Jeff Reed: Should the Razorbacks Play In-State Baseball Teams?

Jeff Reed Author Page
Before we get started, let’s get one thing straight – this is not one of those columns about the Arkansas Razorbacks needing to play the Arkansas State Red Wolves or needing to play any other school in the state.

As I have stated in this space before, the obsession with playing the team from northwest Arkansas does not exist. Yes, I think they should play, but will leave it at that. There is no obsession.

Now we get to the news of the past week, news that started way before the Razorbacks were stunned 4-1 in the NCAA Regional opener by Bryant, the college in Rhode Island not the high school in Saline County.

A lot of the The Razorback Kingdom has been up in arms since the Hogs were shunned in hosting an NCAA Regional and had to pack their bags for Manhattan, the one in Kansas, not the one that is sometimes referred to as an apple.

Based on the the Razorbacks baseball team’s performance this season, a third-place finish in the Southeastern Conference and their attendance numbers, one would think the Razorbacks, who had an RPI of around 38, would have been a shoo-in for hosting a regional.

But we learned this is not the old NIT and how much money you can add to the kitty with your attendance is not in play.

Supposedly the culprit was the Razorbacks’ weak performance against a weak out-of-conference schedule. And this happened when there were three teams within easy driving distance of Fayetteville, or North Little Rock they could have played and improved their schedule.

You could see that one coming, couldn’t you.

First you have the University of Central Arkansas, which as we now know is also participating in an NCAA Regional, in Starkville, Miss., which is not to  be confused with any place. The Bears had a strong-non-conference schedule, struggled and finished seventh in Southland play, then won their conference post-season tourney.

The Bears’ RPI is 61.

Arkansas State University started strong against a weak schedule, but had a key injury to their best hitting in March, and that, added on top of three other guys who were also sidelined, did not come close to producing the season many expected. Still, Tommy Raffo’s  teams rallied late, and finished in the top four of the Sun Belt Conference tournament where they were eliminated by a pair of one-run losses.

The Red Wolves’ RPI was 140.

The UALR Trojans baseball team started strong, and had a big doubleheader sweep at Oklahoma State, faltered in mid-season and rallied down the stretch to post a winning season. That momentum died in the Sun Belt Conference tourney, where they were two and done.

Still, the Trojans’ RPI was 143.

So is it possible the University of Arkansas’ policy of the Razorbacks not playing in-state teams hurt it this year? Looks like it.

Now I propose this – and will leave football as the sacred cow no one can touch:

  • Set up two mid-week dates at Dickey-Stephens Park for the Razorbacks to play the two in-state baseball teams that have the highest RPI from the previous season.

Who wins? Everyone.

Razorbacks baseball fans in central Arkansas who are begging for more than one game now get two games. Schools in the state that would like to play the Hogs, get that opportunity.

There really is no good reason why the schools don’t play once December is over.

Jeff Reed is editor of Astatenation.com

 

Do you think the Arkansas Razorbacks should play other in-state baseball teams?

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  • A-State Fan Rules

    Good points, great article. But the idea of having to “earn” a game with another university by meeting an RPI requirement turns my stomach. They’re the hogs, not the Yankees.

  • Daniel

    No arkansas should not play anyone with in our state. Just so the record shows you are an Arkansas State graduate, and the editor for Astatenation.com, so your attempt to explain that this article is anything morethan you wanting your team to be relevant in not just the state but the country is laughable. First of all I understand the jealousy that the die hard fans of ASU and the people of NE Arkansas towards The U of A and The NWA area. NWA has so many more advantages than the NE as far as economy, shopping, travel, and jobs. I had been all over the state when I was growing up in Rogers. The only problem was that it was t until I was 24 before I had ever even been to Jonesboro. There are no real reasons to go and the roads leadings there do not lead any where else, so getting there is more difficult and honestly not worth the hassle if I don’t have a reason to be there in the first place. Also what ASU fans fail to realize is that Arkansas has the smallest state population of any state hosting an SEC. So in order for The U of A to stay competitive in the nations number 1 premier athletics conference they must have support of the whole state first a foremost. Also in a non revenue sport such as baseball the fact that Arkansas needs to play in Little Rock more is crazy not to mention the financial strain of all the teams having to travel another time. People in NWA do not hate ASU whenever we see that they are on tv we root for them just like I’m rooting for UCA today and I will be rooting for ASU when you play Missouri in the fall

    • stAte

      THanks for rooting for us but just so you know, I almost never travel to NWA and was older than you the first time I travelled there. It isn’t difficult to get to ASU and Jonesboro is thriving but ASU, UCA, UALR, etc. will meet UA or anyone else in LR to make it convenient.

    • Barry

      Hello David,

      That small state theory crap ‘won’t hunt’ as south Carolina has smaller population than Arkansas and has Clemson, USC, furman, college of charleston, and charleston southern and competes with everybody. Ua wants to hog it all and everybody knows it. Hogs, when you one day play another Arkansas school and lose let me assure you that the sun will still come and life will go on and you’ll be ok!! Now, without calling you a ‘ ‘chicken’ let’s all play and have fun and hats off to UCA for a great year and continued success to all the schools of the Diamond State. Georgia RedWolf p

      • Drew F.

        South Carolina’s population is 4.7 million.

        Arkansas’ is 2.9 million.

      • Ben

        Try west virginia or kansas

  • Drew F.

    As long as the Hogs’ are using their own privately-raised money to fund the payouts for lower level teams, they can play whoever they want.

    Why would anyone think that they have any business telling someone else how to spend their own private money?

    • stAte

      Ahhhh, yes, the old “private money” myth. Aside from the transfer of public money that UA took this year, UA is a public institution, enjoys tax breaks and was built with public funds. It will never be a “private entity” no matter how much time passes or how much money it brings in. That is why the athletic budget and spending on faciltities is subject to legislative review.

      • Drew F.

        Well, sure the university enjoys tax breaks and was built with public funds. That goes along with it’s mission to provide higher education for the state. That’s wholly separate from any athletic endeavors.

        Since the athletic department is self-sufficient, it’s budget is indeed separate from the university’s budget such that the two don’t become conflated. While the athletic budget may be subject to legislative review, it’s not subject to legislative direction.

      • stAte

        That is the point and the athletic department still takes State funds. Like the University itself, the athletic department was buitl on public property with public funds. Moving to the SEC has been a huge financial gain that has allowed less reliance on the public coffers but there will never be a time when the athletic department is not a public institution.

      • Drew F.

        And yet, the legislature couldn’t touch the athletic dept.’s budget if they wanted to (again, because no state or university funds are involved). Now, they could always threaten the university’s general budget to try and coax something out of the athletic dept., but that’s a different situation.

        The athletic dept. is a “public institution?” Hardly.

      • Arkstfan

        Drew if the athletic department is a private institution not under university control how is it participating in the NCAA. Go read the Division I Constitution and Bylaws. If you version of reality were true UA couldn’t participate in the NCAA.

      • stAte

        He is just following the standard procedure in these discussions. Also, why can;t I respond to his last incorrect post?

      • Drew F.

        Never once did I use the phrase “not under university control.” Doesn’t change the funding situation, though – the university is publicly funded, the athletic dept. is not. We obviously have no problems participating in the NCAA, and yet the athletics budget is not funded with state or university funds. Puzzler.

  • badbadhoggie

    No! Now stop talking about it..

    • stAte

      You first.

  • Jeff Reed

    Daniel — you don’t know me so don’t jump to assumptions. I am not jealous of UA or NWA. i don’t care if they play or not. Ever!

    Drew — you are right … you give out the money you can play whomever you want. My point was , if they had played the in-state teams, they might not be in Manhattan right now and they might be at home. And I know you and the rest of the Razorback fans would like that better.

    badbadhoggie — I don’t talk about. But get ready .. when times get slow it is a popular subject on sports radio talk shows.

    • badbadhoggie

      Of course its a popular subject, been going on for decades..it’s as simple as the have not’s, want what the the UofA has without spending the time, money or support required to achieve it…sounds like a Title IX for asu etc to me…let all the state schools build their own programs, why do they feel the need to nurse off the nips of the UofA if they are such respectable programs?

      • stAte

        Sifting through this was hard but nobody suggested anything about money and beating UA doesn’t help ASU or UCA any more than beating the other SEC teams they play every year. Don’t be afraid. It’s going to be okay.

      • Arkstfan

        Badhoggie. HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU THINK THERE IS IN COLLEGE BASEBALL????

        Playing UA does nothing for Arkansas State’s budget. Might have helped UA’s budget getting to host a regional.

    • badbadhoggie

      And i’m sure you are so worried about where the hogs play their games..i’m not sure a uca or asu would have made any difference at all, granted the power ?house teams they are…the reason we are in Manhattan was the terrible start to the season in Az etc…hell uca almost finished last in their div, how would that help?

      • Jeff Reed

        I just told you I don’t care if they play or not.
        I am all for ASU, UCA, UALR, building their own programs. The point of the article was if they had played those schools they might be home.
        “Van Horn was told Arkansas’ RPI was affected most by early-season losses to Pacific (No. 244) and Western Illinois (No. 257). He said Arkansas might have had an RPI inside the top 20 if not for those losses. But NCAA Tournament selection committee chairman Dennis Farrell also said nonconference strength of schedule hurt.”

        Check the RPIs of the teams in state.

      • Drew F.

        Well, all that’s great in hindsight, but how exactly is the RPI supposed to be known beforehand? Especially when the schedules are made quite a bit in advance.

        If the rationale for playing the other in-state schools is based on a single year’s anomalously low RPI, does that mean the rationale goes away next season if Arkansas’ SOS gets back to the level that it usually is? This “check the RPI” argument isn’t as rock-solid as you think it is.

      • Dillon from Dennard

        Just think, Arkansas could have “traveled” to Little Rock and played a round-robin tournament with UCA, ASU, and UALR, gotten just as much credit for playing in a neutral site, and maybe won a couple of games instead of getting embarrased in Arizona.

        Less money, more fan excitement, and every university participating has a benefit. But if the U of A is simply to hard-headed to see this, UCA will continue to go to starkville to beat up on SEC teams and UALR will continue to travel to Stillwater to whip a Big 12 school at home. Your “we have no benefit” and “in-state teams building their programs on the backs of the U of A” are increasingly becoming crazier.

      • Drew F.

        Captain Hindsight to the rescue!

        Perhaps that was true this year. What if it’s not true next year?

    • Boston

      There were several things that could have made the difference between hosting & not hosting. If they hadn’t lost that 3rd game to W IL, & simply split the 4 games in AZ their RPI would’ve been higher. Had those games not been at a neutral field their RPI would’ve been better. They played poorly & lost several games that cost them. The rainout with OU hurt their RPI. The rainout likely cost them a win at UGA. The main reason Ark didn’t host was that it lost too many games. Certainly some of their opponents were horrible, but it’s easier to know that now than when the games were scheduled, but there’s nothing wrong with scheduling some weak teams. It gives you a chance to play the younger players, experiment with positions, pitch different pitchers, but you still have to beat them. That didn’t happen & we paid the price. No reason to change a sound policy just so once in a blue moon it might help in SOS or RPI. I’m sure there are years it would hurt. In the end it doesn’t matter. We made the NCAA & didn’t do well enough to get out of the regional. Playing UCA wouldn’t have changed that.

      • Barry

        Yes Boston, I agree hogs sucked at regionals. They are running from Asu, UCA , and UALR for sure. Ga Redwolf