War Memorial Stadium / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
Is Arkansas’ Red-White spring football scrimmage at 1 p.m. Saturday at litmus test for future games Razorback games at War Memorial Stadium?
No, it’s not.
Donald W. Reynolds Stadium is under construction and unsafe to host fans in the stands and players and coaches on the field. Arkansas needed an alternate site if it were going to host a Red-White game this year, and Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium was the best option. The SEC granted Arkansas a waiver to host the game off campus, and for the first time since 1989 the Red-White game won’t be on campus.
Prior to 1990, the Razorbacks held two Red-White scrimmages for years, one in Fayetteville and the other usually in War Memorial Stadium. At that time, the one in Little Rock was the bigger deal.
NCAA rule changes forced Arkansas out of that tradition in 1990, and honestly the Red-White game hasn’t been as big a deal since. There have been good crowds in Fayetteville, even some that might be construed as big.
But there were times when Hog fans filled or nearly filled the 55,000 seats for Red-White games in the 1970s and ‘80s. That’s not been the case in Fayetteville since 1990. Granted, in the ‘70s and ‘80s Razorbacks fans were starved to see the Razorbacks. Back then few games were televised. In the 70s, Arkansas had one or two televised games. In the ‘80s that grew to three to five. So back then, the Red-White game in War Memorial Stadium was a great opportunity for fans to see the Hogs even if it was only a scrimmage.
We will see how hungry Hog fans are Saturday., but, in a literal sense, new Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek and new head coach Chad Morris did not devise a plan to move the game to War Memorial Stadium to test how hard Central Arkansas’ heart beats for the Razorbacks.
If Razorback Stadium could host the Red-White game, it would be played in Fayetteville. There was a need, and War Memorial Stadium filled it.
However, don’t think that the attendance on Saturday isn’t important.
In a connotative sense, the Red-White game Saturday at War Memorial Stadium is somewhat like a first date between Central Arkansas and the Razorbacks’ new top administrator and head coach.
In February, they were introduced to Central Arkansas at the annual recruiting announcement event the program holds in Little Rock. The Red-White game is like a second date.
Morris’ Hogs have spiffed up during three weeks of spring practice to put on a show for central, eastern, and southern Arkansas Hog fans, who can get to the capital easier than they can Fayetteville.
How Hog fans turn out for the Red-White game on Saturday won’t be THE deciding factor on the future decision about whether the Hogs continue to play in Little Rock, but I’d be naive to believe that it won’t affect how Yurachek, Morris, and others FEEL about the topic.
We know how former Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long and Bret Bielema felt about playing Razorbacks games in Little Rock. To them, it wasn’t an important tradition for the program, but rather a contractual obligation they were strapped into when they came onto the job.
That cold, bottom-line evaluation of what to many is a grand Razorback tradition is emblematic of why Long had no real support from boosters when the football program spiraled down and his stewardship of the Razorback program — heavy duty buyouts for coaches and the football coaches he hired — came into question.
Yurachek and Morris have a greater understanding of Razorback traditions. They were informed of the them during the courtship and negotiations of their hiring process. Morris benefits from his agent Jimmy Sexton’s familiarity with the program. Sexton was in the background for every second of Houston Nutt’s 10-year roller coaster ride as Arkansas’ head football coach.
The future of continued play of Razorback games in Little Rock is in more informed and more sensitive hands than under Long.
However, nothing should be taken for granted. Millions of dollars worth of work needs to be done and paid for to keep War Memorial Stadium as a viable option for the Razorbacks and its fans.
The state will have to figure that out, but there will be political opposition to spending that much tax money on the stadium, when there are frankly more important concerns such as education, highways, and other infrastructure, just to name a few.
So, there are bigger and more important variables in play than the turnout for the Red-White game on Saturday when considering continued play of Razorback games at War Memorial Stadium.
However, if there is just a small to average showing of fans for the Red-White scrimmage this Saturday, it will send a message to everyone involved.
If fans don’t show their passion for the Razorbacks playing in Little Rock, then it becomes harder for those who will have to do the political lifting to make it happen to be all that passionate about it either.
Diamond Hogs face No. 13 Auburn
After two weeks on the SEC road, Dave Van Horn’s Razorback baseball team will attempt to win their second series of the season against the No. 13 Auburn Tigers.
The Hogs had a 10-inning scare against Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday before winning 11-0, but won the second game 4-0 behind a strong pitching performance by Caleb Bolden on Wednesday. The Hogs are now 21-9 overall and 5-4 in SEC play.
The Auburn series is set to start at 6:30 tonight (Friday) at Baum Stadium, but the weather forecast is calling for rain most of the day.
Saturday’s game is set for 6 p.m. and Sunday’s for 4 p.m. and an SEC Network telecast. It should be a fantastic series particularly when Arkansas’ Blaine Knight faces Auburn ace Casey Mize, who is considered one of if not the top Major League prospect in college ball. They are both scheduled to pitch tonight (Friday). Watch Arkansas’ various social media feeds for updates on possible postponements.
Hall and Jones exit UA basketball program
Darious Hall / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
Arkansas announced Wednesday that freshman Darius Hall and sophomore C.J. Jones are exiting the basketball program about a week after freshman Daniel Gafford said he was staying.
An odd turn of events. Hall would have started next season and with his experience Jones would have had a shot.
It’s been rumored that Hall is headed to Memphis to play for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and maybe Jones will go in tow. If the Hogs and Memphis are going to begin playing each other again and that’s where Hall and Jones end up, the rivalry goes from simmering to boiling immediately.
Both wrote nice letters to Hog fans about their departure, but from this fan’s standpoint, when players who have every chance to be an important part of the upcoming season’s team opt to transfer, I don’t really care what their sentiments are.
Some will point fingers at Arkansas coach Mike Anderson over this, but basketball players transferring on the NCAA level has become epidemic with more than 800 players hopping from one situation to the next last season. That shows it’s more of an attitude issue with players than an issue for a particular coach.
Recruiting is a never-ending process. The Hogs have 11 scholarship players now. It will be interesting and hopefully exciting to see what Anderson does with the two open scholarships.