Speaking of more residential facilities at UALR (see below post), one prominent Little Rock business leader is reported to have said: “Little Rock needs a full-fledged university. And in this part of the country, you’re not viewed by most of the public as a full-fledged university unless you have students living in dorms and a football team.”
UALR has students living in dorms these days, and it appears those numbers will be growing.
So what about that football team?
Consider the fact that UALR is in a conference — the Sun Belt Conference — with nine schools already playing football at the NCAA Division I level. Those schools are Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy and Western Kentucky. The conference champion earns a berth in the New Orleans Bowl.
Consider the fact that War Memorial Stadium, which has seen vast improvements under the dynamic leadership of commission chairman Gary Smith in recent years, is looking to put more games in the stadium. A UALR football program would add at least five games a fall to a mix that now includes two University of Arkansas games, the Delta Literacy Classic between UAPB and one of its SWAC opponents, Little Rock Catholic High School home games, the state high school championships, the Salt Bowl between Benton and Bryant high schools and several other high school games.
A bowl game might also be in the works. We’ll have more on that at a later date.
Consider the fact that even more improvements are on the way at the stadium with the construction of a modern press box scheduled to begin at the end of this season.
Consider the fact that with Razorback tickets harder to obtain and more expensive than ever, some marketing experts think there’s a market for other types of college games in the state’s largest metropolitan area.
Consider the increased coverage of Sun Belt games on the ESPN family of networks and the higher profile that a football team would give a university whose campus is removed from the business, commercial and governmental heart of Little Rock.
Consider the fact that some wealthy Little Rock residents have been alienated from the Fayetteville campus ever since the decision to go from three Razorback games each year in Little Rock to just two.
Consider the crowds that a conference match between UALR and ASU would draw.
Consider the crowds that a non-conference game between UALR and UCA would draw.
Consider the fact that UALR’s Chris Peterson, one of the nation’s most talented athletic directors, is an old football guy. Peterson, the son of a hall of fame college coach and athletic director, was an All-American quarterback coming out of high school in Huron, S.D. He played college football at Kansas State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee before signing a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL. He was a football coach on the college level for seven years. At Eastern Illinois, he coached current New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Consider the fact that since coming to UALR, Peterson has been able to secure gifts of $1.6 million for the school’s baseball facility and $22.4 million for a new basketball arena. You don’t think he can raise private money to start a football program in a football-crazed state such as Arkansas?
It’s certain that nothing will happen until the economy turns around. But once that day comes — and who knows when that will be — Trojan football makes a lot of sense.
What do you think? Would you support a UALR football program?