The Hogs and Red Wolves
Sep 14, 2017
By Chase Gage
JONESBORO, ARK — The debate has been going on for years, but it has come back up a lot recently. Should Arkansas play Arkansas State? This question is more complex than you might think.
Why Don’t They Play Now?
The answer is simple: John Barnhill, Frank Broyles and tradition.
When Barnhill was the Athletic Director for the Hogs, he set a precedent that the Razorbacks would never face Arkansas State. His plan was to build a state-wide fan base for the Razorbacks by playing games in Little Rock and trying to reach people on the eastern side of the state, and thought facing an in-state school would divide the state instead of uniting it.
When Broyles became Athletic Director in 1974, he upheld this tradition.
“Right now, our philosophy is that we don’t play (Arkansas State or other in-state schools) so fans can support both of us—or three of us, or four of us. Whatever schools they want to support, they support us and them. And that’s why we’ve been successful” Broyles said in a 2007 interview.
The irony of that statement is that by ignoring the smaller schools, it has caused a backlash against the University of Arkansas. Sure, the niche is small, but it has caused a form of hatred for the Razorbacks in small doses all around the state. Old-school Arkansas State fans loathe the Hogs because they never gave them a chance and still refuse to.
Why They Should Play
The biggest argument against the two schools competing (besides tradition, which is always a stupid excuse in any case) is that Arkansas has nothing to gain and everything to lose. But is that really true?
The Razorbacks have no problem playing Sun Belt level competition. One of their favorite non-conference opponents is Louisiana-Monroe, a rival of Arkansas State. In 2012, Monroe came to Little Rock and beat the Hogs while they were (unrightfully) ranked eighth in the nation. The Red Wolves beat Monroe that year in Jonesboro. Did that cost the Razorbacks their throne as the best team in the state? Not even close.
Similarly, even if they did lose to Arkansas State once every ten meetings, would anyone ever consider them to be the lesser University in the state? You’d have to be crazy to think so.
What difference would it make if they played Arkansas State instead of Monroe, Troy, Coastal Carolina or any other lower-level FBS school? A monumental difference for the state and fans, but nothing at all in terms of their yearly schedule.
In contrast to what Barnhill established, playing this game would, in fact, help unite the state. The biggest takeaway would be the economic boost the state would see as a whole. Two in-state teams playing at one site, with Arkansas (presumably) paying Arkansas State? All the money generated from that game would stay in the state. It seems like a genius business strategy.
How It Could Happen
It seems so simple. The Razorbacks are trying to completely abandon playing in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. A few years ago, the Red Wolves attempted to start a tradition of playing there, but it didn’t pan out the way they had hoped.
Playing the game at War Memorial, or at least the inaugural game between the two, is an obvious win for both schools. As long as the Razorbacks have a contract to play in Little Rock, they might as well make the most of it and make it an in-state game in the Capital city. For the Red Wolves, this would help them to expand their fan base, while still playing rather close to home.
The majority of the seats would be filled with Hog fans, but there would definitely be a presence from Arkansas State. The game would likely be the biggest crowd ever at War Memorial. Think of all the revenue that would bring in. From there, there are endless possibilities for the game.
- After the inaugural meeting in Little Rock, move the game to Fayetteville. There is no way the Hogs would want to continually play Arkansas State away from their true home stadium.
- Play alternating years in Fayetteville and Little Rock. Make AState use the Little Rock game as a home game.
- Play a game in Jonesboro. Okay, this one is far-fetched, but if Miami will agree to come to Jonesboro (and then not show up), then why would the Razorbacks be so opposed? There are plenty of Razorback fans in Jonesboro, and they would all be overly ecstatic to see the Hogs play so close to home.
- Only play the game once every X years. This doesn’t have to be a year-in year-out rivalry. Just play them every few years to keep everyone happy. It would keep the rivalry fresh and make it feel more like an event each time it rolls around.
Why They’ll Never Play
Arkansas will try to fool you by claiming it’s because of tradition, or that this way you can root for both teams, but the real reason is that they’re afraid.
Not afraid to lose. Not afraid of losing their title as the best in the state. They’re afraid of legitimizing Arkansas State.
The Hogs don’t just want to be the best school in the state. They’ll always have that title. They want to the the only school in the state worth mentioning.
Acknowledging that Arkansas State even exists is apparently too humble for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas State Athletic Director Terry Mohajir has done wonders to legitimize the University, and playing a football game against the Razorbacks would be his biggest step forward yet in that pursuit.
The Red Wolves are already working on establishing in-state games with schools such as Central Arkansas and Pine Bluff.
“I would love to work with (Arkansas Athletic Director) Jeff Long to schedule any athletic competition between the schools, that’s my stance. I think it’s good for the state, I think it’s good for the programs, I think it’s good for the budgets. I think it’s good for everything," Mohajir said.
At the end of the day, this debate seems to be pointless. The bottom line is that the Razorbacks don’t want the game to happen, and until they change their minds, it won’t.