Here’s a perplexing question for you: Why won’t Arkansas play Arkansas State?
In the past 10 years, the Razorbacks have played Tulsa (twice), Troy (three times), North Texas, New Mexico State (twice), ULM (six times), Missouri State (twice), Southeast Missouri State, Troy (twice), Florida International, Utah State, Chattanooga, Western Illinois, Eastern Michigan, UTEP, Tennessee Tech, New Mexico and Jacksonville State, so they’re clearly not against dipping into the lower level of FBS as well as FCS from the surrounding states and beyond. Arkansas also has future dates lined up with Louisiana – Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss, Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech and North Texas, so they’re not giving up games against teams from lesser conferences, either. With 22 different schools scheduled for guarantee games from 2003 through 2018 (with more to come as the schedule fills in), Arkansas hasn’t been picky about who they shuttle into Fayetteville or Little Rock. They’ll play just about anyone. Anyone except teams from their own state.
Through 83 years of sharing the Natural State, the Razorbacks and Red Wolves have never met and have no plans to do so any time soon. Even the prospect of raising money for charity couldn’t get Arkansas on the field against Arkansas State. For the record, Arkansas does not compete against any in-state school in any sport. That’s a trend that needs to end, and also end the right way. There isn’t much symbolism in Arkansas ending its Natural State embargo against Arkansas – Pine Bluff on the softball field. If the wall is going to fall, it needs to fall against Arkansas State on the gridiron.
“I would love to work with Jeff Long to schedule any athletic competition between the schools, that’s my stance,” Arkansas State athletic director Terry Mohajir told the Arkansas State Herald. “I think it’s good for the state, I think it’s good for the programs, I think it’s good for the budgets. I think it’s good for everything.”
The Hogs’ rebuttals against meeting in-state foes are well known. The flagship school has nothing to gain by beating a smaller Arkansas school, and a lot to lose. Arkansas isn’t alone in that thinking, either. Alabama isn’t fond of playing Troy or UAB, Tennessee has all of two all-time meetings with Middle Tennessee and Boise State has recently stopped scheduling Idaho, to name a few.
But having a lot to lose didn’t stop Arkansas from losing to ULM, as they did in 2012. Apologies if this is breaking news to some, but the sun was still in the sky the next day, and Arkansas’ place in the SEC (if not the polls) was similarly secure. I doubt the damage from that loss was nullified at all because the Warhawks got to celebrate all the way back to Louisiana after the game, nor would it have been any more painful had the upset come at the hands of the Red Wolves. In fact, no single loss to Arkansas State will endanger the football hierarchy inside the state of Arkansas. The Hogs are king, and will still be king 50 years from now even if they happen to endure an upset two or three times along the way.
Many other big-time schools fall on the other side of this issue, though, and live to tell about it. Michigan and Michigan State regularly schedule Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. Ohio State takes on all comers among the Buckeye State’s MAC contingent. Same for LSU and Tulane, ULM, Louisiana – Lafayette and Northwestern State. Texas has played UTEP and North Texas within the past seven seasons, and will play both again in the near future. These programs aren’t the exception, they’re the norm.
Or at least they should be.