Like It Is:

UA Board's War Memorial decision is upon us

By: Wally Hall
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Fans walk into War Memorial Stadium for the Arkansas Razorbacks' spring game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Little Rock.
Fans walk into War Memorial Stadium for the Arkansas Razorbacks' spring game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Little Rock.

It is coming.

It could be anytime, but most likely before May 23 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek will make a recommendation to the UA board of trustees about whether or not to schedule football games in Little Rock in the future.

The UA board's next scheduled meeting is May 23-24 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. As of now, there is not another meeting scheduled, although there will be. The board has already met three times in 2018.

Steinmetz and Yurachek, of course, will be on the same page, yet it will be up to those 10 people to decide the future of Razorback games outside of Fayetteville.

The governor, Asa Hutchinson, who appoints the board of trustees, has already made it clear that he likes the idea of maintaining the history of the Razorback football team playing a game in War Memorial Stadium.

In a recent USA Today story by George Schroeder, a Little Rock native who cut his journalistic teeth at this newspaper, quoted Yurachek:

"If this was a dollars-and-cents decision, it's easy. It's not an easy decision if you talk about how playing games in Little Rock is a part of the fabric of this great state."

Several people in the story, including Kane Webb, director of Arkansas Parks and Tourism which oversees War Memorial operations, and Kevin Crass, an attorney and long time War Memorial Stadium commissioner, said they were slightly more optimistic that the Razorbacks will continue to play a game in Central Arkansas than they had been.

Probably one of the biggest changes is that Jeff Long was fired as athletic director, and he seemed determined to not just move everything to Northwest Arkansas, but also to erase the great history of the Razorbacks and the Southwest Conference.

Most of the display items that adorned the old museum in the Broyles Complex were donated or returned to original owners before the complex was torn down for renovation.

Cliff Gibson III, a board member and resident of Monticello, has made it known his first Razorback football game was when he was 7 years old at War Memorial, and he wants future generations of youngsters to have the opportunity to make that same memory "if we can."

Like Yurachek said, it isn't an easy decision.

For almost 70 years War Memorial Stadium has been the home away from home for the Hogs. For many years there were four games played there every season and that developed a following that ran to all the state's borders and sometimes beyond.

And that also means the grand old lady is nearing 70 and has had few renovations. A recent study showed the stadium needs $17 million in updates. And the SEC is supposed to release minimum standards for football venues, although that might have been as a favor to Long so he wouldn't be further vilified when he yanked the last game away.

The UA makes $3.7 million less for a home game in Little Rock than in Fayetteville, and attendance has sagged the last few years in Central Arkansas, but that might have been a statement to Long about the support of the program outside of Northwest Arkansas. Fans don't support a stadium, they support a team.

An often expressed change is the Hogs would play Missouri in the Rock the day after Thanksgiving every other year. That's a compromise, and one the board of trustees might consider.

One thing that was learned about this board last year when Long and Bret Bielema were fired is they are not afraid to make a decision.

Sports on 04/17/2018

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