I drove over to Arkansas this week. Photographer Nate Billings and I went to Fayetteville for a story on Razorback athletic director Jeff Long, the chairman of the new College Football Playoff selection committee. Our package will appear Sunday in The Oklahoman’s annual football preview.
But the drive again made me shake my head.
From our office on North Broadway in Oklahoma City to Springdale, Ark., Fayetteville’s sister city, it took three hours. And that’s with Nate driving the speed limit. He doesn’t turn the freeways into a super speedway.
That means it’s about 31/2 hours from the OU campus to the Arkansas campus and about three hours from the OSU campus to the Arkansas campus.
And yet the only three OU-Arkansas football games in the last 88 years have come in bowl games — Orange in the 1977 season, Orange in the 1986 season, Cotton in the 2001 season.
And no OSU-Arkansas football game has been played since 1980, when the series ended after a string of 28 meetings in 31 years.
Basketball has been a little better. OU-Arkansas hoops played six straight years before last season, and the Sooners and Hogs also played a four-game series from December 1998 through November 2001. But still, they’ve played just 27 times total.
OSU and Arkansas haven’t played in basketball since December 2003 and have played just four times since December 1971. But the series is 50 games old; the schools regularly met from the end of World War II into the 1970s.
It’s madness that these athletic programs don’t compete more against each other in the marquee sports.
Of course, it’s also madness that the old Big Eight never made a pass at Arkansas. The Razorbacks jumped to the SEC in 1991, years after the nation figured out that Arkansas was not a good fit for the Southwest Conference.
Arkansas was a fabulous fit for the Big Eight, but the Big Eight leadership was sort of like the Big 12 leadership. Not particularly progressive, either in the commissioner’s office or in the presidents’ offices.
I don’t expect an OU-Arkansas football series to pop up anytime soon. The Razorbacks have beefed up their schedule in recent years — they play Texas Tech and Northern Illinois this season — and have scheduled games with TCU, Michigan and Texas. OU has a series of nationally-renown opponents set — Ohio State, UCLA, Nebraska, Michigan.
OSU-Arkansas is a possibility, I suppose, if the Cowboys want to play real opponents. But OSU-Arkansas historically could be a challenge. In those 28 games in 31 years, only three were played in Stillwater: 1951, 1975, 1978. The rest were played in Little Rock.
OSU was treated as a second-class citizen, often acted like a second-class citizen, and now that the Cowboys not only have caught Arkansas in stature but have been more consistent winners in recent years, it will be hard for some on both sides to overcome that stigma.
But it’s nuts that Arkansas doesn’t play the Oklahoma schools. The Razorback campus is 30 miles from the Oklahoma state line. Those are rivalries that ought to exist.