Hooten’s Arkansas Football magazine is still Hooten’s, even though it’s no longer the Hootens’.
Former high school coach Thomas Thrash bought the magazine from brothers Chris and Chad Hooten last October, but he wasn’t about to rename what over three decades has become the preseason almanac of football for Arkansas high school and college fans.
“Thrash’s Arkansas Football” was a nonstarter, even though Thrash once threw 10 touchdown passes in a single high school game.
“Absolutely not,” Thrash told Arkansas Business. “We’ve got an excellent brand in Hooten’s, and we’re definitely keeping it.” He also doesn’t want to reinvent the publication itself, which features coaches, players, statistics, schedules and prospects in every high school conference in the state, as well as statewide rankings and all-stars in each classification.
But the publication’s bread, butter and ham are the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Oh, it covers the state’s other college teams well, but with the University of Arkansas resurgent under Head Coach Sam Pittman, sales have surged, too. The 30th annual edition, a hefty 432 pages, has sold far better than usual since coming out last month.
The cover price at Walmart, Kroger, Harps and other stores is $19.99, which yields a little more than $16 per copy to Hooten’s. (It was $6.99 when Hooten’s started in 1993.)
An estimated $400,000 in ads and potential sales of 12,000 to 15,000 copies would put yearly revenue around $700,000, insiders figure. Whatever the total, “a lot will go to the payout [to the Hootens] under the structure of our deal over three years,” Thrash said. He didn’t want to make the sale price public, but it’s likely to have approached seven figures. He said he had help from his father, Little Rock attorney Tom Thrash, in swinging the deal.
“Thomas has been through a complete season” of learning the business and can rely on a good team of veterans, Chad Hooten said, including writers Barry Groomes and Spencer Templeton, a recent Harding University graduate. “The business has enjoyed a very good spring and summer 2022. Revenue is up, book sales are up for the second year in a row. And with the help of his family and staff, Thomas can make it even better in the days and years ahead. Excitement about the Hogs always helps. Thank you, Sam Pittman.”
Thomas Thrash set national passing records at Pulaski Academy in 2001, and his brother won a state title as quarterback there a few years later. Dad was a star quarterback at Ashdown before playing in college for Ouachita Baptist. Mom Toni Thrash, a former Arkansas Razorback cheerleader and state schoolteacher of the year, is bookkeeping and verifying thousands of names in the new edition. “The entire family is now involved,” Chad Hooten said, adding that his brother Chris had retired in January. The brothers each owned a 50% stake in Hooten’s Arkansas Football.
Chad Hooten will stay on as an outside consultant for a few years to help with the handoff. The magazine’s offices are in Benton, and Thrash commutes there from Little Rock. His relationship with the Hootens goes back decades.
“Chad taught my Sunday school class when I was in high school, and his father-in-law was my preacher,” Thrash said. “You know, this business isn’t something you can just walk into. You have to know football, and I had those relationships with all the other coaches. You have to know the brand and the book, and in my case I had a lot of experience editing video and audio from my time as head coach in Clarendon High. Those skills helped me on the website.”
Thrash leaves the writing to others, and he plans to take on more ad sales responsibilities from Chad Hooten starting next year. After covering the upcoming season for online readers, the writers will resume work Jan. 2 with a mission of writing one story a day, five stories a week, until midsummer. It’s not easy running a football bible. “Like Bear Bryant said in Alabama, they call football a religion here,” Thrash said. “But it’s much more important than that.”