Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Make no mistake, UA dictates UA policy
Ron Huery (right) was a member of the 1987 Arkansas basketball team that beat Arkansas State 67-64 in Barnhill Arena.
LITTLE ROCK When it was written in Wednesday’s column that the NCAA and ESPN might like to pit the Arkansas Razorbacks and Arkansas State against each other in the NIT, there was no hidden motive on my part.
A couple of readers took exception to me calling their 1987 match-up the most electric environment I’ve ever been in.
There have been some that were close. The Tennessee game at Razorback Stadium in 1999 and the Alabama football game in 2009 come to mind, as well as any number of games in War Memorial Stadium. There were other basketball games in Barnhill, and a few in Walton Arena have been incredible.
Nothing, though, topped that night.
Most who were there still remember it like it was yesterday, and it has been 26 years.
Not one Final Four, which is basically corporate America anymore, topped that night in Barnhill Arena, although it was pretty incredible when Michigan State made it to Ford Field in Detroit in 2010.
And I may never experience another game like that again.
It has never been a secret in my 34 years of writing this column that I am an advocate of Arkansas and Arkansas State playing in football, and it’s the same with basketball - just throw UALR and UAPB into the mix.
However, I’ve never believed it is my job to try and get any institution to change its policies.
If the UA doesn’t want to schedule in-state schools, that’s up to UA.
That just means the Razorbacks still won’t have a traditional rival.
Oh, we all kid ourselves that back in the old Southwest Conference days, Texas was a rival, but the truth is the Longhorns wanted to beat Oklahoma and Texas A&M more than they ever wanted to beat the Razorbacks.
Now we point a finger at LSU, and there have been some great games, but the Tigers always want to beat Alabama first and, in the years they play, Florida is probably second on their list.
The only thing that might ever dictate a change of heart for the Hogs is economics.
State government should never get involved. There are far more important issues at hand than who plays whom in a football game.
With the rising costs of athletics, the need to make more money could come into play.
If the Hogs opened the season with the Red Wolves at Reynolds Razorback Stadium and charged $100 per ticket, that would be about $7.2 million. ASU fans would buy any and all tickets they could get their hands on, so it would be a sellout.
Pay ASU $1 million, and the UA is left with its single biggest payday in the historyof the school’s football program.
Economics, though, won’t come into play in the near future.
So to be perfectly clear, the only way the Red Wolves get a shot at the Razorbacks is if the NCAA and ESPN decide to schedule the game.
I may be an advocate of the schools playing, but that isn’t up to me.
It never has been and never will be.
Having spent part of the past two Saturdays at wrestling tournaments, I have to say I am impressed by how far the state has come in such a short time, not only in participation but in talent.
First it was Rumble in the Rock, hosted by Central Arkansas Christian, and it was fun to watch kids of all ages.
Last Saturday, it was the high school state championships at the Stephens Center, and it was more than a little entertaining. The competition was great, and there were enough cheers and tears to satisfy anyone.
Rogers will host the fifth annual Arkansas Youth State Wrestling Tournament this Saturday at the Rogers Heritage High School gym. Age divisions range from kindergarten through the fifth grade, and it will be as much fun as a night baseball game in New York City.
Sports, Pages 17 on 02/28/2013