Evin Demirel has a thoughtful piece up on Sporting Life Arkansas about the current tub-thumping to create a Rice Bowl football game at War Memorial Stadium to match some lesser teams from minor conferences, including the one that includes one Arkansas football-playing school and another Arkansas non-football school among its members.
Do these games really produce financial windfalls for the schools and for local businesses? Evidence on those selling points is light.
Does it really help Arkansas to have TV cameras panning empty seats at War Memorial for a battle of titans like Troy State and Northern Illinois? Hell, the Hogs sometimes can't fill all the seats for its early season directional school foes. Demirel comments on efforts by UALR Athletic Director Chris Peterson to promote the idea:
This is one reason Chris Peterson made the media rounds last week to evangelize the masses in support of the Rice Bowl. He stressed the game’s significance reaches far beyond Sun Belt sports fans. It’s about “promoting the state of Arkansas” and “promoting everything that’s good about college athletics,” he told Justin Acri of 103.7 The Buzz FM.
This is seriously lofty talk, but, hey, the man’s excited. I get that. What I don’t get is how in that same interview Peterson suggested if tens of thousands of Arkansans attended the Rice Bowl it would show — once and for all — that Arkansas really, truly loves itself some football. Even if the Arkansans were paying to watch out-of-state teams play.
...Don’t tie Arkansans’ love of football to this argument. There really is no tie. The state supports its football more than most places but business leaders in a few other states throw much more money at the sport. Games elsewhere attract more people. Let’s be realistic: Arkansas isn’t the most passionate football state in the South.
If it were, then maybe UALR’s athletic director would have his own football program to trumpet.