Andy Hodges

Hogs playing in Little Rock still bad idea regardless how good talks going

During a time when no games are being played, the talk turned to Arkansas playing football games in Little Rock a little early this year and the bottom line is it’s just talk.

Razorbacks athletic director Hunter Yurachek said the politically correct things he has to say and everybody with War Memorial Stadium did likewise.

The best-case scenario happened, which was everybody had a nice conversation.

With no games to be played in Little Rock this year for the first time in several decades, that’s all anybody has left to do is talk about getting the Missouri game there in 2021.

It shouldn’t be played there. The Hogs should have quit playing there over 40 years ago when I first suggested it in a column. War Memorial was a dump then and now it’s still a dump with a fresh coat of paint in places and new carpet that is still a disorganized and dysfunctional facility.

Oh, don’t think for a second I don’t understand the arguments to continue playing there (and I have some really good, longtime friends that are on that side), it’s just something I don’t agree with.

The tradition of Arkansas football is too often confused. If they marketed it correctly and quit all this waffling around with goofy alternate logos and stuff they have the most unique brand in all of college athletics. Playing in Little Rock should be just some fond memories.

Just like driving autos with the crank to roll windows up and down, a limited number of FM radio stations, no cell phones and before personal computers were even invented.

Going to Razorback games in War Memorial quit being a cultural experience several years ago. Part of it is the decline of the team.

Since 2011 the Hogs haven’t won a game of any significance there. They stumbled around against Samford and pulled out a 31-21 win in 2013 then beat Alcorn State (2016) and Florida A&M (2017)

The record is 3-7 in the last seven games played there and 0-4 against SEC teams since beating Mississippi State there in 2011. Yes, the Hogs haven’t won a league game in that stadium since 2011.

But the biggest part of the whole deal is the stadium can’t afford to upgrade to the requirements of football in this day and age. Even Razorback Stadium is going to have to do some upgrading, in my opinion.

Yes, the percentage of season ticket renewals are up … that’s people renewing from a 33 percent renewal last. What I want to see is how the overall number of season tickets sold compares to the last decade.

In 2019, there was a 33 percent renewal of season tickets from 2018. Now there’s a 77 percent renewal of THAT low number. From an accounting perspective that’s still a number that’s going down in overall tickets sold.

But back to Little Rock. This isn’t a criticism of the Central Arkansas area or comparing the two general areas. Nope, not getting into that debate. I don’t believe it will cost donations, either, because the folks writing the checks that matter have egos that won’t let them quit writing the check in spite of what they may say.

War Memorial, bless it’s ancient heart, has parking issues, operational issues and technical issues (although the scoreboard did function for most of the Hogs’ game with Missouri last November).

They still have a bleacher capacity for 45,000 or so that is now 55,000 because the didn’t add that many seats, but squeezed everybody in a little tighter. People tell me it’s the most uncomfortable place they’ve ever tried to watch a game … including most high school stadiums.

Fayetteville has an issue in that area, too, which is why I think they are going to have to put in a lot of chairback seats with cupholders to entice fans back into the stadium. Wins alone isn’t going to do it.

All that changed in 2014 when the SEC Network came into being and every single game is now on television. People have spent thousands of dollars creating their personal gameday experience … in their own house. It’s more comfortable there than fighting traffic and squeezing into some aluminum seats and rolling the dice on who’s around you.

But War Memorial’s biggest problem is it really doesn’t matter if Yurachek, the governor or even a straw poll of fans is taken. The SEC has to sign off on it.

It was the league that nixed the spring game being cancelled before the ongoing global health crisis did it. In hindsight they could have waited a few weeks and never had to deal with the whole decision.

Nobody else plays games away from their home stadium. They can’t use it as a recruiting advantage anymore. About the best anybody can do these days is wave at recruits if nobody’s paying close attention.

That is, by the way, how Yurachek can tell the truth about acknowledging War Memorial without having to make a decision. It is, ultimately, a league decision and they’ve already shot down the spring game being played there.

Who knows what they’ll say about playing there next year.

We don’t even know if there will be football this year.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Cheryl Carpenter

    April 13, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    It is evident you have NO clue about why playing in Little Rock, even on a limited basis, is a reflection of the importance of inclusion of the Arkansas Razorback culture. You can have an opinion, but you’ll NEVER understand!

    • Andy Hodges

      April 13, 2020 at 5:20 pm

      Thank you for reading Cheryl. My family has been season-ticket holders since the early 1950’s and I’ve been at games starting in 1960 that I was too young to really recall being at. I grew up south of Little Rock and attended games there for nearly 60 years. I’m very aware of the history and the feelings of some, but I wrote in 1978 (when I was a sports editor in central Arkansas) the place should be imploded and everything moved to Fayetteville. Playing there now is ridiculous, in my opinion, but I don’t have a vote.

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