Funny the way it is, that while we celebrate Spring as a time of rebirth from the cold Winter months, many of us feel the same about the beginning of Fall, and for one good reason: Football.
In a few short days, the football season will kick off for players, coaches and fans of all levels — Pee Wee, junior high, high school, college and professional. Although traditionally played on a crisp Saturday afternoon or evening, the first game in Faulkner County will be a few days early as the University of Central Arkansas begins its season in four short days.
UCA had a pretty magical season last year, and there are some who think the Bears could be even better this season. With an early-season trip to still-struggling power conference team Colorado, UCA is just the type of team who could pull off an upset.
But the real feeling of rebirth comes from another college in Conway — Hendrix will finally return to the gridiron in a couple of weeks, and excitement for the first game is growing. The current stadium holds only 1,500 people, fairly standard for a Division III team beginning its program, but there is talk of more than 3,000 for the first game on Sept. 7. If nothing else, the first tailgating session of the season will be something of note.
Football at Hendrix was not always a hot topic, but it seems that everyone is on board with this transition, and that’s good. Football can be a compliment to a school’s overall mission rather than a hindrance. While some may look at the disparity at the big-time programs and notice the head football coach at a state’s main university is usually the top paid state employee, the combination of football with academics and student life at Hendrix could possibly be something that is good for all involved. It becomes a rallying point for students, faculty and the neighboring community, something that we can get behind. Making a college more attractive in all facets is important for keeping the best students coming to the school. And from what we see so far, this new endeavor could pay dividends in the future for the elite institution.
Don’t get us wrong, Hendrix football will be a work in progress. Don’t expect an avalanche of wins. On the other hand, we haven’t dealt with Division III in a while, so who knows what can happen?
Whether you cheer for the team who plays on the painted stripes, the teams up in Northwest Arkansas or Northeast Arkansas or the brand new one in town, remember that football can be something used to help a college become a well-rounded institution.