In advertising, we observe a number of basic rules, one of which is “Never mention your competitors by name.” This is obeyed for two reasons: 1) Never admit that your competition is competition, and 2) Never give your competitor a free plug, even if it’s negative.
For decades, the University of Arkansas has adhered to this ancient rule-of-thumb, despite asserting that its athletic program was without peer. For many years, this was more-or-less true. But times change.
On May 11, the Red Wolves baseball team will take the bus trip to Fayetteville to meet the Razorbacks on their opulent home diamond. It will be the first time ever that these programs meet, and it’s about time.
In the last twenty years, the Arkansas State Red Wolves have gobbled up Razorback mindshare, appearing widely on sweatshirts, baseball caps and even in the pages of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The administration’s all-in attitude for football has made Arkansans aware that other athletic programs do exist and can compete. But it’s not just the rise of Arkansas State that is triggering this radical change in schedules.
Razorback head baseball coach Dave Van Horn openly lamented the difficulty of bringing non-con opponents to Baum Stadium, asking why he should have to coax programs like Butler to NWA when the state featured a number of convenient programs just as capable to play nine innings? UCA, UAPB, UA Little Rock and Arkansas State are all established baseball programs, all bearing more fans in the state than, say, Gonzaga.
Sure, there is a risk for the nationally ranked Razorbacks, who bore the sting of a defeat to UA Little Rock last season. The Trojans relished that ham sandwich for months. But if COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that college sports are expensive (even for the SEC), and it’s wise to optimize all resources at hand – even if it may lead to a defeat from “little brother.”