Posted on 07 April 2012.
4/4/2012 at 2:40pm
Image by Mark Wagner a spring game at War Memorial Stadium might keep the Razorbacks’ connection to central Arkansas strong. while that would be allowed under NCAA rules, the SEC doesn’t allow it.
A story coming out of North Carolina on Tuesday said that new UNC football coach Larry Fedora would be taking his Tar Heels on the road this spring, conducting one of its 15 allotted practices in Charlotte. The “Queen City” is about 120 miles west-southwest of the university in Chapel Hill.
Virginia football coach Mike London is taking his Cavaliers from Charlottesville to three cities around his state after starting the practice in his debut spring last year.
So, why wouldn’t Arkansas and Bobby Petrino also do this, since it’s well documented that the Razorbacks are loved throughout the state but have a campus situated in the far northwest corner, a stone’s throw from Oklahoma and Missouri? The answer is that North Carolina and Virginia are in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is following an NCAA rule, while Arkansas is in the Southeastern Conference, which doesn’t allow the practice.
Michael Carvell, the ace recruiting reporter-blogger for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, touched on this subject this morning and how an ACC-like rule would help Georgia, as well as other powerhouses in the Southeast.
In Arkansas’ case, the Razorbacks used to play a spring game in Little Rock every April before they joined the SEC in 1992. The NCAA also used to allow 20 practices instead of the 15 that colleges get nowadays.
But I’m one of those natives of near Little Rock who remember the Razorbacks caravanning to War Memorial Stadium, and upwards of 30,000 fans attending the Red-White Game to see Joe Ferguson and the like. The Hogs would then stage another game in Fayetteville where 7,000 or so mostly sunbathers would show up at Razorback Stadium and maybe take note of a game going on.
Thanks to Bobby Petrino’s urging, Arkansas’ athletic administrators have worked to make the spring game a major event to somewhat rival the ridiculous support seen in Tuscaloosa, Auburn and elsewhere around the SEC, and the Arkansas Red-White game in Fayetteville has grown into that showcase like we used to enjoy in the 1970s and ’80s in Little Rock. Except for the rainy and cold weather that hit a couple of years ago and limited the crowd to a paltry few, the other Red-White games in Fayetteville under Petrino have drawn in the neighborhood of 40,000 fans, according to estimates.
Still, with university athletic officials trying to find a way to satiate its Little Rock base with two regular-season appearances in the Capital City, while also trying to juggle an SEC slate with nonconferences games and maybe a return game to Dallas every year, it seems that a Little Rock spring game would be a nice way to reach out to this portion of the state. Heck, while they’re on the road they could line up a practice down at El Dorado’s Memorial Stadium, or stage a workout at Texarkana High’s field, or maybe Jordan Stadium in Pine Bluff.
Fedora did this at Southern Mississippi before putting his plan into place at UNC. The ACC’s Miami Hurricanes have spring scrimmages planned at other fields off campus in south Florida. Army, of Conference USA, landed a waiver that allows it to play its spring game at Fort Benning, Ga.
Only, Arkansas can’t do it. The NCAA allows it, but the SEC doesn’t. (The Hogs used to play Red-White basketball games too in corners of the state but can only play those on campus as well.)
According to SEC spokesman Charles Bloom: “The SEC limits spring practices and games to being conducted at on campus facilities. This policy has been established in a long-standing Commissioners Regulation, which is more restrictive than the NCAA rule permitting off-campus practices.”
The gist of Carvell’s column in Atlanta focuses on how road practices might help a team’s recruiting.
Unless Arkansas were to stage a practice at North Little Rock or Pulaski Academy this year, or mark a return of the Little Rock spring game, we doubt the Hogs could do anything that might work as much of a help in recruiting. rather, we look at it as a wonderful way to maintain, if not grow, the Arkansas fan base.
Of course, we’re also aware that while this idea sounds great for the rest of the state, if it were allowed, we can hear the hew and cry from the university administrators on down about taking this Razorback show on the road. Long before Athletic Director Jeff Long and his employees arrived, it was easy to detect a feeling among certain UA athletic people, many who had no connections to Little Rock or the rest of the state, of being put-upon by the regular game trips to central Arkansas. even then, if they could have moved every game and every other connection to Hog athletics up to Fayetteville, they would have — this idea didn’t start with the post-Broyles athletic department.
And another “of course”: With the exception of the two games scheduled for Little Rock, if it’s going to cost more money than it makes, the university is unlikely to do it, goodwill with the fans in the farthest reaches be damned. let them find the nearest Razorback Club and show up for that meeting and call the Hogs.
Eventually, I believe, that attitude will cost the program more money than the administrators now realize. I have yet to be convinced northwest Arkansas alone will support Razorback athletics in the numbers required to keep up with the rest of the SEC — beyond being another Ole Miss. It’s assumed Little Rock will always be there, but Arkansas had to begin playing games in Little Rock in the 1930s and then have War Memorial Stadium built in the late 1940s to raise the level of the program, and Long continues to extend the olive branch of two games a year in Little Rock to placate a good many supporters who have the big bucks.
And while that’s well and good, Arkansas is a program that needs every Razorback fan, from Hamburg to Lake Hamilton to Harrison.
The SEC’s existing Commissioners Rule works against what Arkansas has tried to build all these years. if the NCAA allows it, then surely the SEC can see how its own rule is unfair.
We would simply like to see Arkansas in a position to bring an annual spring Red-White Game back to Little Rock, if the university managed to see the value in it. I’ve got an idea 40,000 or more people in this area would agree by showing up, even at perhaps a $5 admission (years ago, there was a slight charge and the now-long-gone Affiliated Foods also sponsored the Little Rock game and defrayed the UA’s cost). that would mean more exposure to fans young and old who can’t afford the exorbitant regular-season donation to the Razorback Foundation to purchase Little Rock tickets, which also are surcharged an additional $10 more than ticket prices for Fayetteville games.
But, as we’ve noted, the SEC won’t let Arkansas do it — about which I’m certain a lot of UA officials are probably quietly happy.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow Jim on Twitter @jimharris360
Tagged: North Carolina Tar Heels, Charles Bloom , Southeastern Conference, War Memorial Stadium, Bobby Petrino, Jeff Long, Atlantic Coast Conference, Virginia Cavaliers, Joe Ferguson
Jim Harris: One SEC Rule Hurts Arkansas Football More Than Any Other Program – ArkansasSports360.com