Grid­iron dreams

Lit­tle Rock univer­sity con­sid­ers foot­ball pro­gram

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

In the com­put­ing world ex­ists ap­pli­ca­tions dis­guised as le­git­i­mate soft­ware that, once in­stalled, end up do­ing se­ri­ous dam­age to its host sys­tem.

They call such ma­li­cious pro­grams Tro­jans. Com­puter users are lured into ac­ti­vat­ing them by the prom­ise of a seem­ingly le­git­i­mate pro­gram’s ben­e­fi­cial fea­tures. The at­trac­tion quickly fades once the full na­ture of the Tro­jan be­comes clear, but by that point, the dam­age can of­ten be ir­re­versible.

And, oh yeah, did you hear the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock has agreed to study the fea­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing a foot­ball and march­ing band pro­gram? Hmmm … what’s that school’s mas­cot? A cen­tu­rion? No, that’s not it. The War­riors? No, that’s not quite right.

Oh yeah, they’re the Tro­jans. Pure co­in­ci­dence, we’re sure. Lit­tle Rock’s branch of the Univer­sity of Arkansas Sys­tem has had some suc­cess­ful runs with its bas­ket­ball teams and in other sports, but foot­ball hasn’t been a part of its cul­ture since the mid-1950s. Arkansas’ cap­i­tal has, how­ever, had col­lege-level foot­ball in the form of the Ra­zor­backs, that team from up in the Ozark Moun­tains that for years played sev­eral games a year at Lit­tle Rock’s War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium.

The Hogs, though, are prob­a­bly end­ing their Lit­tle Rock games in the next year or two when the UA’s con­tract with War Me­mo­rial runs its course. Like any self-re­spect­ing school and com­mu­nity, Lit­tle Rock is try­ing to seize op­por­tu­nity in the midst of change. UALR, the city of Lit­tle Rock and the Arkansas De­part­ment of Parks and Tourism can hardly be faulted for want­ing to study the po­ten­tial pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives of de­vel­op­ing a full-scale, Di­vi­sion I col­lege foot­ball pro­gram.

It is much eas­ier to be en­thu­si­as­tic about a study of a po­ten­tial foot­ball pro­gram at Lit­tle Rock than it is to em­brace the ac­tual birth of such a pro­gram. A study will cost some­where less than $100,000, split among the three agen­cies. The an­tic­i­pated costs of de­vel­op­ing a foot­ball pro­gram will run into the mil­lions … and mil­lions.

Some UALR stu­dents pre­sented first-year Chan­cel­lor An­drew Roger­son with a pe­ti­tion of 1,000 sig­na­tures in sup­port of re­viv­ing foot­ball at the Lit­tle Rock cam­pus. Surely the pro­hi­bi­tions on fresh­man haz­ing ap­ply to the chan­cel­lor’s of­fice.

Back­ers of foot­ball’s re­vival sug­gest it may help rein­vig­o­rate en­roll­ment, which has been stag­nant, and could prove an eco­nomic shot in the arm for cen­tral Arkansas to at least par­tially re­place the eco­nomic losses as­so­ci­ated with the Hogs’ di­min­ish­ing pres­ence. Those would be the at­trac­tive ben­e­fits.

But the re­birth of foot­ball comes with the po­ten­tial of side ef­fects, not the least of which are the high costs to start up a pro­gram and to cover the an­nual costs. Only the Ra­zor­backs, among the state’s col­lege pro­grams, ac­tu­ally make money. All other public col­leges with foot­ball pro­grams rely in part on stu­dent fees. UALR al­ready has some pretty stiff stu­dent fees.

A foot­ball pro­gram in Lit­tle Rock could eas­ily be­come a big eco­nomic bur­den.

There’s also the ques­tion of whether a foot­ball team re­ally is an ef­fi­cient or ef­fec­tive way to at­tract more stu­dents.

But that’s what stud­ies are for. It’s easy to un­der­stand UALR and Lit­tle Rock want­ing to in­ves­ti­gate the pos­si­bil­i­ties. A study is prob­a­bly a good step. But count us skep­ti­cal that a Tro­jan foot­ball team will, ul­ti­mately, make sense.

We could be wrong. It might hap­pen — right af­ter the Red Wolves at Arkansas State take the field against the Hogs.

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