They didn't expect it, and didn't do anything to earn it as far as we know, but it has been a fantastic few days for fans of Razorback games at War Memorial Stadium. First, the University itself did War Memorial a solid by switching from Coke to Pepsi, the cultural significance of which was quickly proven on the Internet and social media. Then, the very next day, the SEC ruled that teams could host recruits on off-campus games. This may not be anything as major as, say, getting the LSU game back or extending the requirement to host an SEC game beyond the current contract, but it does at least strengthen the argument for those defending games at War Memorial. Celebration party at Whitewater!
The biggest news is the recruiting issue. I've felt for a long time that the inability to host recruits at War Memorial was the strongest argument available to those wanting all games in Fayetteville. War Memorial fans had no answer for it. In this age, when recruiting battles are incredibly public and their results are almost as emotional as the actual games, wasting a home conference game as a recruiting opportunity undeniably didn't help Arkansas. Even though Arkansas isn't going to play a top team like LSU in Little Rock this year, (and probably never again) they will play an SEC team there for the next few years, at least until the current contract expires. Now, if the Razorbacks can get them to come, they can get local prospects like Hunter Henry and Altee Tenpenny free entry and access, as well as any other out of town recruit they wish.
No, Razorback recruiting likely won't jump to the top 15 in recruiting rankings. And the Hogs probably won't be showing off the luxurious War Memorial locker rooms to anybody, but anytime they get the green light to give a prospect first hand access to the program, it's valuable.
The soda bombshell sent shock waves from the Ozarks all the way to the Delta. Despite what Pepsi's blind taste tests would have you believe, Razorback fans were in full force Thursday displaying their undying affection for Coke. The story on ArkansasSports360.com has, at this moment, 62 comments and 121 Facebook likes. But while UA won't be able to serve Coke on campus, War Memorial still can. Sure, you'll probably have to get it straight from a bottle with no ice (the European way), but you can at least get it without having to worry about smuggling it in like fans in Fayetteville will surely do. If you're not mixing your whiskey with coke, you better be drinking it straight. Anything else is against code.
Truth be told, I don't mind Pepsi. I've been known to drink both and have fond memories of drinking Pepsi at Ray Winder Field growing up. However, Pepsi is very un-SEC. I never could find an authoritative list, but the only other SEC campus I could find that sold Pepsi is Florida, and few in Gainesville, based on our highly scientific study during one weekend there, are native Southerners to begin with. I prefer Arkansas to be as SEC as they can possibly be. We hear every season about the need to make the atmosphere at Fayetteville games on the same level as atmospheres at some of the other places in the SEC, and if you don't think smuggling whiskey/bourbon to mix with Coke from the concession stand is a big part of that, you're fooling yourself.
War Memorial staffers should begin a campaign to make Coke a big part of the War Memorial experience. Seek out sponsorships. Hang banners. Play commercials. Make sure every fan knows that War Memorial is the Razorbacks' Coke-friendly home.
So if you see any War Memorial fans on message boards spiriting some extra confidence in the near future, all this is why. The next round of Great Stadium Debates could heat up anytime between now and Arkansas' first game in Little Rock during Week 2. Many of the arguments will be the same and come from the same people, but, for the first time in a while, War Memorial fans have been given a little extra ammunition.
Full disclosure: I'm a Little Rock native currently living in Northwest Arkansas. I go to games in both places and enjoy them both. All I really want are flatlands surrounding the stadium. If you've never been to an away game featuring flat walking areas around the stadium, it is quite luxurious.