NEW YORK CITY - As Arkansas (7-5) gets ready to take on Kansas State (6-6) on Saturday in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, there will be a group of Razorback fans getting together near Times Square to watch it all.
Members of The Greater New York Arkansas Alumni Chapter will once again gather at historic Hurley’s Bar and Grill, a place that has been serving famous actors, comedians, entertainers and political figures since 1892 and is the official Razorback bar in New York City.
David Lettermen, Johnny Carson, Jack Parr, Henry Kissinger, Kelsey Grammar, Woody Harelson and actress Scarlett Johansson are just some of the former or current regulars at the landmark, which now sets at 232 West 48th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.
Gordon Voight III, who was born in Texarkana, Arkansas and raised in Marshall, Texas, is a proud Arkansas graduate and someone who came to New York City as an actor back in the day, will once again be busy heading up the Razorback gathering.
“We have a ton of Arkansas fans in this area,” noted Voight, the chapter president. “At one point we had over 1,100 fans when the football team was riding high. It’s headed back that way again.”
The group draws people from all five Boroughs of New York City as well as some from New Jersey.
Gordon Voight III
It was started some 20 years ago with get-togethers held at Park Hill Country Club before moving to the Mad Hatter Saloon and now to Hurley’s.
The club reached all-time highs for attendance when Bobby Petrino was the coach, dipped after he was fired for off-field transgressions and is now coming back.
“When we played Ohio State and Kansas State in those consecutive bowl games, we were like in fistfights at the Mad Hatter because there were so many people packed in one place,” Voight said. “It was an indoor-outdoor thing and we had so many people that were cold and griping.
“I had never seen so many Arkansas fans that I did not know before and we just simply had too many people to stay there.”
So the move was made to Hurley’s, which can accommodate some 750 people and has a third level that is donated just to Razorbacks fans.
“If we had continue to win like we were winning and had gone on to win a national championship under Bobby Petrino like many thought we would, this place would have utopia. It would have been the smartest move ever.
“We were really riding on that Bobby Petrino magic carpet ride to where we were at the most members to a slump with some of the worst football ever.”
Bret Bielema had brought the program back from a two-year period where it won just seven games total to having won seven each of the last two seasons going into Saturday’s game.
“It has been a tough ride, but Coach Bielema has us headed back up and you can see that it is coming back,” Voight said. “Everybody loves a winner.”
Bielema has visited the place while in New York and spent some time with Voight.
“I didn’t know anything about him, but my friend Adam Wilson with the LSU chapter told me even before he had coached a game that he will dominate the West when (Alabama head coach Nick) Saban is gone,” Voight said. “He might struggle with Saban, but he is going to retire soon and then he will run the West.”
Hurley’s is now located just a few steps away from Times Square, Radio City Music Hall and is right in the heart of the theater district.
It was located at the corner of 49th and Avenue of the Americas - just across the street from Rockfeller Center - until 1999 until it moved to its current location.
“We usually sit down on the first floor for baseball and basketball gatherings, but we do have an indoor-outdoor area upstairs on the third level that we can use 365, 24/7 when it is needed,” Voight said. “We have a lot of Arkansas paraphenelia, an Arkansas flag, helmets and other things like that.”
Voight was a big fan of going into the SEC, but wishes former Razorback coach Ken Hatfield would have been along for the ride.
“I think if we had kept Kenny Hatfield by the time we went into the SEC then we would have inflicted some pain,” Voight said. “I think he was a great coach.
“When that happened we had some of the worst football ever and I think we are just now getting the program stabilized. I like the direction we are going now.”