Doc Harper: Let’s Talk About Razorback Football Traditions

Razorback football traditions have evolved throughout the years and outrage at change subsides with time.

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In July 2012, Jeff Long said this:

“That’s a tradition we want to hold onto that we think is special. This league talks about maintaining those traditions that we think are special and important, I hope and believe this is one we should maintain from the UA perspective.”

That quote has always stuck with me because from reading fans’ tweets, message board comments as well as good, old fashioned talking to people, it’s pretty clear to me that different fans consider different traditions special.  I’d love to know what percentage of replies on Long’s Twitter account are people complaining about one tradition or another.

For what seems like most of fall camp, much of the discussion among Razorback fans has centered around traditions that have been threatened, changed, or, on the flip side, born. And when the school’s athletic administration, the SEC, or anyone else forces change, it can be hard to accept. Like dealing with the reality that Ben Affleck will be the new Batman. It just feels wrong, man.

These things don’t usually affect the game unless the change is the NCAA changing rules (like when they changed the kickoff rules in 2006 and Bret Bielema exploited a loophole against Penn State), but they can impact virtually anything else. A lot of the outrage proves to be overblown, but still, you can’t blame fans for being upset at losing things they enjoy or think are important to the program. Even if you just want to yell, “Yeah, it’s different, but it’s ok. And it might even be cool!”

The above quote from Long is in reference to moving the LSU game from the end of Arkansas’ schedule. Initially this was the big story to come out of the release of the SEC’s 2014 schedule. Much of the, let’s say “disappointment” about this I think was misplaced. If the major concern with losing the placement of the LSU game is regarding the exposure and attention Arkansas gets the last week of the season, the far more important thing is to keep the same Friday slot Arkansas and LSU have held for most recent years. And there have been indications that CBS and the SEC are considering putting Arkansas and Missouri on Thanksgiving Friday.

What we’ve learned since college football began stretching games nearly the entire week, people will watch. A game with Missouri usually won’t carry the same weight nationally as the LSU game, but people will watch. And the higher ranked the two schools are, the more people will watch.

And Arkansas will still play LSU two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2014, and how often does Arkansas play nationally relevant mid-November games?  There haven’t been many in recent years, but the ones that have happened (such as South Carolina in 2011) were significant because Arkansas was highly ranked as well. So I don’t think this move is a huge loss. Plus, I’m all in on some late-November snow games in Missouri. Think Bielema’s offense wouldn’t have a big advantage in that kind of weather?

And that conversation led us into the Great Stadium Debate, which has become an Arkansas tradition unto itself.

Full disclosure: I’m a Little Rock native, grew up going to games in War Memorial Stadium, and I love Little Rock games. But I don’t have any issue with UA wanting to move all of the showcase games to Fayetteville. That makes the most sense. However, make no mistake, tailgating on the golf course at War Memorial is the most underrated tradition in the SEC.  Consider: Ole Miss’s Grove, widely considered among the best tailgating scenes in America, covers 10 acres. The War Memorial Golf Course spans 90 acres (not that the size of the golf course is all that makes it awesome). When people dismiss Little Rock tailgating like “other than tailgating, what does Little Rock have?” it’s very disappointing because it truly is a spectacular thing. Even if they reduce it to once a year for a non-conference game, I think that’s ok. But it’s clearly never going to happen as frequently as it used to.

All that being said, only having two SEC games in Fayetteville should not happen. But if I’m being honest, the idea of playing Texas Tech there in 2015 is more exciting than the thought of playing Mississippi State there that season. I have a hard time imagining Arkansas sells many more tickets to Razorback Stadium because the Bulldogs are coming to town.

I think the reality is that if the schedule rotation stays as it is, odd-numbered years will never have as exciting home schedules as even-numbered years. The best hope is that Arkansas fans grow to loathe Missouri with the fury of replacing Coke with Pepsi. Even though really, that whole problem is UA’s own fault for putting the Texas A&M game back in the JerryDome before the War Memorial contract expired.

Speaking of which, between the A&M game, and scheduling non-conference games with Texas Tech and TCU, it appears the Razorbacks feel that re-establishing a stronger presence in Texas as soon as possible is among the program’s top priorities, even if it means there’s a chance only two SEC teams travel to Fayetteville in 2015. I get why they want to do that, even though I don’t like the concept of playing A&M in Arlington every year.

I know I’m in the minority on this among Razorback fans. I just prefer traditional home environments in college football. I understand the money guarantee and the recruiting aspect, I just don’t like it. To me, the “hostile environments” of  games on campus are much more special than playing in an NFL stadium. But it’s clear this game isn’t going away anytime soon, so what’re you gonna do?

Even the new white helmets for road games bother some people. But it’s interesting that the outrage this year is nowhere near the outrage last summer when werazorback defensive coorindator chris ash hogs in white helmets first saw the white helmet the Razorback that was outlined in red. Most people seem to be on board with the colored-in Hog. Perhaps it’s because the new version is such an improvement on the 2012 helmet and people are more accustomed to uniform changes as part of college football culture at this point.

One of the more interesting changes this year has been the closed practices and the media’s response to it. I don’t have an issue with closed practices, nor with the university producing their own recaps and video interviews. It’s their responsibility to marktet their own brand as widely as possible. I also understand why media don’t particularly like that.

What I find troubling is that in a couple of columns in the statewide daily, the agitation seems to be that the university is throwing the word “exclusive” around regarding some of their video interviews. Let’s not pretend that people can’t tell the difference between university-approved messaging and informational commentary from independant media. It’s my experience that they clearly can, and, particularly when the Razorbacks don’t perform as hoped, they want no part of SID approved content. If the basketball team doesn’t show much improvement this year, fans won’t be satisfied with press releases and RazorVision videos.

Besides, it’s not as though coaches and players haven’t been available for interviews after practice (and frequently the videos of said interviews appear on the websites of various media outlets). So the school can throw around words like “exclusive” and “scoop” all it wants, but it’s just a gimmick.  As sites like this one prove, there will always be independent Razorback coverage, it just has to continue to evolve, which some are more willing to embrace than others.

Although, taking content you create, putting it on your own site and calling it an “exclusive” is kinda silly. I hope all of you enjoy reading this exclusive column found in its entirety exclusively on Sporting Life Arkansas.

It’s been quite the few weeks for Razorback traditions. But things should be changing. Coaching changes happen with about the same frequency as presidential administrations. As new ones come along, new things should be embraced. But please don’t mess with running through the A. That’s a biggie. And if we could start a campaign to eradicate the wolf howl at the beginning of the hog call, that’d be great too. Let the folks in Jonesboro have their wolf howl.

And on a personal note, one thing that’s definitely changing is that, God willing, this will be the last football season before I become a father. Corliss McFadden Harper (maybe the real name, maybe not) is due in December, so accepting change is basically the theme of my life right now. But one thing I know is that there are few new traditions I’m looking more forward to embracing than watching football games with my kid.

Traditions will evolve. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Sometimes purely out of necessity. But ultimately, the Razorbacks are still taking the field on Saturday, along with most every other team in the country. They’ll probably wear red helmets. Enjoy it.

***

Doc Harper is the managing editor of Arkansas Fight and a contributor to Sporting Life Arkansas. You can email him at heydocharper@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @doc_harper.

 

 

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16 Responses to “Doc Harper: Let’s Talk About Razorback Football Traditions”

  1. 40 Minute Hell Razor
    August 26, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    If tailgating is the main reason for keeping the LR games, it’s definitely time to move those games to Razorville. Little Rock is the Sahara of the Bozarts, and college football won’t fix that.

    The new uniforms suck, compared to the classy look of old. These look like high school uniforms, appealing to students who’ve just moved up from Little Rock. You should never allow athletic department personnel to design anything that would be worn in public.

    I don’t care who we play on TG, as long as it’s a good game. The A&M game in Dallas is guaranteed big media exposure, which is more important in the overall scheme than “traditional home environments in college football.” I do wish we could have contracted with a school that has female cheerleaders, so there’s something to watch when the game gets away from us. I trust the media will help find the best matchups for the TG game, if they don’t schedule too far in advance. Seems too soon to say whether Mizzou will commit to contending in the SEC. It has taken Arkansas twenty years to make that commitment.

    • Doc Harper
      August 26, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      I just don’t buy that playing A&M in Dallas gets Arkansas that much more media exposure. We’ll get exposure in Texas just by playing A&M anywhere. And the last time we played them there, in 2011, was a pre-noon kickoff that didn’t sell out. Both teams were coming off a loss and nobody was particularly excited about it. As I referenced in the article, there are benefits to playing in Dallas, but I don’t think we get that much more exposure, especially now that neutral-site regular season games are commonplace in college football.

      And I don’t think the Hogs should play in Little Rock strictly for the tailgating. But I do think War Memorial tailgating is a much more significant tradition than people give it credit for. There are other reasons to keep a game, even if it’s just one noncon game, in Little Rock.

      • 40 Minute Hell Razor
        August 26, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

        You’re probably right about playing aTm in Arlington. Part of the sell has been that the players are excited to play in Jerrydome and that Dallas/FW holds the largest contingent of Hogfans outside of Arkansas. I trust the athletic dept. to figure out what is best for the program, if they are not too hidebound by tradition. I hope new blood in the department will open some minds and possibilities. I’m afraid that slavery to tradition held the program back during the later stages of the Broyles era.

  2. Hawgfan100
    August 26, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Excellent article. Now, about that whole ‘exclusivity’ thing…;^)

  3. MC
    August 26, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    white helmets don’t bother me. If they help with recruiting, then so be it. Everyday I get a little less in touch with what is considered to be cool by 18 year olds. I’m fine with it. If we win, I don’t care what we wear.

    LR games-my first game was in LR in 1988. I once held season tickets for only LR games, when we were playing 3 games a year and getting drilled consistently. (1997 S. Carolina comes to mind) I used to love LR games, but it’s time to move everything on campus. Not just marquee games, ALL of them. It makes absolutely no sense to continue to play games in an outdated stadium with less capacity and one that apparently doesn’t have a clock that can make it thru a single game without some type of malfunction. The reason for playing these games is “because we’ve always done it that way” or as the article points out an old tradition. Don’t give me the tailgating is better argument. that’s in the eye of the holder. I don’t consider seeing people vomit and passed out drunk on a golf course to be “great tailgating”. There was a time and place for games at WMS…much like there was a time and place for black and white tv, 8 tracks, and betamax. Times change, some things that are outdated get put out to pasture. It’s time to put Razorback games in WMS out to pasture.

    • Older Hog Fan
      August 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      Don’t care what they wear? Really? OK, let’s put the Hogs in burnt orange next year. After all, who cares about tradition. Besides, uniforms are not the reason recruits choose a school. ESPN just ran a lengthy article which contained interviews with top recruits. Most of them laughed at the idea that they chose a particular school because of its uniforms.

    • Will
      August 27, 2013 at 4:46 am #

      My first game in Little Rock was Missouri, 1963. Little Rock games allowed the entire state an opportunity to embrace the Razorbacks, and playing in central Arkansas definitely spread the Hog brand from the Ozarks to the Louisiana border. Otherwise, perhaps all those Warren, Junction City, Camden Fairview, El Dorado and Texarkana athletes may have played for La Tech, LSU, or one of the Dallas area schools. Those games in Little Rock were crucial.

      Times have changed. Television, an outdated stadium, better highways, richer fans all over the state who enjoy traveling, all these facts make Fayetteville the better choice today.

      One non-conference game a year in Little Rock is plenty, especially with the decade-long visit to Dallas a given.

      And although I love the red helmet, white ain’t bad. There are more important things to worry about in life.

      Just win, pigs.

  4. Gus
    August 26, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Coke v Pepsi? Never really bothered me. “losing” the LSU game? I saw that writing on the wall. White Helmets? I like the Red, but the “W” I’m more interested in is Winning, not what we’re Wearing.

    I was most upset about the 11 years we’ll be playing Agg at Jerry’s. That matchup was fun when A&M didn’t affect our conference ranking; now they do, and to NOT be playing them in RRS every other year doesn’t seem wise. They will matter in the West, and calling Jerry’s our “3rd Home” doesn’t make it so.

    I get why that deal was made, but I don’t buy the recruiting aspect. If we’re winning, recruits will come. Bielema has proven he can pull recruits already. If we’re losing, it won’t matter whether we played A&M at Jerry’s or not.

    And, WMS? As a LR native, I spent my childhood there, and yes the tailgating is awesome. But it’s time… Leave 1 game there, possibly. It was a business decision to move the games there originally; it will be one to pull the games back. And, if anyone brags about “I’ve been a fan since…” they shouldn’t be threatening to pull their support.

  5. Zeke
    August 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Tailgating is part of the experience but when it is touted as the reason for the experience focus has been lost.

    LR tailgating has beans on KC Chiefs tailgating, for example, and folks are still focused on the GAME in KC. (Not in LR.) Sum? A tradition that has nothing to do with in-stadium play isn’t a tradition related to football, it’s a tradition rooted in a social call.

    Move the game to Fayetteville and let folks camp all weekend in LR…

    Further, WMS is an embarrassing dump while Razorback is a jewel.

    Hell, give LR the meaningless opener if the middle of the state needs to be pacified…

    • Boston
      August 26, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      I agree with almost everything you said, but I think there’s a difference between adding traditions & changing old ones. The white helmet is a change, but in my opinion not a terrible one. After all, the hogs wore white helmets at one time. The red hog is a definite improvement over the outline hog from last year.

      The tradition I hate losing is “Wooo Pig Sooie.” Apparently some younger fans think it’s “Ah-ooo Pig Sooie.” Some even add a yelp to it. I first noticed people doing this about 10 years ago, but it seems to have gotten more common. It’s a shame for people to screw with such a great yell.

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