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WALLY HALL: Is buying out last Little Rock game really worth it?

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, September 3, 2017
Arkansas fans call the Hogs before the football season opener against Florida A&M Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, during the game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas fans call the Hogs before the football season opener against Florida A&M Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, during the game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

In a few months it should all be decided and there will be no more great stadium debate.

Since Thursday's 49-7 victory by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville over Florida A&M, a lot of emails have been received expressing concern over the future of the Razorbacks and the state of Arkansas.

Some were also received stating that 36,055 fans in the stands leaves no doubt there should be no more games in War Memorial. All of those said it didn't look good on TV. Which means they didn't go to the game and most likely wouldn't have had it been in Fayetteville.

The biggest reason for the unimpressive crowd was FAMU was not an attractive opponent. There is little excitement about playing teams like the Rattlers or Coastal Carolina.

Not going to beat that dead horse, but had the Razorbacks been playing the ASU Red Wolves or UCA Bears or even UAPB there would not have been an empty seat in War Memorial.

That's a different subject though.

This one is about the long-storied history of the Razorbacks playing in central Arkansas.

Talking purely football, it would be a no-brainer to move the contract's final game to Northwest Arkansas. The facilities are bigger and better by a long shot.

That wasn't true when the Hogs started playing four games in Little Rock. Razorback Stadium, long before it became Reynolds Razorback Stadium, didn't even have lights.

Playing in central Arkansas was a natural and fans were born from Lake Village to Texarkana and from Dumas to Hot Springs to West Memphis and many places in between.

Four games quietly became three and then two after Razorback Stadium was overhauled so the Hogs could better compete in the SEC.

Now it is one, and that seems to be in serious jeopardy. There is one year left on the contract and there is talk that it could be bought out.

Granted, the contract doesn't have a buyout clause, but thousands of contracts are bought out daily that don't have a buyout.

Regardless, the UA's future across the state can't be based purely on football.

The UA board of trustees, the president of the UA System, the UA chancellor and Athletic Director Jeff Long all need to be involved in deciding what is best for the University of Arkansas in the long term.

It is great the UA has focused on recruiting students from Texas. Lowering out-of-state tuition fees was big. The Lone Star State needs Arkansas-educated young people to help Texas continue to prosper.

As does Arkansas.

The UA's very existence as a land-grant college was to help the great state of Arkansas. The lure of the Razorbacks has always given the UA an in-state edge in recruiting for academics.

Now, though, ASU, UCA, Arkansas Tech and every other college has grown. Online courses make it possible to get a degree and never leave your hometown.

Most 18-year-olds, though, want to have the full college experience.

Will the UA continue to attract students from all over the state without a presence in central Arkansas?

That's the question that has to be answered by the leaders of the University of Arkansas.

For five decades it was a plus for the UA to play football in central Arkansas; if that has changed -- and surely research has been done -- and moving a final football game is best for the school's future then so be it.

It has been a great debate, but it's time now for the leaders of the state's flagship school to make a decision based on one thing, what is best for the University of Arkansas' future.

Sports on 09/03/2017


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