I've been to all four of the Red-White games of the Mike Anderson era at Arkansas, and if anything has become clear, it's that Arkansas really has no idea what to do with them.
The first two years, I believe were on Friday nights and promoted at "Prime Time at the Palace". Last year was on a Sunday afternoon during a bye week for football, and this year of course was on a Wednesday night. The crowds have never been great. There was some enthusiasm in Anderson's first year because it was Anderson's first year, but it hasn't been great. Those first events also featured scrimmages by the women's team and dunk contests. Anderson got on the mic and addressed the fans.
This year was a straight 40-minute scrimmage. They did do player introductions before the game started, but that was it. It's almost like the held a Red-White game just because it's always been done and they felt like they were just supposed to.
This isn't to suggest Arkansas' basketball preview events should be similar to the showcases at the elite basketball schools like Kansas, Kentucky, or Michigan State. The basketball interest from Razorback fans in October just isn't there yet (although as soon as Arkansas can get lights that can do those LED-like things on the court, the Hogs absolutely should because those are amazing). There's little doubt Bud Walton will be rocking later this season, but despite relatively lofty expectations this season, Arkansas fans aren't in basketball mode yet.
That being said, this team deserves to have some excitement built around them and that's why it feels like Arkansas missed a golden opportunity last week to hold the Red-White scrimmage last Saturday night following the UAB football game.
For at least the last couple of years, Arkansas has played a baseball game later in the day following the football spring game, and it's usually one of the highest-attended games of the year. As soon as the school found out the UAB game would be a morning game (something they surely knew was a possibility well before it was officially announced) Arkansas, if it was at all possible, should have jumped at the chance to hold the basketball scrimmage that evening.
Not only were 60,000-ish Razorback fans already on campus for the football game, the doubleheader may have drawn more fans from out of town who surely didn't want to make the trek just to see the Hogs pummel a weak non-conference opponent. But throw in a free basketball event a few hours after the game and the day in Fayetteville might have been more enticing.
Arkansas was also hosting an important official visitor last weekend in power forward Ted Kapita, and while I don't know the full weekend itinerary, visiting Bud Walton while some real energy in the building would surely have been a nice addition.
It's impossible to know how many fans actually would have attended the Red-White game under this scenario, but I'm willing to bet it would have been more than the gathering of basketball die-hards that showed up Wednesday night. If Arkansas tried it and if enough fans show up to justify it, Arkansas can begin to put more effort and resources into showcasing the event. And at that point, they can really show it off.
It's too late for this year, but next year Arkansas does have a late October football game vs UT-Martin scheduled. I'm going to go out on a limb and say there's a decent chance that could be a morning game as well. It will be interesting to see what happens to the basketball scrimmage if the school can coordinate it with a football game. There's nothing wrong with a fall RazorFest.
Maybe one day basketball will once again be a big enough draw at any point on the calendar that it can draw a full house, but it's not there today. If coordination with football is necessary to draw a decent crowd, it's worth it because this basketball team is going to be really fun to watch this year.