last round to sixth in the final standings. As a team, we’ve now made a postseason appearance three of the last four seasons, including the NCAA Regionals in 2019 and 2021.
BASEBALL COACHING STAFF UPDATES
We announced on June 5 that Tommy Raffo will return as our head baseball coach in 2024. As I talked about in the official press release, we’re facing several challenges to get our baseball program where we want it to be, and that’s competing for NCAA Tournament berths and Sun Belt championships in one of the nation’s strongest leagues.
Coach Raffo is committed to improving our on-field performance and has meticulously evaluated different paths moving forward to get it done. We saw significant offensive improvement in 2023, improving our national ranking in runs per game (4.7 to 7.3) from 278th in 2022 to 89th in 2023.
While our offensive production increased last season, we also suffered 14 setbacks when allowing 10 or more runs and dropped 10 contests when leading or tied after six innings. Coach Raffo is in the midst of a national search for a new pitching coach, and we expect that process to be concluded in the near future.
Coaching is one of several aspects necessary for us to become an elite program. We are working diligently to improve our baseball budget and facilities, including the field and stadium, to move us closer to our conference peers. That is a priority for us and something we are currently addressing.
We’re extremely proud of alumna Cori Keller of Stuttgart, who was crowned Miss Arkansas on June 10 during the annual pageant. Keller, who earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise science and master’s degree in mass communications at A-State, previously worked in our Athletics Department as graduate assistant with our development office. She has also been highly involved in our television broadcasts, including as a sideline reporter during football games and play-by-play announcer for volleyball and soccer contests. Congrats to Cori, and good luck to her as she represents Arkansas at the Miss America competition.
GET YOUR WOLVES UP!
This week’s #WolvesUp photos feature newly-crowned Miss Arkansas Cori Keller and 2017 Miss America Savvy Shields Wolfe with their Wolves Up at last week’s Miss Arkansas pageant, as well as Karen and Jeff Stotts with their Wolves Up from Barcelona.
Our second photo feature Kendall Lee with his #WolvesUp and a swag pack he won at our Pack Day Spring Game. Congrats Kendall, and we appreciate your support!
Remember to use the hashtag #WolvesUp in your social posts and tweet your photos to me @JeffPurinton if you have any pictures with your Wolves Up! or promoting A-State. We will select photos to feature in each edition of State of the Pack.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
View the list of scheduled events, broadcast information, start time and stat links on our composite calendar. (Note: All times are listed in Central Time.) Access live stats from your desktop or mobile device by visiting AStateStats.com.
Season and single-game tickets for our fall and winter sports are available by visiting AStateRedWolves.com/Tickets or calling the A-State Ticket Office at 870-972-2781. You can contact the Red Wolves Foundation at 870-972-2401 for additional information and/or to purchase tickets in our premium areas.
State of the Pack: June 15. Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council