Jim Harris: One SEC Rule Hurts Arkansas Football More Than Any Other Program

by Jim Harris  on Wednesday, Apr. 4, 2012 2:40 pm  

A spring game at War Memorial Stadium might keep the Razorbacks' connection to central Arkansas strong. While that would be allowed under NCAA rules, the SEC doesn't allow it. (Photo by Mark Wagner)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

A story coming out of North Carolina on Tuesday said that new UNC football coach Larry Fedora would be taking his Tar Heels on the road this spring, conducting one of its 15 allotted practices in Charlotte. The "Queen City" is about 120 miles west-southwest of the university in Chapel Hill.

Virginia football coach Mike London is taking his Cavaliers from Charlottesville to three cities around his state after starting the practice in his debut spring last year.

So, why wouldn't Arkansas and Bobby Petrino also do this, since it's well documented that the Razorbacks are loved throughout the state but have a campus situated in the far northwest corner, a stone's throw from Oklahoma and Missouri? The answer is that North Carolina and Virginia are in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is following an NCAA rule, while Arkansas is in the Southeastern Conference, which doesn't allow the practice.

Michael Carvell, the ace recruiting reporter-blogger for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, touched on this subject this morning and how an ACC-like rule would help Georgia, as well as other powerhouses in the Southeast.

In Arkansas' case, the Razorbacks used to play a spring game in Little Rock every April before they joined the SEC in 1992. The NCAA also used to allow 20 practices instead of the 15 that colleges get nowadays.

But I'm one of those natives of near Little Rock who remember the Razorbacks caravanning to War Memorial Stadium, and upwards of 30,000 fans attending the Red-White Game to see Joe Ferguson and the like. The Hogs would then stage another game in Fayetteville where 7,000 or so mostly sunbathers would show up at Razorback Stadium and maybe take note of a game going on.

Thanks to Bobby Petrino's urging, Arkansas' athletic administrators have worked to make the spring game a major event to somewhat rival the ridiculous support seen in Tuscaloosa, Auburn and elsewhere around the SEC, and the Arkansas Red-White game in Fayetteville has grown into that showcase like we used to enjoy in the 1970s and '80s in Little Rock. Except for the rainy and cold weather that hit a couple of years ago and limited the crowd to a paltry few, the other Red-White games in Fayetteville under Petrino have drawn in the neighborhood of 40,000 fans, according to estimates.

Still, with university athletic officials trying to find a way to satiate its Little Rock base with two regular-season appearances in the Capital City, while also trying to juggle an SEC slate with nonconferences games and maybe a return game to Dallas every year, it seems that a Little Rock spring game would be a nice way to reach out to this portion of the state. Heck, while they're on the road they could line up a practice down at El Dorado's Memorial Stadium, or stage a workout at Texarkana High's field, or maybe Jordan Stadium in Pine Bluff.

Fedora did this at Southern Mississippi before putting his plan into place at UNC. The ACC's Miami Hurricanes have spring scrimmages planned at other fields off campus in south Florida. Army, of Conference USA, landed a waiver that allows it to play its spring game at Fort Benning, Ga.

Only, Arkansas can't do it. The NCAA allows it, but the SEC doesn't. (The Hogs used to play Red-White basketball games too in corners of the state but can only play those on campus as well.)

According to SEC spokesman Charles Bloom: "The SEC limits spring practices and games to being conducted at on campus facilities. This policy has been established in a long-standing Commissioners Regulation, which is more restrictive than the NCAA rule permitting off-campus practices."

The gist of Carvell's column in Atlanta focuses on how road practices might help a team's recruiting.



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