For the Sake of America, Do We Need a Red Wolves vs. Razorbacks Spring Game?
There is a growing circle of opinion in Arkansas that its two FBS football programs should finally meet on the gridiron. Yet, resistance remains. Could a Red Wolves vs Razorbacks spring game grease the wheels?
There was a time, not too long ago, when a Red Wolves vs Razorbacks game really mattered to me. Arkansas’ refusal to play in-state programs was not only a unsportsmanlike insult, but it hindered the state’s athletic growth. A game between the state’s two largest universities would go a long way to promoting healthy rivalry while enabling the University of Arkansas to truly earn its self-proclaimed status as the state’s “flagship university.”
These days, I mostly shrug my shoulders at the notion. Arkansas State has forged its identity one its own, carving a niche in a very competitive market. I still believe that meeting on the gridiron, diamond or hardwood would generate interest and revenue for both programs. But if one program wants to silo itself in the Ozark Mountains, so be it.
But when the Razorbacks announced that it would pack its tents and host its Spring Game on April 7th in the capital city of Little Rock, it got me thinking.
Maybe what Arkansas vs Arkansas State needs is a “soft launch.”
The speed-bump impeding Arkansas’ in-state rivalry is decades upon decades of nonsensical “anti-logic” invented by the University of Arkansas Athletic Department and willfully served-up by the majority of the state’s media: 1) that the Razorback’s have nothing to gain (which is absurd), and 2) that preventing the rivalry spares Arkansas fans the burden of dual loyalties (which is utterly ridiculous).
Recently, even the most stubborn Razorbacks fans have seen the silliness of these reasons, with local radio and even the Arkansas Democrat Gazette openly calling for some kind of in-state contest. Yet, traditions are hard to scrap. There are still plenty of old school fans and boosters who’d rather that the Razorbacks maintain its lucrative monopoly, even if a younger generation has grown to tire of the empire’s greed.
What if, rather than doing a cannonball into full-fledged rivalry, we propose a less impactful yet entertaining entry?
In recent years, most in-state programs (including Arkansas) have participated in an “all inclusive” football camp that has given coaches the opportunity to mingle and even trade notes. To date, the sun has continued to set in the west despite Razorbacks and Red Wolves sharing the same gridiron.
So let’s take another baby step. If the Razorbacks are to hold their Spring Game in Little Rock, why not invite the Red Wolves to join them? Red Wolves head coach Blake Anderson and Razorbacks head coach Chad Morris have already met – last year when the Mustangs defeated the Red Wolves in Dallas. These guys are practically bros.
Listen, Spring Games are mostly lousy affairs where little data is gleaned. If the game is to be a fan exhibition where the outcome is meaningless, why not pit the two teams in the same pointless contest? Not only would both teams receive a more accurate measurement of their abilities by playing an opposing foe, it would generate a shared interest between two fan bases. Everybody wins, even if the scoreboard ultimately says otherwise.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.