Andy Hodges

Playing games anywhere but Fayetteville for Hogs doesn’t make sense

Sam Pittman may publicly say all the right things about playing in Little Rock but that can’t be an SEC opponent and it shouldn’t be anyone.

Sam Pittman may publicly say all the right things about Arkansas playing football games in Little Rock but he knows that can’t be an SEC opponent.

It should not be anybody.

The guess here is the league office didn’t want SEC games at War Memorial, either. Remember, before the coronavirus shut down spring practice before it started, the league had shot down the spring game being played there.

There is no benefit for the Hogs playing there and hasn’t been for years. Playing ANY games anywhere other than Fayetteville puts Pittman at a disadvantage, but he’s not going to really come right out and admit that.

I first wrote over 42 years ago they should implode the stadium and play all the games in Fayetteville … before the interstate or expanded stadium.

Now there really is no excuse other than pandering to some people who had some great times at games there. So did I.

Being a native of Southeast Arkansas, I went to numerous games there, but when a violent thunderstorm washed out the spring game there in the spring of 1978 and it was wetter being under the stands than in the rain it was pretty clear what a dump the place had become.

While there have been some cosmetic changes over the years to make some affluent people feel more comfortable at games, the place is still basically a dump designed for about 45,000 and artificially inflated.

Frank Broyles did that in 1970 by digging down to lower the field and put in AstroTurf before the 1970 opener against Stanford when he also reduced the width of the assigned seats and created nearly 10,000 additional donors.

In today’s world, it’s not an adequate facility for a small college team, much less a school in the most powerful football conference in the entire sport.

But technical people at television networks have told me off the record they hate the place to try and accomplish a broadcast that meets their standards.

Maybe Hunter Yurachek’s biggest challenge in the whole Little Rock drama has been to figure out how to placate some folks trying to re-live fond memories. It’s the equivalent of leaving your mansion for a night in a one-room shack.

When athletics director Hunter Yurachek and Pittman sat down after the season, the coach made it clear what he wanted.

“One thing that he made abundantly clear to me during the course of that meeting is that it was very important to the future success of our program to play as many SEC games as possible here on campus in Fayetteville,” Yurachek said during a Zoom press conference Wednesday afternoon.

That was his way of using $54 worth of words to get a nickel point across: The coach doesn’t want to play an important game there.

Don’t use the recruiting argument anymore. The UA can’t host recruits or even talk to them in Little Rock.

It puts the Hogs at a disadvantage giving up a game in Fayetteville to spend extra money and lose an incredibly valuable recruiting weekend so some folks feel good about getting to be cramped on some narrow bleachers to watch a game they could sit at home and watch on their big-screen television.

The world has changed in the last decade or so, in case you haven’t noticed.

While the political argument from the folks in Little Rock is the Razorbacks have to play there, the best argument usually goes around the tune of it’s always been done and it makes everybody feel good.

In other words, they are more interested in feeling good than winning.

Arkansas is trying to be relevant in the SEC arms race world of college football.

Playing games anywhere but Fayetteville removes weapons in that race.

This season, the Hogs could have eight home games in Fayetteville.

But, by playing Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Little Rock, they are giving up 25 percent of their opportunities to get recruits in Fayetteville.

Yet fans want wins and recruits to choose the Hogs. They will hold Pittman and Yurachek accountable if the football team doesn’t win enough games.

Which usually comes down to getting enough good players.

And reducing the opportunities for that by 25 percent somehow doesn’t seem to add up.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Kirk Johnson

    February 4, 2021 at 8:16 am

    looks like we need a new AD and board of trustees

  2. Tolerati

    February 5, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    It certainly makes sense for the Razorbacks to play all the SEC conference games in Fayetteville. And after 2024 they won’t be playing Texas A&M in Arlington anymore. So even that it is not a permanent problem. Playing UAPB in Fayetteville certainly doesn’t guarantee a sell-out crowd at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. So why not, play one game a year in Little Rock. Why not offer one “meaningful” non-conference game in the middle of the state. War Memorial will likely be filled closer to capacity, if not full-capacity playing UAPB or Western Carolina than Razorback stadium. Arkansas is not Alabama or Georgia or Texas. Each of those programs have a national following but they also play and share their states with other strong college football programs within their respective states. For decades, Arkansas has sought to protect its football monopoly within the state. But this is a new century. And to become relevant again, means doing somethings different. I believe it will be healthy for the Razorbacks and UAPB and the Red Wolves to play one another finally. I hope they play each other many times in the future. While the Razorbacks say the Arkansas State game will be just another game against a Sun Belt Conference opponent, most Arkansans know that it is more than that. It is finally letting little brother play ball with big brother. And Little Rock seems the perfect place to let them meet each year. A place about half-way between both. Why not have a “Rumble in the Rock” or whatever you want to call it. I understand why many believe Arkansas has nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing games in Little Rock. But Arkansas has already gained something. A new respect from many Arkansans. And now the Razorbacks, Red Wolves, etc … have a chance to grow a new generation of football supporters within the State of Arkansas whether they wear cardinal and white, red, black and white, purple and gray or black and gold. The one game in Little Rock, in the middle of the state, could become something special that many Arkansans may want to play in each year. Will it be nationally relevant, likely not until football in Arkansas becomes relevant on the national scene. But why not do something that could be fun and interesting to those of us in Arkansas?

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