The meaning of “rivalry” and whether it can already be applied to Missouri-Arkansas has been much debated this week. Although today’s game marks only the sixth time the programs have ever met, it appears both sides are comfortable with the notion of a bona fide border feud. “Arkansas – they have the word ‘Kansas’ in it, so it’s got to be a rival,” Missouri center Evan Boehm told media a few days ago, referencing his program’s top rival during its Big 12 days. Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel added: “It will be [a rivalry]. I kind of compare it to the Kansas rivalry. It didn’t happen overnight.”
The potential for a real, intense and disturbingly partisan rivalry is here, alright. Today, Missouri has an SEC East title and second straight appearance in the SEC Championship Game on the line. And Arkansas is arguably the nation’s hottest team after shutting out LSU and Ole Miss. A win sends it roaring into bowl season as a Top 25 program.
From a numbers standpoint, though, what would such an “authentic” rivalry look like and how close is Mizzou-Arkansas to it? We have actual data along these lines thanks to Dr. David Tyler and Dr. Joe Cobbs, two professors who have studied the perception of rivalry* among 5, 317 fans of 122 different major college programs. Here are two of their most interesting finds:
1) Arkansas’ fans, on the whole, feel that they are rival to other programs more than the other way around. The blue columns below signify, through points, the strength of Arkansas’ fans’ passion directed toward a particular program. The red columns represent how many “rivalry points” that program’s fans have for Arkansas.
You’ll notice among SEC programs only Missouri fans believe Arkansas is a bigger rival than visa versa:
LSU’s ranking shows that the Texas Longhorns’ grip on Arkansas’ fans hearts is slowly loosening 22 years after the Hogs left the Southwestern Conference. No one program has yet filled the void. “This is a pretty big distribution of [rivalry] points by a fan base,” researcher David Tyler told me. “The average points received by a team’s top rival is 54.2 points (median & mode are right around there too), so the 35 points that Razorback fans give to LSU is on the low end.”
[*The researchers assigned “Rivalry points” after collecting data from online questionnaires they posted on 194 fan message boards. The survey asked respondents to allocate 100 rivalry points across opponents of his or her favorite team. The closer the number to 100, the more intense feelings that programs’ fans have for their perceived top rival. Missouri, for instance, has 71.58 rivalry points directed at Kansas. One Tiger fan divided his 100 points, 75 to Kansas and 25 to Arkansas. “This would have been 100 points for Kansas prior to the SEC switch. Not really sure how to handle this now, but this split seems okay.” More details at KnowRivalry.com]
2. The other FBS programs perceiving Arkansas as a bigger rival than visa versa are Tulsa and Arkansas State University. Tulsa has 6.57 points toward Arkansas, though Tulsa doesn’t register at all on Arkansas fans’ radars. Arkansas State, meanwhile, has 24.7 points allocated to Arkansas, while Arkansas has .096 for A-State.
These programs, of course, don’t even play each other. Dr. Tyler points out “frequency of competition isn’t a necessary condition of perceived rivalry (at least in the eyes of some fans). Frequency of competition is an antecedent to most rivalries, but this is a great example where the teams don’t play but fans [on one side] still perceive a rivalry.”
Tyler and his colleague found “Unfairness, Geography and Competition for personnel (e.g. recruits)” as common themes among those poll respondents who listed Arkansas as their biggest rival. Below are some responses/themes from A-State fans he shared with me:
“We don’t play the pigs on the field, yet they have tried to keep us from growing our program since the beginning of time. They even tried to block us from gaining ‘university’ status in the late 60’s. / They want to be the only team in the state, and refuse to acknowledge our existence…all the while, playing every one of our conference mates. / I hate them, and hope they lose every game in every sport they participate in.”
“Arkansas refuses to play us because they are scared.”
“Hogs is scared to play us.”
ASU fans hate Arkansas fans and vice versa (Big brother keeping little brother down – UA will not play Ark St because they feel they own the state support and media and don’t want to let Ark St have any).
It should be interesting to see if A-State fans’ passion towards the UA wanes or waxes as the program continues to carve out a niche as a mid-major power. As for Missouri-Arkansas, there is no doubt both programs’ level of mutual hate permanently rises once the game kicks off at 1:30 p.m. today.
Perhaps, one day, Missouri’s fans will hate Arkansas as much as they have Kansas, and Hog fans will find in their hearts Texas-sized enmity for their neighbors to the north. It will take a few games of this magnitude before that becomes even a remote possibility. Until then, though, expect to read more fan comments like this: “Missouri is to Arkansas what Canada is to America. They’re too damn nice to hate.”
Below are detailed results from Arkansas Razorback fans’ responses, according to KnowRivalry.com
— Okefenokee Oar (@OkefenokeeOar) October 30, 2011
More than 60 major college football trophies are out there, just itchin’ to be broken down on a criterion-by-criterion basis and judged. Break out the metaphorical Aveeno. They need itch no more.
Below is a countdown of the Top 48 rivalry trophy game trophies, ranked in a three-part system of these factors: originality, tradition and Sheer Awesomness. See here for more details, but bottom line is that number at the far right is the total score (L-R: scores are for originality, tradition and Sheer Awesomeness)
By far looks the most awesome of the three rivalry series governor’s cups nationwide. But such an unoriginal premise….
(Year in italics marks first year awarded was given)
|Victory Cannon||Central Michigan-Western Michigan||2011||2||3||2||7|
Already was a trophy w/ “victory” in its name out there. And others involving a cannon.
(PS – The scoring above works like this: originality 2
+ tradition 3
+ Sheer Awesomeness 2 = Total Score of 7 [of maximum of 15] )
|Legends Trophy||Notre Dame-Stanford||1989||3||2||3||8|
Leave the beautiful, symbolic hybrids of Irish crystal and California redwood to the art museums.
|Platypus Trophy||Oregon-Oregon State||1959||5||2||1||8|
Not a game trophy; goes to alumni associations instead.
|Apple Cup||Washington-Washington State||1962||2||3||3||8|
Conceptually, this is just such low-hanging fruit, state of Washington.
Elegant, yes. Awesome? No.
40. and 39. (PS: Sorry, I’m an irrational maniac with these tandem groupings. I know.)
|Governor’s Cup||Georgia-Georgia Tech||1995||2||4||2||8|
|Governor’s Cup||Kansas-Kansas State||1969||2||4||2||8|
Sigh. Yet another Governor’s Cup. Someone needs to legislate a limit here.
|Bronze Stalk||Ball State-Northern Illinois||2008||3||4||1||8|
Sorry, but I’m not playing even an ounce harder for the propsect of winning a giant corn and neither should you.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press produced a “Best Traveling Rivalry Trophies” list that does scant justice to the ritual. Simply passing a hat between scribes and listing old-ish trophy games, one through ten, ain’t cool, AP. No description? No evaluation? Nary a mention of criteria!?
Our nation’s great game deserves better. It deserves more. It deserves a Greg McElroy-in-SEC Network-film-room-bunker-style breakdown of each and every one of the current trophy rivalry games at the major college level along with the involved programs. Rest assured, such an arch-analysis – and master ranking – is coming soon to an SB Nation page near you.
One major aspect of the rivalry game ranking should be coolness of the trophy itself. Along these lines, I have devised a 15-point scoring system to produce a score that is actually a composite of three sub-categories: “Originality,” “Tradition” and “Sheer Awesomeness.” Each of these sub-categories is worth 0 (worst) to 5 (best) points.
“Originality” represents how unique the trophy and its name are, as well as how unique and relevant its origin story is for the students of the involved programs. Naming a trophy “Governor’s Cup” is not looked kindly on in this department. Tradition represents the extent to which the trophy has meaningful ties to the programs and/or native region, and the significance the trophy holds in the larger context of game-day rivalry rituals between the programs.
The last metric here is “Sheer Awesomeness,” which admittedly can sometimes be in an eye of the beholder type thing. But here it’s simply a blended answer to two very straight-forward questions:
1) You’re Scot warrior William Wallace, of 13th-century kicking-ass fame. You’ve been parachuted across time into modern America and before you learn what a cell phone is you’re told to fight for Trophy X. Upon first seeing it, how hard does your brave heart start beating?
2) If a group of major college football players were to win a spot on Extreme Makeover: Apartment Edition, how much would they enjoying seeing Trophy X appear in the corner of their TV room, regardless of what college they play for?
Ok, that part was easy.
Now, on to the next step: Add the point totals from all three categories together and you get my final, cumulative trophy score. It’s dubbed “Sweetness of Trophy,” or S.O.T. for short. I’ve highlighted each S.O.T. score in red below.
As of a point of reference, after the names of the programs, the categories from left to right follow as such:
Year Trophy First Awarded; Originality; Tradition; Sheer Awesomeness; Sweetness of Trophy
Let’s get on with the rankings. We’re starting at the bottom:
|Textile Bowl||Clemson-North Carolina State||1981||1||1||0||2|
Finding out this rivalry is considered by those who know it exists to be “friendly” is bad. Seeing the actual trophy – possibly the sport’s most anodyne – is worse.
Were there an American Gaelic war club trophy club, Notre Dame would be its charter member.
|Hardee’s Trophy||Clemson-South Carolina||1999*||0||2||2||4|
Some reports indicate the Hardee’s era is mercifully over. South Carolina’s sports department tells me it will be around for at least one more Palmetto Bowl.
How is this not a farcically blatant rip off of nearby Miami(Ohio)-Cincinnati’s Victory Bell?
Can Missouri become the legit Arkansas rival into which LSU never quite developed?
Many Hog fans believe so. From a geographic standpoint, it makes sense, considering the campuses are about five hours apart – an hour closer than Ole Miss (Oxford) , the second-closest SEC campus to Fayetteville.
“I believe in the next decade or so it will be a good rivalry,” former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones says. “Both Arkansas and Mizzou are kind of in the same boat” in terms of overall recent football success. For the hate to really to flourish, though, Missouri must remain near the top of the SEC East and Arkansas must start beating its SEC West foes. He believes that for a true rivalry to flourish between two SEC programs, they must both meet in a regular season finale, both should win roughly half the games they play with each other overall, and each program should – at least once every five years – play in the game with an SEC Championship Game appearance on the line.
It’s possible if both teams head into that final game with zero or one loss, they would meet again a few weeks later in the SEC Championship Game. That’s something LSU and Arkansas can’t do now. And it’s not inconceivable that if both programs keep building off their current momentum, they may in a few years end up as two of the four (or eight) College Football Playoff teams. Any post-season clash at this level would kick the rivalry authentication process into warp speed.
Mutual success in the early years will ensure a healthy rivalry in the long run even when both programs inevitably wane at some point. Matt Jones likened this dynamic to Ole Miss and Mississippi State, where “if they beat each other and nobody else, that’s all that matters. It was never like that with LSU and us.”
Two other important factors here: A) As an SEC newcomer, Missouri hasn’t yet had time to develop a more hated in-conference rival already as Texas and LSU had and B) The rivalry’s basketball side will complement and strengthen the football animosity in ways that never happened with LSU-Arkansas or even Texas-Arkansas.
The fact left Hog basketball coach Mike Anderson and much of his staff left Missouri for Arkansas plays a lot into this, of course. It also helps the states of Missouri and Arkansas are in golden eras in terms of elite basketball recruits per capita, their schools often recruit against each other for the best players and that in vast swaths of northern Arkansas and Missouri, basketball – not football – is the most popular sport. That’s not the case in Louisiana and Texas.
Time will tell exactly what form the Missouri-Arkansas rivalry takes, and how deeply it will impress itself on the memories and hearts of today’s young Arkansans and Missourians.
In the short term, however, we have a much more concrete image of what the rivalry will look like. Earlier this month, the two colleges announced the game’s logo:
In a press release, the University of Arkansas played up the “geographic and historical boundaries” between the states, “from disputed demarcations of the border separating the two states to notable alumni and former personnel with ties to both storied athletic programs. The historic rivalry between the two states will take on even more meaning now, as every Thanksgiving weekend the Battle Line will be drawn on the gridiron. The Razorbacks or Tigers will ultimately stake claim to the “Line” – until the next meeting.”
We don’t yet know what the “Line” is, exactly, but don’t be surprised to see a trophy emerge here. Will it, like the Golden Boot, be clad in the glory of a thousand suns?
But there are some interesting ideas out there. I find it hard not to like the message board favorite “ARMOgedden,” but for now the graphic representation of it wallows in alumni association tailgating motif purgatory.
Former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones would like to see a kid-friendly trophy emphasizing the mascots. It would represent a giant pot, containing a “Tiger Sooey” witches’ brew that would be stirred by some not-yet-defined creature’s hand, he says. Perhaps sticking out from the pot would be a tiger paw, or hog’s leg. Perhaps a witch looking like a hog-tiger hybrid stirs it. Suffice to say, Jones’ idea hasn’t exactly congealed.
David Bazzel has also had a crack at it. His idea is one Carmen Sandiego would love. The logo he designed features the line of latitude which serves as much of Arkansas’ northern border. Nationally, the parallel 36°30′ north is best known for marking the Missouri Compromise, which in the early 1800s divided prospective free and slave states west of the Mississippi River:
For a few years controversy extending all the way to Washington D.C. entangled the Missouri-Arkansas area near the Mississippi River. The result: Arkansas’ weird, jagged northeastern corner. “I think anything’s cool if you have a historical context to it,” Bazzel says. If his idea had taken, “people would have said ‘What is 36°30’?’, and that’s where you would have to explain it to them. So it would have included history.”
Bazzel says he offered his concept to some people at IMG College, a major collegiate sports marketing company, involved creating the rivalry logo. He isn’t sure to what extent, if any, his idea was assimilated into the final rendition. “I don’t mind the ‘battle line,’” he says. “It’s similar to what I was doing.”
When it comes to branding the future of Arkansas and Missouri’s rivalry, the past is in.
Temperatures during this Saturday’s game between Arkansas and No. 20 LSU may dip below freezing, but when it comes to competitiveness no SEC trophy game series has been hotter. In each of the last nine games of this rivalry, an average of 6.2 points has been all that separates the teams. Eight times the difference has been eight points or less. It appears the only other major college trophy series with more consistently exciting finishes has been Duke-North Carolina, decided by an average of five points* in the same span.
In the last three years, LSU’s and Arkansas’ fortunes have fallen — the Tigers’ a little, Hogs’ a lot — but the two sides haven’t let their fans down when facing each other. In 2012, nobody thought the burning Hogmobile soon-to-be-fired coach John L. Smith drove into Razorback Reynolds Stadium could pull away with a win against No. 8 LSU, but those struggling Hogs somehow out-gained LSU 462-306 in total yardage and in the closing seconds were an 18-yard touchdown pass away from forcing overtime.
Likewise, last year’s game also came down to the last couple minutes, when LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings found receiver Travin Dural on a 49-yard TD bomb that detonated Arkansas’ hopes of picking up a first SEC win since 2012.
Arkansas (4-5, 0-5) still seeks that first landmark victory. Many insiders predict the Razorbacks get it Saturday night at home. Coming off a strong showing against No. 1 Mississippi State and a bye week, Arkansas is favored by 2, according to the latest NCAAF game lines. This likely marks the first time a college football team without a conference win is favored over a Top 25 opponent this late in the season.**
Louisiana State, the would-be victim, looks to rebound from a bruising home loss to Alabama. Jennings was banged up in in the 20-13 affair and projects to have limited mobility against an Arkansas defense among the nation’s best in creating havoc in its opponent’s backfield. “Arkansas couldn’t catch them at a better time,”says Houston Nutt, former Razorback head coach. “You have a team who fought their guts out against Alabama … and now they have got to come to Fayetteville against a very hungry Arkansas team.”
“You know [LSU] is used to fighting for championships as well,” he adds, noting the difficulty of physically recovering from last week’s slugfest and overcoming a natural emotional letdown after losing an SEC West title shot. “They’re probably out of it.” Nutt predicts Arkansas will not only beat LSU, but ultimately go to a bowl game after winning at least one of its following two games against Ole Miss and Missouri.
Any bowl is great news for an Arkansas program starving for success. The same cannot be said of LSU, which was so close to still being in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth. Now, whether it finishes the season with seven or nine wins, the Tigers are likely returning to the Outback Bowl or to the Taxslayer, Belk, Liberty, Texas or Music City bowls, writes The Advocate’s Scott Rabalais. Not exactly music to Tiger fans’ ears.
Given what’s not at stake, it’s time Les Miles and the LSU staff maximize the develop of their record 17 true freshmen these next three games, Rabalais says. Split quarterbacking duties between the struggling Jennings and frosh Brandon Harris. Crank up the carry-o-meter for freshmen tailbacks Leonard Fournette and Darrel Williams. And “maximize the D-line rotations for the younger players like Sione Teuhema, Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain. In the secondary, get more work for youngsters like Ed Paris and Jamal Adams and Russell Gage.”
“This season was never going to be about championships,” Rabalais adds. “It was always going to be a bridge to what the Tigers hope will be a brighter future.”
Paradoxically, this kind of talk, as well as the betting lines, may actually serve as a greater incentive to LSU players than whatever on-field consequences an Arkansas win could mean for them. Yes, of course, they want to keep the nearly 200-pound Golden Boot on campus for the fourth straight season. And what erstwhile SEC champion wouldn’t prefer a return trip to sunny Tampa to the prospect of a 56th AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis?
But despite what players and coaches say in public, simple pride and retaliation for a perceived slight can sometimes be the powerful motivation of all. In public, it’s foolish for coaches to admit they pay attention to Vegas and all the media chatter. But in the privacy of their locker room, it’s smart to use any perceived disrespect as extra fuel for competitive engines that may be running on low.
LSU won’t become Arkansas’ first SEC victim of the Bret Bielema era without a nasty fight. Expect another classic finish in the conference’s most heart-stopping rivalry.
Evin’s Scale of SEC Trophy Game One-Sidededness
Before 2014*, there were five trophies circulating in and among the sweaty, intraconference climes of SEC football country. Each one represents a decades-old rivalry, with LSU-Arkansas the baby of the bunch. What their Golden Boot lacks in tradition, though, has more than been made up for in sheer entertainment value. The below scale, based on final score differences, ranks the SEC trophy rivalries on a scale from most consistently entertaining (1) to most likely to cause a re-reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter for lack of anything better to do (5). Winners are in parentheses.
1. LSU-Arkansas (Golden Boot)
Total Point Differential: 56
Per-Game Average: 6.2
2. LSU/Ole Miss (Magnolia Bowl)
|2013||3 (Ole Miss)|
|2009||2 (Ole Miss)|
|2008||17 (Ole Miss)|
Total Point Differential: 90
Per-Game Average: 10
3. Florida/Georgia (Okefenokee Oar)
Total Point Differential: 118
Per-Game Average: 13.1
4. Ole Miss/Mississippi State (Golden Egg)
|2012||17 (Ole Miss)|
|2008||45 (Ole Miss)|
|2006||3 (Ole Miss)|
Total Point Differential: 138
Per-Game Average: 15.3
5. Alabama/Auburn** (Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy)
Total Point Differential: 149
Per-Game Average: 16.6
*The new Texas A&M-South Carolina and Missouri-South Carolina series involve trophies, too. Which is nice. But for membership in this particular club, you need to have been clashin’ man horns for at least nine years running.
** Yes, the 2010 and 2013 Iron Bowls were awesomely entertaining. But Crimson Tide routs in 2008, 2011 and 2012 have made the series’ games on the whole the least consistently compelling.
Somewhere, Razorback fan “Latarian” is sighing.
For those of you who do not know, Latarian is a pigskin prophet and gridiron Gaudi. Two and a half years ago, on an SECRant.com thread you need to read right now, he proposed two trophy ideas for a permanent Arkansas-Missouri rivalry game:
“Battle for the Crystal Meth Pipe”
“Battle for the Golden Banjo”
Alas, Latarian cannot be happy today. As he wanted, University of Arkansas and University of Missouri officials have since announced a permanent rivalry game. But this morning it became clear, unfortunately, they are not Breaking Bad fans:
BATTLE LINE RIVALRY ANNOUNCED FOR ANNUAL MIZZOU-ARKANSAS FOOTBALL GAME
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Southeastern Conference foes Arkansas and Missouri will meet on the football field next month in the first edition of the Battle Line Rivalry presented by Shelter Insurance. The new football series pits the SEC’s Eastern Division against the Western Division and provides a natural rivalry between Missouri and Arkansas.
This season’s game will mark the first conference matchup between the two schools. Arkansas and Missouri will play each season as SEC cross-divisional opponents.
The rivalry clashes against both geographic and historical boundaries – from disputed demarcations of the border separating the two states to notable alumni and former personnel with ties to both storied athletic programs. The historic rivalry between the two states will take on even more meaning now, as every Thanksgiving weekend the Battle Line will be drawn on the gridiron. The Razorbacks or Tigers will ultimately stake claim to the “Line” – until the next meeting.
“We are appreciative of Shelter Insurance for stepping forward to help us start the Battle Line Rivalry, an annual series that will soon become a much anticipated competitive rivalry for fans of both programs,” said Jeff Long, University of Arkansas Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics. “With the close proximity of the institutions, fans of each school will have the opportunity to travel to both campuses for games in the series. It is a budding rivalry that will provide outstanding athletic competition while further enhancing the reach of both institutions and the SEC within our region and throughout the country.”
“We are pleased for Mizzou’s fans to have the chance to embrace this annual rivalry game with Arkansas,” said Mike Alden, University of Missouri Director of Athletics. “The partnership with Shelter Insurance for the Battle Line Rivalry really brings together two outstanding athletic departments and fan bases for an excellent matchup that we are looking forward to seeing develop into a rivalry.”
“Shelter got its start in Missouri and Arkansas, so our roots are deep in these two states,” said Rick Means, President and CEO of the Shelter Insurance Companies. “We hope that this new rivalry will be a fun new tradition for college football fans in both states.”
The inaugural Battle Line Rivalry presented by Shelter Insurance kicks off Friday, Nov. 28, at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo. The game is set for a nationally televised broadcast at 1:30 p.m. on CBS.
Fans of both schools are encouraged to stay tuned for more exciting news regarding how the Battle Line Rivalry will be contested in a variety of ways in the near future.
For more information regarding Razorback Athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com or follow on Twitter @ArkRazorbacks.
Whatever trophy may come from this, it’s not going to be meth pipe. Perhaps it will represent the geographic section of southweast Missouri known as the bootheel.
“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.”
- T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
Yesterday, Arkansas released its 2015 schedule. Also released: Any enduring hope among Razorback fans that Little Rock and its no-longer-grand-enough War Memorial Stadium will remain a second home.
The process of ushering the doddering old man out the door has been ongoing for about 15 years now, ever since Fayetteville’s Reynolds Razorback Stadium expanded to 72,000 from 51,000 seats – meaning Hogs leave significant money on the table every time it plays a home game away from its home campus at the 55,000-seat War Memorial Stadium instead.
Games at War Memorial have dropped from three or four a year, to two a year – and starting this season through 2018 – one a year. This Saturday’s game in Little Rock against No. 10 Georgia, the SEC East frontrunner, is a marquee matchup with enough significance to somewhat soften the blow for some War Memorial traditionalists. It should be a sellout.
Not so with next year’s Little Rock game against the University of Toledo, a Mid-American Conference program that has lost all three games it has ever played against SEC competition. This game, which marks the first time since 1947 (vs. North Texas) Arkansas hasn’t played a conference home game in Little Rock, is the latest sign Razorback leaders are phasing out the home-away-from-home tradition altogether. Given the opponent isn’t even in a Power 5 conference, “how many people will pony up $55 or more per person just to see Arkansas vs Toledo?,” Arkansas Fight’s Doc Harper asked. “I can envision more people than usual staying on the golf course.”
Some fans may feel remorse Little Rock’s once central place in the Razorbacks’ schedule has been knocked down so many rungs, but they shouldn’t forget the main motives behind this demotion – “brand building” and revenue generation – are the same reasons Little Rock was used as a second home in the first place. In the early 1930s, Arkansas leaders knew if their program was ever going to become nationally competitive it needed to have more support from its entire state, to stop losing the likes of Ken Kavanaugh (Little Rock High grad) to LSU and Don Hutson (Pine Bluff High) and Paul Bryant (Fordyce High) to Alabama. So Arkansas leaders, like leaders at Alabama, Mississippi State and Oregon State, decided to take their team away from its rural campus and parade it in a bigger, in-state city in front of more media and fans.
Oregon did the same by traveling from Eugene to Portland. Washington State traveled from Pullman to Spokane, while Ole Miss traveled to Jackson and Auburn traveled to Birmingham. Each of the programs pulled out of these metro areas at different times but one overriding reason is the same as in Arkansas’ case – the campus’ stadium simply outgrew the metro area’s stadium.
This especially came to the fore in the late 1980s as Auburn jockeyed to stop playing Iron Bowl games in Birmingham, as I wrote in the New York Times last November: “Auburn leaders increasingly supported moving the game from the 75,000-seat Legion Field to the university’s expanded Jordan-Hare Stadium, which could hold 85,000. Housel [a former Auburn athletic director] said it got to the point that even Auburn fans living in Birmingham were so ready to drive the 120 miles to campus, they would ‘refuse to buy tickets to the Auburn-Alabama game if it was in Birmingham.’”
Every team, as you see in the chart below, has dropped its dual home arrangement in the last 50 years. And programs like Oregon, Virginia Tech, Alabama and Auburn have gone on to contend for or win national championships since the drop. Yes, War Memorialists, it’s true: Arkansas has become unique in the sense that it appears to be the only program still hanging on to this practice.
But is that something to be proud of?
It’s better to be proud of winning at a high level, a la Oregon, Auburn and Alabama. But clinging to War Memorial hasn’t recently helped Arkansas get to this level. Its function was served in helping lift Arkansas to the nationally elite level it enjoyed in much of the 1960s through 1980s. It will not serve in getting Arkansas to the level Jeff Long, Bret Bielema et al expect it to reach in the later 2010s and 2020s.
In the 1930s and 40s, the smartest rural programs traveled 30, 50, 100, 150 miles to the in-state stadia that would give their teams the most bang for their buck in terms of exposure and revenue. In today’s world, where cable television and the Internet make distance far less of an obstacle for fans to follow their teams, the smartest programs realize that “neutral site” games in the obscenely talent-rich metro areas of Texas often provide the best return.
This is an update of an earlier Sports Seer post. Read the original here.
Other Schools with Multiple Home Stadia
Home Campus: Eugene
Home Away From Home: Portland
Years Played There: On and off until 1924, then every year through 1966.
Last Game: 1970
Distance Between Homes: 105 miles
Big Win: 21-0 over a UCLA team that would finish 8-2 on Oct. 5, 1957.
Sample Decade: 1952-62: Record of 11-11*
*Includes rivalry games w/ Oregon State
Home Campus: Corvallis
Home Away From Home: Portland
Years Played There: On and off until 1941, then every year through 1973. (w/ exception of two WWII years in which team wasn’t fielded)
Last Game: 1986
Distance Between Homes: 74 miles
Big Win: Oct. 16, 1971- 24-18 over an Arizona State team which would finish 11-1.
Sample Decade: 1963-73: Record of 11-4
Home Campus: Pullman
#1 Home Away From Home: Spokane*
Years Played There: 1950-1983
Last Game: 1983
Distance Between Homes: 66 miles
*In 1970, WSU’s home stadium burned due to suspected arson (possibly involving a perpetrator from the rival University of Idaho only eight miles away). As a result, WSU played all its home games in Spokane in 1970 and 1971.
Big Win: Sept. 23, 1978 – 51-26 over an Arizona State team which would finish 51-26.
Sample Decade: 1973-83: Record of 8-12
#2 Home Away From Home: Seattle (the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium, Centurylink Field)
Years Played non-UW opponents there: 2002 through 2008; 2011; 2012-14*
Last Game: Ongoing
Distance Between Homes: 252
Big Win: August 31, 2002 – 31-7 over Nevada to set the tone for a 10-3 season that ended in the Rose Bowl.
Record since 2002 at what’s now Centurylink Field: 6-4
*N.B. the campus of this program’s rival – the University of Washington – is in Seattle. So WSU often plays WU there. Washington State had also played three home games in Seattle against out-of-state powerhouses (USC, Ohio State) in the 1970s. It lost them all.