The Razorbacks play Texas Tech tonight in Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas has announced a sellout of the 72,000-seat Razorback stadium.
Last week, playing in 54,000-seat War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, against Toledo, the attendance was reported as 49,591. A 22,000-seat difference adds up to a lot of money.
The War Memorial Stadium Commission won a good deal with the UA a while back in striking an agreement to keep one game a year in Little Rock through 2018. They had to give up the old deal of two games in Little Rock. Two of the coming games were promised as SEC teams, with Georgia appearing in 2014.
But against Toledo, on a nice day for a Razorback team then (but soon not to be) unbeaten and a free Brad Paisley concert after the game, the Hogs couldn’t sell out Little Rock. A week later, after a surprise loss, they’ll have 22,000 more people in seats in Fayetteville. You have to wonder if Athletic Director Jeff Long is giving thoughts to extrication from continuing games in Little Rock.
There is no buyout clause, but the Commission, as a practical matter, would have to entertain Long’s ideas should it ever come to that. As it stands, UA has to pay $400,000 to rent the stadium next year, but there’s no required rent the next two years. At face value alone, not counting any payments for preferred seating, UA makes better than $1 million more and saves the rent and travel costs by playing in Fayetteville rather than Little Rock.
Little Rock people think it’s traitorous to even talk about such a prospect. Tradition and sentiment don’t count for much, however, in the world of big-money football. Certainly not with Long talking about another $100 million stadium expansion in Fayetteville.
PS — Little Rock has become more about the tailgate party than the game for a significant number of people. How about this? The Hogs play all home games in Fayetteville. But they allow War Memorial to set up jumbotrons on the golf course and charge to attend a tailgate TV party.