Commentary:

New leadership could bring new approach to old argument

By: Rick Fires
Published: Sunday, December 17, 2017
Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium is shown from the air during this 2014 file photo. The stadium, which opened in 1948, is in need of up to $10 million in renovations, according to figures provided by University of Arkansas officials.
Photo by Benjamin Krain
Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium is shown from the air during this 2014 file photo. The stadium, which opened in 1948, is in need of up to $10 million in renovations, according to figures provided by University of Arkansas officials.

“You’re too old.”

“You’re not as sleek and as modern as the others.”

“Let’s end this relationship and go our separate ways.”

Hurtful words for sure, even when applied to old and gray War Memorial Stadium, which opened in Little Rock in 1948. No one connected with the Arkansas Razorbacks has publicly stated the football Hogs are leaving War Memorial Stadium after 2018, but I suspect they were leaning toward leaving. That was before Hunter Yurachek was hired to replace Jeff Long as athletic director at Arkansas.

Could there be a change of heart with the new guy in charge of the athletic department? The subject will be discussed but not before Yurachek gets to enjoy the holidays with his family in their new surroundings in Northwest Arkansas.

“I have not yet visited with the new AD, but hope to soon,” said Kane Webb, director of the Parks and Tourism Department that oversees War Memorial Stadium. “I imagine he’s getting bombarded from all sides. But I can tell you I remain very optimistic about the future of Razorback games at War Memorial Stadium.”

Everyone knows the issue and the economics of the longstanding debate favor moving all games to Fayetteville. But should money be the primary factor in the decision on whether to continue games in Little Rock after the current contract ends in 2018?

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he supports the tradition of playing games in Little Rock. So does Tommy Tuberville, a former SEC coach and a native of Camden.

“I told Coach (Frank) Broyles one time that college football is not all about money, it’s about people,” Tuberville said. “You need to play games in Little Rock. There’s some cases that are different. This is one of those. This Razorback football team was built with many, many thousands of people that weren’t in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in that corner of the state.”

New Arkansas football coach Chad Morris is doing his part to repair a fractured fan base by recruiting players and visiting high school coaches throughout the state. But more needs to be done instead of throwing crumbs to the Little Rock crowd by scheduling awful opponents like Alcorn State and Florida A&M.

I am hopeful Yurachek brings a new way of thinking and help convince the other decision-makers to keep games in Little Rock.

Why not schedule Ole Miss and Mississippi State at War Memorial Stadium on a rotating basis basic? Better yet, throw Arkansas State into the mix, although the thorny issue of playing in-state schools may be better left alone until other important issues are resolved.

So, enjoy the holidays, Mr. Yurachek. You’ll be plenty busy beginning in 2018.

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