State of the Hogs: Traditions

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There has been a lot of change with Arkansas athletics in the last few months. There may be more change, too. That's not calling change good or bad, just acknowledging its presence.

One that had been speculated about for several years appears to be further down the road. A press conference is planned Friday to announce an extension for Razorback football games in Little Rock.

There may be a time when games move out of Little Rock. Playing only two games a year in War Memorial Stadium doesn't provide much incentive to do anything major as far as seating capacity.

I'm old enough that it's clear that the end to my career of covering football games is at least in sight. Who knows, it might be sooner than 2016, the closing date on the newest UA contract for War Memorial Stadium?

That might be good news. I just can't imagine life without games in War Memorial Stadium. Yes, I know some think the best for the Arkansas football team is to play all games at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. I guess I'm just too stuck in the past to think that way.

My past is intertwined with War Memorial. My family lived in a house across the street when I was born in 1954. That was the year the Hogs beat Ole Miss there in the game that ignited the state behind the Arkansas football program.

I lived at 1821 Fair Park Boulevard for most of my school days. That's walking distance from the stadium, too. I can remember my father buying end zone tickets and distributing them to the neighborhood kids the day of the game. That made him the king of Fair Park in everyone's eyes, including mine. We went to the games together tossing footballs as we took turns running routes across what was then an empty golf course.

If you were the fastest in the gang, you could pretend to be Jerry Lamb, Harry Jones or Bobby Crockett. If not, you played defense and you were Tommy Trantham or Louis Campbell. If you were the toughest in the group, you could pretend to be Loyd Phillips.

I recall the Arkansas-Stanford game in 1970. I got to be a gopher for ABC Sports. I wasn't driving by myself, but after the game Terry Jastro, the producer, handed me the keys of about 12 Cadillacs. "Get them to the airport by Sunday night," came the instructions. He handed me a $100 bill for my work on the weekend. My mother and I shuttled the cars back to the airport on Sunday.

I'll never forget getting my hip dislocated playing junior high football in 1967. It happened in a Saturday morning scrimmage. The entire family went to the Razorback game in WMS that night to watch the Hogs beat Kansas State. My grandmother stayed with me. Just to get a feel, we opened the windows on the fifth floor of St. Vincent's Hospital to hear the Hog Call filter up the hill.

There's never been a better sound. My leg hurt, but I was happy with the radio broadcast on one side of the room and the sounds from the stadium coming through the window.

All of those are sweet memories. The tradition of games in Little Rock is too good to end. I was taught an early age that farmers in east and south Arkansas funded the program. Mostly, those same families are still giving to the Razorback Foundation in a large way. They deserve games in Little Rock.

I know things change. Uniforms are tweaked. But some things should never change. Going to Little Rock is one of those things.

I believe Jeff Long, the new athletic director, understands that fundamental thought on Arkansas football. He understands the meaning of other traditions, too. Rumors hit the Internet last week that all things Hog, meaning references other than Razorback, were to be eliminated. There was even some speculation that the Hog Call would be phased out. How silly for anyone to even think anyone would do that. It's not true.

Long doesn't know where that came from, but he loves the Hog Call. He wants the Go Hogs chant to echo in every stadium the Hogs ever play in all sports.

There's nothing like hearing them "called" in War Memorial Stadium. In the days before air conditioning, you could hear them in homes for miles away, in the Heights, along Fair Park, and for sure from the hospital. I'm glad that's the way it shapes up for at least my part of the future.

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