UPDATED: 11/26/13 - New Contract Starting in 2014 Between the Razorbacks and War Memorial here…
Without changes to the contract between the University of Arkansas and War Memorial Stadium, 2015 could see only two SEC football games on campus in Fayetteville. Everybody is OK with that?
It was 2010 and I was probably in the air somewhere between Charlotte and Memphis.
A specific flight plan on how I got back from Arkansas’ 41-20 victory at South Carolina escapes me now. But the conversation that happened with a Virginia Tech fan is still fresh in my mind.
It likely will be for a very long time.
Our conversation stands out among many others I had while traveling as a member of the working sports press, because it was a turning point in my life.
It began with the fan noticing the official game notes I was reading while working up that week’s postgame report card. We talked about the Razorbacks’ impressive showing before the conversation turned to how surprisingly loud and fun Williams-Brice Stadium was among college football venues.
Noting his Virginia Tech hat, I mentioned seeing a game at Lane Stadium was on my college football bucket list. He talked at length at how great game days were in Blacksburg, Va. and then posed the question that wound up having a profound impact on my worldview.
Allow me to recap:
Virginia Tech fan: What’s the atmosphere at Arkansas like?
Me: Well, that all depends on which stadium you’re talking about.
VT fan: (Puzzled look)
Me: There’s Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville where campus is located. It holds about 70,000 and at certain times the noise will rival anything you’ll hear anywhere else in the SEC. Then there’s War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, which is about three hours from campus. People say the tailgating is really good on the golf course and it can get loud for only holding 50,000-ish.
VT fan: (Blank stare) I don’t get it. Why not play them all on campus?
Me: Well, Arkansas has been playing in Little Rock for decades. It essentially began as a way to market the program to folks outside of Fayetteville. Little Rock is the state capital and sits pretty much in the center of the state. Northwest Arkansas used to be impossible to get to … blah … I-540 … blah … Highway 71 … blah … imagine 18-wheelers going 75 in a 30 on a two-lane, mountain road … blah … I really miss this place called the Ozark Mountain Smokehouse … blah …
VT fan: Seriously? They play home games in two different stadiums?
Me: Right. Arkansas has two games a year in War Memorial. And then there’s this whole push to play in Dallas, which has been…
VT fan: Dallas? Texas?
Me: Right. Arkansas has a deal with Texas A&M to play each year in Jerry World. There’s this whole thing about how that’s being billed as a “third home stadium.” Dallas is home to the largest UA alumni base outside of the state and it’s fertile recruiting ground for football players, and also a hotbed for future students who drive Land Cruisers and have really rich parents.
VT fan: Really? And everybody is OK with that?
That, y’all, is the moment that it really hit me.
Once I had the conversation with a totally objective outside party, I began to understand just how crazy the concept of splitting up games really is. And Isay this as someone just four years removed from writing a column headlined “Arkansas Needs War Memorial Stadium, Expansion or Not.” Like many of y’all, Little Rock was my introduction to Razorback football, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to justify the way things are.
If reliving that 2010 conversation with me isn’t a moment of clarity for you, perhaps a look at the 2014 and 2015 schedules will be.
There is a chance the Razorbacks could open 2014 with just one of their first five games in Fayetteville. Jeff Long noted in media appearances on Wednesday that the set up presents a “challenge” for Arkansas.
Perhaps you remain unconvinced.
If something doesn’t change — like, say, tweaking the contract with War Memorial that runs until 2016 — then the 2015 SEC home schedule in Fayetteville will include Auburn and Missouri.
That’s it. Auburn and Missouri are the only Fayetteville SEC games. Arkansas-A&M will return to Arlington and the other “home” conference game will be in Little Rock.
Think about that. Now answer this:
Really? And everybody is OK with that?