opinion by Maylon Rice
Editor’s note: Maylon Rice is a former newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several newspapers over the past 40 years. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
Hogallejuh, football is finally here.
All across Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith region as high school gridiron teams get ready to kick it off this coming week and over the Labor Day holiday, we see entire communities rally from the summer doldrums and put a little pep in the economic step of small town Arkansas.
And of course, on a state wide basis, the University of Arkansas’ Razorbacks will kick off against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in Fayetteville on Aug. 31. Woo Pig Sooie!
It will also be the start of the Bret Bielema era at the state’s flagship institution.
After a disappointing, four wins and eight loss season in 2012, Hog fans are excited about the debut of a new coach, a new coaching staff and hopefully more wins than losses in 2013.
But the excitement of Razorback football translates into much more than alumni and fans hopes and expectations on the gridiron. A Razorback football weekend for the Northwest corner of the state is a sudden and expected economic engine of its own, often generating a $3 million to $4 million economic impact over a 48-hour period, according to economic development experts in the area. With five home games in Fayetteville that’s a cool $20 million to $22 million in economic impact.
And there is a constant residual of being the home of the Razorbacks that makes early fall cash registers ring and keep on ringing. As long as the Razorbacks are winning.
The Razorbacks are the real “tree-shaker” of the region’s economy – and the No. 1 reason tudents elect to attend the flagship campus. Even with all the hotel and motel construction boom, prior to the recent economic downturn, hoteliers will tell you that few events can fill their rooms like a Razorback weekend.
And not only do folks from across the state fill area hotels, but they come prepared to dine out, often where an adult beverage of two can be consumed.
And then there is the day time “shopping component.” We’ve heard more than one hotel and other area business owner pray for late afternoon kickoff or night time games, so the shoppers in the family can peruse the area stores, shops and malls, while the male of the traveling species is affixed to Sports Center or other cable TV programming at the hotel until time to get ready for the games.
Also, it is well know that those who “tailgate” – an economic engine of its own genre –truly love late afternoon or even night time kick offs.
On an afternoon kickoff, not only can an early breakfast can be cooked up and served under the make-shift tents, but a well-appointed table for noon dining is also spread out on the “tailgate” for all to enjoy. (You can link here to see how one group of tailgaters are prepping for the 2013 season.)
And any Razorback fan will say a victory – not matter how close – is an added benefit to being in Northwest Arkansas. The late night dining, drinking and even the added benefit of a leisurely Sunday brunch is consumed, while, as Hog fans tend to do, to “wallow in the win.”
But a close loss or a “blow-out” of the hosting Razorbacks, we’ve seen fans so upset to make their drive back to LA (lower Arkansas) under the cover of darkness – dining at fuel stop/sandwich shops on their way home.
Many Hog fans may butcher our new coach’s name, but as he and the Razorbacks begin to win, they will quickly learn that new and often foreign pronunciation of “Be-lah-mah” This very large man, a native of a hog farming operation in rural Illinois, lettered at Iowa (under former Hog assistant Hayden Fry, so there is some level of thin Arkansas kinship there.).
Bielema led the University of Wisconsin Badgers to three straight Rose Bowl appearances which also equates into three consecutive Big 10 conference titles, before bolting to the SEC and the wide open job at the University of Arkansas.
We will, in 2013, settle for a 6-6 season split and hopes for a lower level bowl game anywhere – any bowl, any time – even Shreveport, La.
Anything over that predicted 6-6 mark will be better than sausage gravy on steaming hot biscuits for the true Hog fans.
We want to see glimmers of hope for the future and leave that comedic past behind us. Gone, hopefully, will be all “the talk” about the former motorcycle riding coach Bobby Petrino, and his happy, smiling grandpa-goofy like assistant John L. Smith, as the 2012 temporary coach. Those memories will quickly fade with wins and victories this season.
Bielema, the 34th head coach in the University’s history, brings a 68-24 (.739) career record as a head coach, the ninth-highest winning percentage among active coaches in the NCAA with at least five years of experience. He is one of only 12 active head coaches and 16 overall to have led a team to at least three BCS games.
That’s all fine and good. Great resume stuff. But Hog Nation wants wins, progress and some stability in our Razorbacks.
Hogallejuh!. Football is here.