UALR football great debate, feasible or not
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.