A Case for THE Game: Razorbacks vs Red Wolves


Editor’s note: Jay Bir, who works for KARK/KLRT in Little Rock and is a graduate of Arkansas State University has provided a counterpoint in response to a column published by Sporting Life Arkansas from a Razorback fan, University of Arkansas alum and regular contributor to our site, Wade McCune.

If you haven’t noticed, the Arkansas Legislature stirred up quite a buzz this past week with HB 2274.  A game that would finally give the people what they wanted… THE game. Arkansas vs. Arkansas State. The matchup that many would turnout to see regardless of what side of the argument you’re on and turn out in droves.

Sporting Life Arkansas asked me my opinion from the ASU perspective on this and with all due respect to @PorkShankRedemption, I’m here to respond to this East-Coast/West-Coast type beef.

I’m not exactly sure where you figure a lot of the anger is coming from. From the ASU fanbase? If anything the vitriol has quieted down significantly in recent years and much more so since the Red Wolves’ recent success.

Now sure, there is still a vocal, angry minority, but that is the minority. Many have moved on from wanting the game.

Sure, they’d love to see it, but frankly, most are more worried about winning the Sun Belt year in and year out and improving on the basketball court and the baseball diamond. Many have moved on from demanding THE game of Razorbacks vs Red Wolves and getting into the constant arguments. Although there are still plenty who do.

Stop being so needy.  You’ve killed a lot of the argument in this passage. THE game won’t kill the Razorback brand, but yet it seems to be why a lot of the Hogs’ fanbase is not for playing THE game.

We’re into the spring portion of football, and I don’t think I can recall many people (on either side) bringing up the ULM loss.  I think this would be the same of ASU. For such a large, dominant, monopolized entity as the University of Arkansas, it sure is dumbfounding to see the Razorbacks avoid a team that so many claim “can’t compete.”

If the brand of the UA is as in good of shape as it is claimed to be (which I believe the brand is strong and I think Forbes can back that up), then what’s the big deal if Razorbacks did lose to the Red Wolves?

Reynolds Razorback Stadium won’t come crashing down like the Tower of Sauron. Sure ASU fans would be giddy for a minute, but remember when ASU beat Texas A&M? That didn’t mean much since they didn’t back it up by winning the conference, going to a bowl, having a successful season. It’s just one game in 12, and I’m sure it would be reveled in a little more, but then next week rolls around.

Stop being so mean. Get held back by your counterpart for decades with back-handed compliments or being bullied around and see how cheery you are about it. There’s a lot more to this than football to a lot of the older generations, such as the fight for university status for ASU.

How about not referring to Arkansas as the “only” D-1 school in the state?  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that in a school program a time or two. Little brother gets mad when big brother keeps poking him, naturally. And if Bobby Petrino landed at ASU, I think it’s safe to say many a Hog fan wouldn’t necessarily root against ASU, but certainly they wouldn’t hope for super success either.

Stop being so unrealistic.  There are plenty of ASU folks out there who understand ASU’s place in the world. It’s second-banana in the state. As an ASU grad myself, I’m aware of this.  ASU is not the big-dog; ASU is not the flagship, and ASU won’t be. Nobody is claiming that ASU would “own” the UA in any sort of competition (although hoops right now, both men’s and women’s, would be a good game).

Sure ASU has finally gotten serious about athletic competition and those who are running the show. President Dr. Chuck Welch has put people in charge that care and want to to see ASU grow, and hiring  Terry Mohajir as athletic director is one of the finest employment moves during Welch’s tenure. So while ASU surely won’t take a backseat to anybody, ASU supporters understand the dynamic in the state.

My take.  Look I UNDERSTAND the policy. I really do – in the 60s and 70s.

It was put in place to separate the University of Arkansas within the confines of its own borders; it was created to establish itself as the dominant force of Arkansas. Mission accomplished.

Just this past week the Razorback Foundation sent out a letter encouraging its members to vote against HB 2274 and maintain, once again, the party line of ‘the policy.’ Even with the letter from the Razorback Foundation, the vote still ended up being 52-48 in favor of THE game.

I do find it interesting that an SEC-level school keeps avoiding a Sun Belt-level school. Imagine Texas sending out letters to avoid playing North Texas, or that Ohio State would tip-toe around Ohio, or that Tennessee not play Memphis or Middle Tennessee. Switch out the names in the same situation and it seems silly, doesn’t it?

Is there more to “gain” for ASU in this potential matchup? I guess.

I don’t believe that the benefits are as such as Hog fans make them out to be. ASU won’t snatch up every recruit in the state or suddenly be a powerhouse. Heck they can barely get coverage in the statewide newspaper.

Surely if ASU won THE game, they’d be ignored even more right?!

And for being in a conference that prints its own money, especially now with the soon-to-be-announced SEC Cable Network, the Razorback fans concern themselves with “splitting the resources of Arkansas.”

Play the game, maybe see a little going to the other side, but not enough for UA to even notice.

In fact this game could be a better financial game for UA anyway. The current going rate for most rent-a-wins is about $900,000. Surely ASU knocks that down a little since travel won’t be a problem – let’s say the payout is $750,000.

Scheduling a gridiron matchup between the Razorbacks and Red Wolves creates a high-demand game. C’mon, you’re going to see this game over the likes of UA vs Troy, New Mexico, WIU, ULM, ULL, etc.  So you’ve got a sellout for a game that may not normally sellout, plus the UA can take some liberties with the ticket prices. That makes $ense to me.

For some reason UA bills this as some ‘high-stakes game’ when, for them, it’s really not.  Chances are they can explain a loss away as ‘early season jitters’ or ‘an inexperienced team.” I’m sure plenty in the media would oblige in helping to explain away the loss too.

Play the game and maybe more people will actually come together to support the state as a whole. I have heard from a lot of ASU people they won’t ‘hate’ the Hogs if the two teams played. In fact, the people I talk to say they would respect the UA for doing so.

The bottom line is this – the sun will come up the next day regardless of the outcome of a football game between the two schools, and should the UA lose, it won’t fall into an abyss of despair filled with scarlet and black.

And it sure wouldn’t kill the UA to put UCA and UAPB on the schedules either. I mean if the school is going to add one FCS team a year for football, why not?

Surely the UA is not worried about those schools either. It’s only natural for the UA to add these other in-state schools to every other sport too. Heck, UCA baseball might boost the Razorback baseball team’s SOS and RPI this year on the diamond.

Why not bring up the GAC schools for basketball exhibitions? Those games don’t even count! Now I know UA isn’t concerned about Arkansas Tech splitting the state or Henderson State out recruiting them, so what would the harm be in those? See how crazy that sounds now?

About Jay Bir: Jay has worked at KARK/KLRT 4/16 since 2006. He began as a photographer and has now added reporter to his title, albeit unofficially.

Jay was was born in Stillwater, OK, and then took his talents to South Beach in 1992 and then moved to North Little Rock in 1998. He attended Sylvan Hills High School and went from there to Arkansas State University. Jay graduated from ASU’s vaunted radio/tv program in 2006 and after a short stint with AT&T (a guy needs a job out of college right?) found his only tv home with KARK.

It was during his time in South Florida that Jay developed a passion for sports, especially the professional teams down there – hey it’s not often you’re around for the founding of two professional sports teams, the Marlins and Panthers. It was the Stanley Cup and World Series runs of 1996 and 1997 that really cemented Jay’s fervor for not only his teams but sports in general.  It was that same passion that he brought to ASU, and he has had the privelege of covering both of ASU’s recent bowl games and three recent head coaching changes.

Jay is an ACTIVE tweeter and encourages exchange both on there and his facebook page. He enjoys the debate of sports (just check into a #slachat if you want to see that first hand) and watching sports and reporting sports – pretty much anything to do with sports.

Jay currently lives in Sherwood with his wife, Kat, and their dog Doc. They have one son, Ace, and are expecting another child, a baby girl, Avi, in May 2013.

Tags: , ,