What was said and not said — and done and not done — concerning moving the Arkansas-LSU season-ending football game from Little Rock to Fayetteville was fascinating.
Fans closer to central Arkansas grimaced, griped a little but we haven’t heard any “storm the bastions” outcry. Many, though sentimental to games in War Memorial Stadium, have conceded that the move was the best for the program.
Jeff Long, the UA’s athletic director, has not become a leading candidate for stoning — even after voicing phrase “competitive disadvantage” in referring maintaining the game in Little Rock that would have meant the Hogs would be traveling our of town for three straight games. In essence, Long has reasoned that, in practicality, he considers Little Rock a road game. So the phrase “competitive disadvantage” is a slap at those who annually worship at the “Miracle on Markham Shrine.”
That’s the catch.
The climactic regular-season Arkansas-LSU football game is an event — pretty much a grand end-of-the-season reception, tailgate and dinner on the grounds for the Hogs and their faithful.
And usually a pretty exciting football game.
LSU-Arkansas in Fayetteville looms as a big game, vital to the SEC pecking order.
Will it have the same atmosphere?
Fayetteville also offers 20,000 more seats, more bucks for the bang.
The Razorbacks and their fans have created this monster game, which has appeared to have outgrown its childhood home.
The Arkansas-LSU “Battle for the Golden Boot” began in Little Rock in 1996, when LSU was pretty good under coach Gerry DiNardo, who was not a media darling for weird and captivating quotes, figuratively miles away from the Les Miles mystique.
The Razorbacks were a so-so bunch, a 4-7 team, who were just adjusting to SEC play.
It was not a glamor game. I remember watching some of the LSU players, after the Tigers won 17-7, assembling about the boot trophy they had won and seemingly not knowing whether to haul it to the busses or leave it for a cleanup crew, maybe a potential jewel for some future edition of “Storage Wars.”
Now, the “Boot” has become an incon and so has the game in recent years. It’s become one of the most end-of-the-season rivalry games on Thanksgiving Weekend.
The game and its meaning has mushroomed and it has certainly earned its place in a bigger stadium in Fayetteville.
Unknown and still to be determined are the answers to these questions:
With the cyclical nature of college football, will it always be this big of game?
Will fans travel in significant numbers from parts of Arkansas and Louisiana on Thanksgiving Weekend to justify having 20,000 more seats?
Will it become more of a northwest Arkansas showcase event?
Will it have the same aura?
The answer probably is yes to all — if both the Hogs and the Tigers maintain their status among the elite in college football. Winning probably makes each moot.
The interesting aspect of much of the reaction of the move is the number of UA fans who have expressed that if that is what is needed to help the Hogs contend for a national championship and a top-10, top-five berth in college football on a more regular basis, do it.
Petrino currently can pretty much get what he wants — that’s part of the reward for what he has built.
What has not been said if this is the first major move to ultimately play all the games in Fayetteville. Will the Little Rock games be reduced from two to one after the current two-a-year contract expires in 2016? Is that what Long and Bobby Petrino are aiming for and is that the best long-range outlook for the program?
The trend in college football is toward campus stadiums with modern amenities.
Long and Petrino are savvy enough to know that if they create the quality and the demand, the fans will come. Some will whine and grumble about the trip — but they will come to northwest Arkansas to watch college football at the highest level.
Ole Miss might become a dandy of a matchup for War Memorial. It has in the past — before the two schools were Southeastern Conference rivals.
I suggest that, whether it’s a single game or part of a two-game package, that the UA play a nonconference game against either Arkansas State or the University of Central Arkansas on a rotating basis in Little Rock, spreading the wealth and excitement to a larger demographic.
But that’s another idea and debate for another day — in the distant future.
The key for so many in college football nowadays is adjusting to the change and the shifting and shaking landscape.
A major debate is ensuing at Texas A&M about whether to allow the female dance team to perform along the traditional male bastion of the sideline at Kyle Field.
So many ages, housing well-guarded traditions, are rattling.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com)