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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Old policy stands in way of new rival for Hogs

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Sports Editor

Arkansas vs. Texas.

There is very little that gets a sports fan in the Natural State fired up like the mention of a Hogs/Horns matchup.

Just look at all the hype and hoopla that led up to the 38-28 dismantling of Texas at the hands of Arkansas in Austin Sept. 13.

The week preceding the Hogs' first regular-season gridiron matchup with Texas since 1991, when both were members of the now defunct Southwestern Conference, was filled with memories of past clashes and all the times, good and bad, surrounding them.

Although Texas holds a considerable (54-21) lead in the all time series, that matters little when it's time to lace 'em up and play.

Football, basketball, tiddlywinks, bowling -- the sport doesn't matter. If it's Arkansas/Texas, things will be intense. Count on it.

That's what great rivalries do. They not only get fans on both sides of the battle lines fired up, they usually bring out inspired performances from the athletes participating.

These kind of heated rivalries have the power to bring a whole state to a stand-still. Witness the Alabama/Auburn or Georgia/Georgia Tech games. These kind of annual tilts can keep even the most casual sports fan interested, if only for a few minutes.

While Arkansas never was, nor will they ever be the Longhorns' chief nemesis, that designation goes to the Oklahoma Sooners, Texas was always the most anticipated game on the Hogs' schedule in the old SWC days.

Next year's trip to Fayetteville by Texas will mark the end of this briefly renewed Arkansas/Texas contest, leaving the Horns and their masses to devote most of their passion to the Sooners, while the Hogs look to ... whom?

Since joining the Southeastern Conference in the early 90s, Arkansas never really has had an annual game with an opponent that stirs up the state's interest like Texas.

Oh, sure, it's great to beat Alabama or Tennessee in football and Kentucky in basketball, but the embers of those contests still haven't developed into a five-alarm blaze on a regular basis.

Perhaps it's time the Hogs looked another direction for an opponent to create a headline-grabbing annual game -- inside the borders of their own state.

Just imagine all the energy and excitement that would accompany an annual matchup with Arkansas State in football.

This contest would easily be the talk of the state and both schools would benefit enormously, financially and otherwise.

This game for the ultimate bragging rights between fans on both sides could be scheduled at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium every year, with the teams alternating as home team each year.

By playing in War Memorial, the Hogs would ensure their fans in the central section of the state at least one game a year in the Rock, and ASU, wanting to hang onto their Division IA status, could use the sold-out game as a way to help boost attendance figures, now a part of the NCAA's mandatory qualifications for maintaining this status.

But let's be honest. The real beneficiaries of such a game would be the only people that really matter, the fans of both schools. Supporters, whether Hogs or Indians, can agree on one thing, there would be little else to take attention away from a UA/ASU matchup.

The outcome of a football game like this might be one-sided at first, but rivalries sure do have a way of leveling the playing field after awhile.

And why stop at football? How about an annual basketball classic at Alltel Arena?

Schedule an ASU/University of Central Arkansas game, followed by a UA/UALR game. Then next year, switch matchups. Maybe invite UA-Pine Bluff. With state bragging rights at stake, these games would be guaranteed sell-outs and would create a buzz like nothing else any of these schools participate in on a regular basis. Somehow a Arkansas/Louisiana Monroe matchup just doesn't ring with the same level of anticipation. Does anyone remember the 1987 Arkansas/Arkansas State epic battle in the first round of the NIT? Talk about fireworks.

But as long as UA athletic director Frank Broyles is at the helm, fans in the state will continually be denied any progressive thinking that could result in such games.

Broyles, king of all things athletic and otherwise at the U of A, has long had a "No play against in-state teams" section in his personal guide book. Seems he thinks the Hogs have nothing to gain and everything to lose by such games.

That may be true, but I can bet one thing is certain for Hog fans; they would rather lose to a heated in-state rival instead of The Citadel, or Troy State, from last year.

It's time for Frank's antiquated policy to hit the road so these games can finally be scheduled.

It's time sports fans in the state got a game that makes sense on all levels. It's time for Arkansas State to take their rightful place as the Texas of future Razorback schedules.

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