Pack Pride #AlwaysRising

“It’s my school, man”. That was Terry Mohajir’s response one day to me teasing him about possible AD openings. Those words are too rarely said.


Watching the then Indians in possession of what at the time was the nation’s longest losing streak, I couldn’t have explained why I was still in the stands any other way than those words from Mohajir, “It’s my school, man.”

Listening on the radio as Arkansas State was on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, I turned to my wife and said, “I don’t know why I put myself through this shit.” A week later I was in my seat watching my school.

AState is Rocky Balboa (first movie not the over-wrought sequels) in a world that loves Apollo Creed. The underdog with heart who gives it everything he has win or lose is the true winner. Anyone can claim the champ as their favorite.

Wolves Up!!! Always Rising!!!

The past few years it has been easier to be a Red Wolf, a poll several months back said there are about 4 people in the state who claim the Hogs as their first team for every one person who claims the Red Wolves.

It’s easy to follow the crowd.

The AState fan is the person willing to swim against the current and is a person who carries a chip on their shoulder and is ready to fight for their school because they understand you HAVE to fight for your school.

A lot of AState fans are ready to fight for their school because they lived through or have heard the stories of the fight that AState has had to go through.

AState was little more than a Vo-Tech / high school when the doors opened. It wasn’t meant to be a college. Troy Martin was one of the first of “us”. He was in the first class, on the first football and baseball teams, was on the committee that picked scarlet and black as the school colors. If he were still with us today, he would share his pride in “the aggie school”. After he graduated State Agriculture School he enrolled at the University of Illinois expecting to be a freshman. After reviewing his transcript and asking about his classes he was admitted as a junior in recognition of the level of work done at “the aggie school”.

During World War I AState hired extra faculty and expanded class offering to participate in a training program open only to two and four year colleges. While the US Army recognized AState as a junior college in 1917, the state of Arkansas withheld formal recognition of that status until 1925. The regional accrediting body gave AState conditional approval to award four year degrees and the first was awarded in 1931.

Two years later the legislature renamed the school Arkansas State College recognizing it as a four year college eight years after the North Central Association said AState was up to snuff to be a four year college.

AState grew from less than 900 students in 1951 (after having bottomed out at 114 students during World War II) to over 3000 a decade later.

AState began pushing to rename itself Arkansas State University in 1955. It took four years to convince the legislature to introduce a bill a to change the name. The University of Arkansas announced its opposition and the bill was defeated. It wasn’t until 1967 that the name change was approved. AState had to fight the opposition for 12 years. Once that change was approved the tune from Fayetteville changed, suddenly bills to allow other schools in the state to change their name flew through the legislature.

After the 1981 season the NCAA voted to change the rules for I-A membership immediately with no opportunity to get in compliance. The terms of the rule change were nearly identical to the terms set out in an Arkansas Gazette column in 1975 (AState’s first year in Division I football) where Arkansas AD Frank Broyles spoke about future changes to the NCAA. After the vote schools were allowed to seek a one year waiver. When the roll was called, Arkansas passed. Once it was clear that AState would fall just short of the waiver, Arkansas voted yes on the AState waiver.

In 1987 the legislature considered a bill to force Arkansas and Arkansas State to play. One of the arguments raised by Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles was that Arkansas State was I-AA (today’s FCS) and they had never played a I-AA and it would hurt the school’s national prominence to play a I-AA school. The House approved the bill then voted to reconsider and defeated the bill, the stated purpose of the two votes was to express the will of the people that they play without making it law.

Oh and that policy of not playing I-AA schools? It ended the same day AState played its first game back in I-A and Mr. Broyles concerns about reputation were well founded. They lost to The Citadel, the first I-AA team they had played.

Two years later when the legislature met again, the legislature considered bill at the request of the University of Arkansas. The bill imposed strict restrictions on athletic spending that would be among the toughest in the US. Several junior colleges in Arkansas were forced to shut down their athletic programs. UALR set a fund-raising drive to save their athletic department and made the deadline days before the program was set to shut down. AState moved football back to I-A but was so hampered financially that during some of the early years back in I-A the team played with fewer scholarship players than top I-AA teams.

The AState chip on its shoulder isn’t just about names and athletics.

For many years the state higher education funding formula awarded more dollars per student if a school offered doctoral programs. When AState wanted to add its own doctoral programs the University of Arkansas objected. Then when it appeared the program might be approved an alternate solution was proposed, the classes would be held at AState but would be awarded by the University of Arkansas via a satellite campus located at the AState campus. In the end AState prevailed and received congratulations letters from every Arkansas college except one.

In the 1980’s when AState was growing quickly the state funding formula was based on average enrollment over the past four years. Because of AState’s growth, we received fewer dollars per enrolled student than any other school in Arkansas.

Don’t get me wrong. Not everything bad at AState has been a result of interference. AState has made plenty of athletic blunders along the way that hurt athletics worse than any interference.

When you look at what happened to UAB in losing their football program there is a big difference from when AState faced the same question in the mid-90’s.

Pride.

AState fans didn’t waste a lot of time complaining about interference, they worked to fight through the interference and the self-inflicted wounds.

Enough AState fans broke from those taking the easy path to go along with crowd and took up the challenge to build that AState began laying a foundation for the future.

Alums and fans stepped up. They understood that a program does not become a force overnight. Some remembered that when Arkansas won its fabled national championship in football, Razorback Stadium had fewer seats than Centennial Bank Stadium.

It took time build that program. It got built because people put their time, effort, and money in it. Anyone can ride when the bandwagon is rolling, the hardcore actually BUILD the bandwagon and then push it to get it rolling.

Today we would say those fans had “Pack Pride” back then they embraced the words of John Bobo, “We’re a Tribe”.

I don’t waste my time worrying about what happened in the past but I do remember who stepped up to support AState and as much as I can afford to, I put my dollars into the program.

I’m proud of every win in every sport because “It’s my school, man.”

What makes me even more proud is each and every person who hangs up that piece of paper declaring themselves a graduate of Arkansas State University who shows pride in their school. I’m proud of every single person who gives up some of their free time to go watch the Red Wolves play. Even if they didn’t attend AState, if they throw their lot in with us, they too can say “It’s my school, man.”

Some people landed at AState because it was the best fit for them. Some because they could get a scholarship at AState when their first choice wasn't interested in them. Some because it was close by and easy to get to. Others because of AState's excellence in the field they want to pursue.

AState has selective admission. Not everyone who applies will be admitted. Anyone who doesn't take pride in being selected by AState has little respect for what they have done to earn their spot at AState.

Whether you are the Governor, Athletic Director, the owner of a bank, a teacher, a chemist, nurse, between jobs, student, or student-athlete, if you answer the call of Wolves Up with a smile on your face, you know what it is like to take pride in your school.