Image Courtesy: WholeHogSports
In the image above, Coby Hamilton was scoring his second of two touchdowns in the closing moments of the first half of Arkansas’ win over LSU in 2010, 31-23. That was the final Black Friday game between the two rivals at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Since the hogs joined the SEC in 1992 (and before 2010s realignment) LSU faced Arkansas in front of sell-out crowds every other year in central Arkansas. But, it all had to be ruined when the SEC added Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12 in ahead of the 2012-2013 academic year, the SEC offices replaced Arkansas’ “Battle for the Golden Boot” rivalry with LSU with a date with Missouri every Black Friday in the “Battle Line” rivalry. With Texas A&M moving on from their Texas rivalry in the Big 12, the SEC wanted them to have a big ticket Thanksgiving weekend rivalry with LSU. Since realignment, Arkansas has played only Georgia (2014), Ole Miss (2018), and Missouri (2019) when it comes to playing SEC opponents in Little Rock. Outside of that, they have played Toledo (2015), Alcorn State (2016), Florida A&M (2017), and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2021). Audiences for Arkansas football games at War Memorial Stadium dwindled without the ever important “Battle for the Golden Boot” game in the Black Friday slot. Outside of opening the 2023 season against Western Carolina, another match-up against UAPB the next year, and facing Arkansas State for the first time ever in 2025 in Little Rock, there are no games for hog fans to look forward to watching them play. Those games will not show any improvement when it comes to a fan attendance increase. Due to the lack of seats being filled inside War Memorial Stadium, Razorback fans should only expect games against instate opponents as well as hosting Missouri in an odd year when it is their turn to come to Arkansas’ venue. It is also hard to see Arkansas getting rid of football games in Little Rock because Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yuracheck believes like every Razorbacks athletics director before him that keeping a game in the state’s most populous and central city is important for the program and keeping connections with the state’s top recruits in the central part of the state. One refute to that is that recruits cannot be officially hosted by the program with it being in Little Rock and not at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
When it comes to basketball, Arkansas has not been as successful as you might think in Simmons Bank Arena in North Little Rock. In 22 appearances, Arkansas men’s basketball has gone 12-10 including a loss a season ago against Hofstra. But, like War Memorial Stadium, playing in Simmons Bank Arena, brings the central part of the state a game to watch, even if it is against a mid-major program every year. Arkansas women’s basketball is 2-0 in North Little Rock in appearances over the last three seasons as well. It is hard to expect games for both the Muss Bus and Mike Neighbors’ women’s squad to go away in the central part of the state with games there normally the Saturday before Christmas, a popular time for Razorback fans to be away from school and work so they can attend those games. However, a home game away from Bud Walton Arena for either team that results in a loss makes us question how much longer it will be before home games are just in Fayetteville.
Since 2010, Arkansas baseball is 10-1 in Dickey Stephens Park including a 2-1 victory over instate foe Central Arkansas. Like both football and basketball, the Diamond Hogs also only face mid-major programs in their state’s capital city, not wanting to take away an important conference game away from Baum-Walker Stadium, the program’s main home ballpark. With the MiLB’s Arkansas Travelers possibly getting eliminated from the minor leagues, it is expected Arkansas baseball will become Dickey Stephens Park’s only attraction for fans in the central part of the state in the future. With the support of athletic director Hunter Yurachek in the program playing games in center of state, like football and basketball, the program will likely play one game against an instate opponent or another small school like Louisiana-Monroe or Grambling State to keep the fair-weather baseball fans in the central part of the state continuing to watch and support the Razorback baseball team.
Overall, it is the same answer for each of the hogs’ major athletic programs. Each program will normally play one instate or other small program in their state’s capital city annually. There will never be anything better than the Arkansas-LSU battles in the 200s and 2010s in Little Rock but Razorback fans can only hope for a future with instate games and Texas and Oklahoma in the same conference as them again.