It was just another nonconference ballgame and that illustrates how the culture has changed.
Thirty minutes before tipoff of the Hendrix-University of Central Arkansas game at the Farris Center, fewer than 40 people were in the stands. Back in the day at the height of the rivalry, folks would have to arrive two to three hours before the game to be assured a seat, especially in the crackerbox of the old Grove Gymnasium at Hendrix.
The teams warmed up pretty much in silence, no crowd generated electricity. You could carry on a conversation on press row at normal voice level and hear the other person talk.
The late-arriving crowd eventually grew to about 1,500, decent for an early season nonconference game.
But it was meat and potatoes stuff, no spice.
No groups of partisans hurling insults at each other. No clever signs. No frenzied fans in school gear and paint ready to fight each other. Not a whimper from Hendrix partisans of "That’s all right, that’s OK, you’ll be working fore us someday."
In fact, there were few Hendrix students in the crowd (the Warriors’ cheerleaders and dance team probably outnumbered the non-uniformed students) and they generally cheered at the right times. And there was few of the resounding stuff either way in the blowout that was decided early.
The highest-ranking Courtway was on the University of Central Arkansas side. The late Dr. Bob Courtway, the father of UCA President Tom Courtway, was a longtime athletic director and coach at Hendrix.
A generation has passed since the game was a true rivalry and meant something.
The students don’t remember the intensity of things when the teams went at each other with gusto in the old Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference. Many of the folks who remember are no longer able to get out and go to the games.
It is not an apples-to-apples rivalry, not even apples to oranges.
It’s been that way for two decades since the schools were fellow NAIA institutions.
UCA is now a thriving NCAA Division I institution, technically the same level as the University of Arkansas. Its players receive athletic scholarships. Hendrix is a thriving NCAA Division III institution, which means there are no athletic scholarships. The scholarships for its players are academic related.
UCA, as expected, won easily, 109-59. The Warriors could have made it more competitive but they buried themselves in turnovers against the Bears’ superior quickness.
It’s good the Conway teams still play. It’s a tribute to the rich and volatile past of a rivalry that once divided a city for a couple of nights a year.
UCA coach Charles Finley got a look at a lot of his young players. Hendrix coach Thad McCracken got a look at where his team is at the start of the season, a learning experience for a squad full of young guards.
The Warriors got the experience but the game against the Division team didn’t count on their record.
The game was a slight hint of the past but was more about showcasing the future for both squads.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)