HB 2274 by Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, would force the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University – two of the state’s Division 1 schools – to play at least a one-time regular season football game for a charitable cause.
However, Sen. Uvalde Lindsey, D-Fayetteville, said the attempt is “outside the boundary” of what the Arkansas Legislature should be regulating.
The bill was filed as a shell on Monday (Mar. 11), but on Tuesday Mayberry added details to the language, including Rep. Harold Copenhaver, D-Jonesboro, as a co-sponsor.
The amended bill says the athletic administration of the two schools would “cause their respective NCAA varsity football teams to play each other” and it states that the game would be held at War Memorial Stadium.
A minimum of $250,000 in proceeds would be dedicated to a “government, community, charitable or philanthropic group, project or organization that benefits the state of Arkansas” the bill reads.
Mayberry tells Talk Business Arkansas that a website – www.arkansasasubenefit.com – will go live at 5 p.m. on Tuesday to allow the people of Arkansas to 1) vote on whether or not to pursue the Arkansas-ASU game and 2) decide where the proceeds should be dedicated.
As of 6 p.m., the page had 491 votes, with 54.4% for the game and 45.6% against.
Mayberry said the 5 options for net proceeds from the game will include a forthcoming veterans’ home to be constructed in Little Rock, War Memorial Stadium, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, or the Little Rock Zoo.
“For those people who say, should you really be spending your time legislating something like that, that’s why it says ‘the people’s game’ – that’s what it says on the website,” Mayberry said.
If the vote on whether or not to pursue the game comes back negative, Mayberry said he’ll pull the bill. He also said he’s spent his own private funds on the web site.
Copenhaver has a separate bill that has not been amended that could also take the intrastate school sports match-ups to another level. HB 1893, which has Mayberry as a co-sponsor, could be amended to allow for other sporting events involving Arkansas state schools, said Copenhaver. He envisions competition between the D-1 basketball, baseball, or volleyball teams that could include a round-robin tournament with proceeds benefiting veterans or another worthy cause.
“Anything that brings the state together and the funds stay within the state, that can only be beneficial,” Copenhaver said.
But Sen. Lindsey believes the determination of beneficial should be the job of those “fine folks on both of those boards” who directly govern the two universities.
“This just seems outside the boundary of the things we ought to be involved in. They (University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University) are both well run. ... They have different agendas. They have a different fan base. My perception is that this is something we should leave to the respective universities,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey said he would prefer to rely on a “groundswell of public sentiment” rather than legislative action push for a football game between the two schools.
“Right now I don’t see that (groundswell),” he said.