The University of Central Arkansas has a good thing going in Conway, a swell, forward-thinking community that dubs itself “The City of Colleges.” If you’re fond of roundabouts, Conway is your town. If you are a junkie for data management, Acxiom makes its headquarters right there on Dave Ward Drive. Personally, I enjoy dining at Mike’s Place, located in the charming downtown quarter. Seriously, order the veal. You can’t get me to say a bad word about Conway.
But I’m telling you, Red Wolves, UCA is out to get us. They have beef. They want to throw hands.
In case you haven’t heard, the Southland Conference is falling apart, with the WAC raiding the conference of its Lone Star treasures – Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian and Lamar. That has prompted Central Arkansas to jump ship to the ASUN, which is building a FCS football conference.
Among ASUN members is Liberty.
Yeah, that’s weird, because Liberty is an FBS independent and, rather remarkably, is also a Top 25 program helmed by Hugh Freeze.
Liberty has zero plans for stepping back down to FCS. But does that mean UCA has zero plans for stepping up? Take a look at the programs now residing in the ASUN:
University of Central Arkansas
Eastern Kentucky University
Florida Gulf Coast University
Jacksonville State University
Kennesaw State University
University of North Alabama
University of North Florida
Of that group, (excluding Liberty) UCA seems the most primed program to take that step, having had great success at both baseball, football, and some historically relevant basketball moments. UCA also enjoys healthy enrollment, a sturdy fan base, and a grey&purple turf combo inside a stadium that seats 10,000 (but how hard is it to had 20,000 more seats anyway). With UA Little Rock choosing to develop wrestling over football, UCA serves as Arkansas’ bellybutton for pigskin fans, with Little Rock less than half-an-hour away.
Why wouldn’t UCA think of making the FBS leap? And if Liberty is allowed to freelance its gridiron assets, would not the ASUN extend the Purple Bears the same courtesy?
All of that’s conjecture. Maybe’s don’t mean nothing. But were I Arkansas State, I’d take a very dim view of UCA’s intentions. Unlike UA Little Rock, which would have started with absolutely nothing – not even a marching band – the Bears have most of its assets in place. They would hit the recruiting trail running, using many of the talking points for which Red Wolves coaches have long enjoyed exclusive rights.
Then again, maybe its nothing.