JONESBORO — A telltale sign that what happened Saturday night was pretty big stuff at Arkansas State:
The game between the NCAA Division I FCS Red Wolves and the Division I FBS Bears drew premium ticket prices at Arkansas State. That means a ticket to the game cost as much as the University of Memphis, another FBS school.
FCS teams (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) hardly ever require premium ticket prices for a game against an FBS team.
University of Central Arkansas coach Clint Conque was proven correct in his assessment that both sides won here Saturday before a ball was kicked off at ASU Stadium.
Confirmation that a UCA-ASU matchup should take place a lot more often than was made by a survey of the scene Saturday afternoon, a wonderfully invigorating scene.
UCA not only brought fans but RV’s and tents and tailgate gear to go with it. ASU folks amped up their stuff.
"I got here at 4 o’clock and it was tough getting into here. Folks really came early. I wondered what was up," said an elevator operator at the stadium.
In the UCA tailgating area, there were purple tents next to red tents, sometimes Red Wolves flags next to Bear flags.
Four hours before the game, people were having fun.
All ages, all kinds.
Members of the UCA band jived and danced with a DJ from a Jonesboro station. There was karaoke. Some members played a pickup touch game.
Kids played with footballs, balloons, soccer bags.
Dogs roamed the grounds for food and petting.
It was easy to find a bag toss. There were bigtime grills everywhere.
What the ASU fans loved was no one that they play bring the type of crowd that UCA did. And the purple-clad folks came with tents, trailers and all the amenities.
"Only Memphis can rival this," said one ASU tailgater. "And they didn’t bring anybody this year."
"The business community here (Jonesboro) have been wonderful to us and loves this," said Harold Helton, whose crew began setting up early Saturday morning. "This is the kind of atmosphere they want."
It’s the atmosphere anybody should want.
This was one for the fans.
It was what college football is about. Two state teams within a couple of hours of each other, in different classifications, coming together for some electric moments. And the money stays in Arkansas.
Despite clouds coming in and some light rain, fans of both sides came early and partied long.
"We have a big, big home conference game next week — one of the biggest in our history (against two-time defending Southland champion Stephen F. Austin) and all folks have been talking about since this summer has been Arkansas State," said Matt Jordan, UCA’s marketing director.
"The Jonesboro mayor and I made wagered a steak dinner for the game," said Tab Townsell, Conway mayor. "I put my order in for me and my wife. This type of thing is fantastic and needed in this state.
It was interesting that most UCA fans were talking victory; they were enjoying an atmosphere they rarely encounter but wish they could more often.
"I went to two events last night and the people here in Jonesboro were talking about how they wished this could happen every year or most every year," said Tom Courtney, UCA’s interim president.
Below the official adminstrative level, ASU fans and alumni, UCA fans and alumni and communnity leaders in both Conway and Jonesboro would vote for a regular meeting, at least once every couple of years.
"Among the regular fans, I bet you’d get a 95 percent vote for it," Courtway said.
Winning. All the way around.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)