A couple of weeks ago, this blog applauded outgoing Athletic Director Frank Broyles for his belief that the LSU game should be played in Little Rock (we hear that this meant a lot to him). Now, however, we’d like to voice our displeasure with one of his other stances – his refusal to permit the Razorbacks to play other Arkansas schools.
We recognize this is a well-worn debate in Arkansas, but viewed from afar, it’s particularly baffling. I live in Atlanta, where the Georgia-Georgia Tech football game is perhaps the most anticipated sporting event of the year. Furthermore, those universities’ various teams periodically play those from other, smaller in-state schools, such as Georgia State and Georgia Southern. Even if the game is a mismatch, the geography factor gives it some appeal that would be absent from just any other ‘ole non-conference dust-up. In California, where John lives, intra-state match-ups are a vital part of the college sports landscape. Arkansans got a brief taste of how exciting such games can be in the 1987 NIT Tournament, when the Hogs stormed back from 20 points down to defeat Arkansas State in overtime.
It doesn’t have to take place every year, but a football game against Arkansas State would provide some excitement to a non-conference schedule that all too often is weighted down with the likes of North Texas and Tennessee-Chattanooga. Same goes for basketball – wouldn’t you be more interested in seeing the Hogs take on A-State, UALR, UAPB or Central Arkansas than most of the typical out-of-conference foes?
Not having really followed the issue in recent years, we’re not sure what the current stated and unstated reasons for not playing in-state schools are. But the fear that the U of A would suffer some sort of significant loss of prestige — if indeed this is a reason — by losing to one of these schools is pretty silly. This is a school whose football team lost to The Citadel of Division I-AA and whose basketball team lost to American-Puerto Rico of Division II. And yet, somehow, the program is in pretty good shape. It’s clear now that those losses were mere bumps in the road (well, maybe not to Jack Crowe).
Frank Broyles has been a forward-thinking AD in many ways. But on this issue, he’s way behind the times.