Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Little Rock questions never go away
The bleachers are shown during a game between Arkansas and Missouri on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
FAYETTEVILLE — Like reruns ranging from “Gunsmoke” to “Friends,” the same press conference questions persist before the University of Arkansas’ Razorbacks play a football game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
The Razorbacks today return to Little Rock and War Memorial Stadium for a nonconference game against the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions.
For UAPB, today marks its first football game against the UA System’s flagship university. It’s the Razorbacks’ first football game against an Arkansas-based school since 1944. Back then the Razorbacks routed Arkansas A&M, 27 years later to be renamed the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
Adding the instate factor, some questions were asked this week of second-year Razorbacks Coach Sam Pittman not asked his predecessors since the Great Stadium Debate commenced during the 1990s expansion of Razorback Stadium.
Otherwise this week marked the same old, same old.
Some questions were asked about the nostalgia of playing at War Memorial.
Others, more frequently asked recently, compared the facilities’ capacities and amenities, asserted the Razorbacks’ inconvenience traveling for a “home game,” and the opportunity lost showing recruits the Fayetteville campus.
Though from Grove, Okla., Pittman because of a Razorbacks-adoring uncle, grew up a Razorbacks fan. He’s well versed noting the great times and support the Razorbacks enjoyed at War Memorial.
As the Razorbacks' 2013-15 offensive line coach for Bret Bielema, Pittman has seen the other side of the GSD.
From 2013-15, Bielema’s Hogs went 1-3 in Little Rock. They barely escaped lower division Samford in 2013 before losing a 2013 SEC game there to Mississippi State, followed by an SEC loss there to Georgia in 2014 and a stunning 2015 nonconference tumble to Toledo.
Adding defeats to inconvenience do not good memories make.
However the 2018 and 2019 Chad Morris era made that moot. Those Morris era teams (4-20 overall, 0-16 SEC) couldn’t win anywhere.
Inheriting a dumpster fire, Pittman and Hunter Yurachek knew a continuing stadium debate added fuel to the flames.
They keep a Little Rock game, albeit a nonconference one, including an already anticipated 2025 matchup with Arkansas State.
Pittman explained why.
“I think some are wondering why we are going over there,” Pittman said. “Well, hell, we’re going over there because people in Little Rock want us to go over there. We need to go over there and win and put on a show for the fine folks in Central Arkansas.”
The Hogs have never belonged just to UA alums or just to Northwest Arkansas or just to the rich. If playing just one game in Little Rock somehow reinforces all that, it’s well worth the Razorbacks’ inconvenience.
“I think it’s what makes Arkansas, Arkansas,” Pittman said.
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