Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SPORTS>>Arkansas-Arkansas State matchup long overdue

Leader sportswriter

Intrastate rivalries are one of the best traditions in college football … unless you happen to live in Arkansas.

You can go back to 1911, when the Arkansas State University Aggies first fielded a football team, and scan their media guide year by year, and you will find only one game against the Arkansas Razorbacks. It was the 1944 season finale, with the Hogs taking a 41-0 win, although ASU did not play a complete season that year.

Actually, you have to look in the Razorback media guide for that, because ASU did not keep records from 1942-44.

What you will mostly find in the earlier years are games against Arkansas College, Arkansas Teachers, Arkansas A&M, and a few in-state schools that still exist.

For years, ASU fans have understood that a game with the Razorbacks would not take place with iron-fisted University of Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles at the helm. His fear of casting a state spotlight on someone other than himself and the Hogs simply made it a non-option.

But the old man is finally gone.

He may still be an advisor, and he may still have a plush office in that corporate-sponsored football heaven named after him, but Broyles no longer pulls the strings. With former Pitt AD Jeff Long now calling the shots on the Hill, it’s time for the Indians … er … Red Wolves and Razorbacks to take to the field against one another.

The most ironic thing about the whole matter is that Arkansas would most certainly have dominated the series had it ever come to fruition. ASU may have given them a good tussle back in its early-70s heyday, but the Hogs had the superior team for the most part throughout the years.

It would have been a lopsided series, in other words. But the thought of even one loss to another in-state school was too much for old Frank’s fragile ego to consider.

Now ASU fans and alumni are more serious than ever about seeing a Hogs–Wolves matchup.

Yes, the fact that ASU has one of its best offenses in school history while the Hogs are rebuilding from the ground up has made the cries all the louder. But the desire has been there all along, and will continue to be long after Bobby Petrino has built the Razorbacks back up to the SEC-contending level they were at a few years back.

The stakes have changed over the years. The Red Wolves are no longer an inferior NCAA Division II school in an obscure conference. They now have the same DI status as the University of Arkansas, and are proud members of the up-and-coming Sun Belt Conference.

Just for kicks and grins, let’s list some other premier in-state matchups. Let’s see, well there’s Florida vs. Florida State, Ohio vs. Ohio State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, Missouri vs. Southeast Missouri State, Iowa vs. Iowa State, Temple vs. Penn State, UNLV vs. Nevada-Reno, Colorado vs. Colorado State, New Mexico vs. New Mexico State, among others.

And I’m sure Nebraska wouldn’t back down from playing another Nebraska school if only there was one.

Maybe it’s the promise of a new era in Fayetteville, the excitement over now having a brand new nickname, or just the fact that ASU quarterback Corey Leonard would absolutely smoke Casey Dick in a showdown, but Wolves fans have never been more determined to make this happen.

But given the politics and the economics behind these matters, Red Wolf nation will continue to hold its breath until it actually comes to pass.

And if it does, we could even pay tribute to the great Mr. Broyles by featuring a traveling trophy depicting a small bronze man with a football in one hand and an enormous pile of cash in the other.