Growing up in Arkansas, it was a given that I would be a Razorback fan. Although my parents are from Georgia, they moved to Fayetteville to work at the University of Arkansas for Campus Crusade for Christ after they graduated from college. By the time I was born they had transferred to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, but calling the Hogs was already a family tradition.
The love for the Hogs went from the abstract to the concrete when my family moved to Little Rock in 1987 when I was in the sixth grade. It was that year I attended my first Razorback game at War Memorial Stadium. The history book would record the game as one of Arkansas’ worst defeats as the No. 10 Hogs were routed by No. 5 Miami, which ran up the score to 51-7. Nevertheless I found out that there is nothing better than attending a game. The tailgating, the players’ walk, the Razorback Band, calling the Hogs with the crowd – all made a lasting impression. I was hooked.
Since that time, I have made attending as many Little Rock games as possible a part of personally cheering on the Hogs. The game I remember most vividly growing up was the Razorbacks’ 45-39 victory over Houston in 1989. I sat in the end zone with friends and family on a cool October night and watched Quinn Grovey trade touchdowns with Andre Ware in a classic shootout. Houston’s Ware lost that night, but went on to win the Heisman Trophy.
I also remember the final Southwest Conference game in 1991 when Arkansas beat Rice. At halftime, the Razorback band played "All Our Exes Live in Texas." As the words were shown on the big screen, the entire stadium sang along — "All our exes live in Texas; that’s why we’re moving to the S-E-C."
More memories were made through the years. In 1998, I surprised my wife with tickets, stretching our newlywed budget, to watch the Hogs beat Kentucky — their fourth win of an eight-game winning streak that kicked off the Houston Nutt years. Who can forget the "Miracle on Markham" in 2002? And last year, I took my sons to see their first Hog game, a loss in overtime to ULM.
But the Little Rock tradition got a trim last week when the University of Arkansas and the War Memorial Stadium Commission worked out a settlement to play one game for the next five years, replacing the previous agreement that called for two games over the next three years. Fellow columnist Harry King called this "a really good compromise" with both sides feeling a bit dissatisfied.
There was a time when the University of Arkansas needed the Little Rock games. It seems hard to believe now but War Memorial was once the largest stadium in the state, Fayetteville was difficult to get to, and most games were not on television. But stadium expansion, Interstate 540, and a plethora of sports channels hungry for games and the need has vanished.
Let us hope this is not the beginning of the end for Hog games in Little Rock. Part of the reason for the Razorbacks’ success over the years is that they have remained the team supported by the vast majority of the state. Moving all the games to the northwest corner of the state could jeopardize this nearly universal statewide support if the next generation misses out on the memories of attending the games and calling the Hogs in Little Rock.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.