McCollum’s Column: It the right time for UA-Little Rock to study football

For several reasons, UA-Little Rock officials have chosen the right time for a comprehensive study of the feasibility of adding football to the college’s sports programs.

 

And a marching band. That’s not simply a throw-in. Bands add pageantry and excitement to college football and an energizing element to the experience. They also allow those who were in high school bands to get part of the musical fix on and connect with the student body.

The prospect of football has been the elephant in the room question since Chasse Conque, who grew up in a football family, took over as athletic director.

But Conque and other college officials have been careful not to let the emotions get ahead of the data. They have to deal in reality.

It’s a complex issue that must be examined among all aspects of the university family and supporters.

But they’ve got to look at it.

They’ve done a nice job of establishing and growing a brand of Little Rock’s team and school and they have punctuated that with successful teams. Many community leaders and businessmen have embraced the cause, particularly since the University of Arkansas (and for some good reasons) has abandoned central Arkansas for all but a few token games. It seems inevitable that the Razorbacks’ tradition of playing football in Little Rock is nearing an end.

Which relates to a big piece of the puzzle.

The Trojans already have a perfectly good stadium that is deeply etched in state history.

War Memorial Stadium is not a all-bells-and-whistles, state of the art SEC stadium but it’s fine. If UALR goes through with the plan, they already have Little Rock city officials and parks officials on board to make it as good as it can be. What the Trojans decide to do will have a major impact on future plans for the stadium.

Having a stadium near campus and readily available is a huge hurdle.

So is the fact that Little Rock in a member of a football-playing conference, the Sun Belt.

UALR administrators are also responding to a student petition for football. It’s also good for an administration to respond to student concerns.

Any feasibility study would take into account all kinds of detail, financial projections and logistics. It’s expensive endeavor that requires a long-term commitment beyond the emotions of the moment.

But right here in Conway, we’ve seen how adding football energized and connected the Hendrix community and how Division I athletics have enhanced the image of the University of Central Arkansas.

The answers for Little Rock are not automatic. But the questions need to be asked.

 

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