UALR foot­ball great de­bate, fea­si­ble or not

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - WALLY HALL

It would be great if the University of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock fielded a foot­ball team.

Move over South­ern Cal and make room for an­other team of Tro­jans.

More than 1,000 stu­dents have signed a pe­ti­tion ex­press­ing in­ter­est in UALR start­ing foot­ball, and the school — along with the Arkansas De­part­ment of Parks and Tourism and the city of Lit­tle Rock — joined forces to pay for a fea­si­bil­ity study.

The study is cost­ing each en­tity about $30,000, which in the big scheme of things isn’t that much. While al­most ev­ery­one is con­cerned with keep­ing the streets of The Rock safer, that amount wouldn’t pay the salary and ben­e­fits of one po­lice­man for a year.

No doubt, the capital city needs more po­lice of­fi­cers, and it is not alone. Which is why the Mem­phis Po­lice De­part­ment came to Lit­tle Rock in hopes of re­cruit­ing some of our trained of­fi­cers.

This, though, is about foot­ball, and prob­a­bly pol­i­tics, if it moves for­ward.

Last Sun­day, noted po­lit­i­cal colum­nist John Brum­mett ad­dressed the UALR foot­ball sit­u­a­tion — iron­i­cally, in the same sec­tion Rex Nel­son

wrote about the im­mi­nent need to make the city’s streets safer, but his col­umn was not about foot­ball and Brum­mett’s was not about crime — and posed four very re­al­is­tic ques­tions he hopes the fea­si­bil­ity study an­swers.

Para­phras­ing, he wanted to know where the $10 mil­lion in start-up money was com­ing from; where are the new stu­dents com­ing from who are sup­posed to be at­tracted to the school be­cause it has foot­ball; how does UALR avoid a bud­get deficit; and where are these foot­ball play­ers sup­posed to come from?

All le­git­i­mate ques­tions. The an­swers will take the form of moun­tains that would have to be scaled, with the steep­est is­sue be­ing money.

It is doubt­ful the pri­vate sec­tor is go­ing to ante up for some­thing that would take years to turn a profit, if it ever did.

Yes, UALR has a con­fer­ence, the Sun Belt, and it wants the Tro­jans to have a foot­ball team and be part of the foot­ball con­fer­ence, but that’s ex­pen­sive, too. Where does the school find money for 85 schol­ar­ships and a coach­ing staff? There’s also travel ex­penses.

Just three years ago the men’s bas­ket­ball team was go­ing to bus to Ap­palachian State for a Thurs­day night game and bus back home for a Satur­day game. That’s 700 miles each way. For­tu­nately, a lo­cal at­tor­ney got some

pri­vate planes do­nated, and the team didn’t have to en­dure 22 hours in a bus for two con­fer­ence games.

Of the 130 FBS Di­vi­sion I pro­grams, only 23 made a profit last year. The University of Arkansas, Fayet­teville was one of those.

Which brings up the point of why it would be nice if UALR could start foot­ball. The Ra­zor­backs have been play­ing in Lit­tle Rock ev­ery year since 1932, but un­less some­one comes for­ward with spon­sor­ship money, that ends af­ter next year, pos­si­bly sooner, when Van­der­bilt or Ole Miss come to town.

That is go­ing to leave a void, not only in cen­tral Arkansas, but in east­ern and parts of south­ern Arkansas. One that could even­tu­ally be filled if Arkansas State University and the University of Cen­tral Arkansas would agree to open the sea­son in War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium with the World’s Largest Tail­gate ri­valry. That doesn’t seem likely.

There are up­sides to the fea­si­bil­ity study:

First, it shows UALR Chan­cel­lor An­drew Roger­son lis­tened to his stu­dents and took pos­i­tive ac­tion.

Sec­ond, it is giv­ing the school some pos­i­tive pub­lic­ity and shed­ding more light on its pub­lic re­la­tions ploy to be known as Lit­tle Rock in­stead of UALR.

Fi­nally, it brought some lively de­bate and dis­cus­sion about foot­ball.

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