LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Over the last few years, Arkansas has certainly seemed to scale back its interest in playing home games inside Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.
The Hogs used to play two games there each year, but when the last contract between the university and the War Memorial Stadium Commission was extended in 2013, that was changed to one game each year, with the university paying the commission $400,000 annually to make up for the lost game.
The current agreement runs through 2018. Arkansas has lost four of its last five games in Little Rock, including a 16-12 setback against Toledo last season. The Hogs’ Little Rock game this season is Oct. 1 against Alcorn State.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema made an appearance at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s luncheon Monday and during a news conference before the event, he was asked about playing there.
“I love coming over here,” said Bielema, who is about to begin his fourth year at Arkansas. “I think our players do. Especially the guys from this area. What I’ve also learned is there’s a lot of tradition and history of people that have taken these games in for a long time, that this is their only opportunity to see it, so I respect that.”
But Bielema also stressed the importance of having a strong homefield advantage in Fayetteville. And although it went unsaid by Bielema on Monday, the Hogs also now have an annual neutral-site game against Texas A&M each year in Arlington, Texas, further limiting the games in Fayetteville.
“This is a home game here in Little Rock and I get that and all that goes into it,” Bielema said, “but when you’re able to have the consistency of playing on your home turf and environment, same hotel … I had a senior class at my previous spot (Wisconsin) that went through four years of playing together that lost three games in their entire career at home. That’s a home-field advantage.
“And I think we can get to that point, because our stadium in Fayetteville is built in a way and our fans are passionate in a way that you can really take advantage of that.
“Where it’s going to go from here, that’s a bigger conversation. I usually don’t get invited into that meeting. I just kinda go where they tell me.”