The University of Central Arkansas faces a bit of a dilemma.
In the Natural State, the UCA name means a lot. But outside our borders, where UCA now almost exclusive plays away games, it does not really mean much.
Some schools can get away with the alphabet soup game, but very few. Schools such as UCLA, USC, UNLV, LSU and TCU are nationally known. UCA is not.
Some schools have established a nickname or moniker to replace the their real name. Ole Miss and UConn are carefully crafted brands. No one refers to those athletic programs, or schools for that matter, as the University of Mississippi or the University of Connecticut.
UCA has begun to market itself athletically more as Central Arkansas.
Athletic Director Brad Teague told a story where he was wearing a shirt with a logo that read Central Arkansas. A woman from Little Rock had a hard time placing it. Finally the light bulb came on and she made the connection that it was UCA.
I am a UCA alum, and personally, I really like seeing Central Arkansas being used more.
If you walk in the Prince Center, the first thing you notice is Central Arkansas in big bold letters. The same in the football offices at Estes Stadium. They are using it more on jerseys too.
Bear fans, and the nation, got an early taste of it back in the 1990s when Scottie Pippen was being introduced at Chicago Bulls’ games as hailing from Central Arkansas. And by the way, that really cool instrumental intro music the Bulls used was the song “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project.
Missouri State is a school with roots very similar to UCA, I mean to Central Arkansas.
Both are known as the Bears. Both were founded in the first decade of the 20th century to serve as normal schools, or teacher training institutions. Both have gone through several name changes over the past century. Both gained university status in the 1970’s.
Arkansas State Normal School (1907) became Arkansas State Teachers College (in 1925) became State College of Arkansas (in 1967) became the University of Central Arkansas (in 1975).
Fourth District Normal School (1905) became Southwest Missouri State Teacher’s College (in 1919) became Southwest Missouri State College (in 1945) became Southwest Missouri State University (in 1972).
It took a two-decade fight for them to get the state legislature to grant the current name change to Missouri State in 2005. It was strongly opposed by the University of Missouri, ostensibly for academic reasons. A good bit of it had to do with the perceived athletic hierarchy in the Show Me State.
While I don’t think my alma mater needs another name change, I do think they need to continue to push forward with the Central Arkansas brand, both on and off the field.