Malzahn's moment 

Or so ASU fans hope.

JONESBORO — Strike up a conversation about Arkansas State University football these days, and you'll hear the name of another university often. It's not the one you think.

ASU fans and officials like to cite Boise State University, the Idaho institution whose rapid rise from football obscurity to national prominence ASU hopes to match.

At a press conference announcing the hiring of the new ASU coach, Gus Malzahn, ASU athletic director Dean Lee says, "We can be the Boise State of college football ... We want to be the Arkansas State of college football, which is going to be better than Boise State."

In a later interview, Malzahn, whose hiring is the main reason for the new excitement here, says that scheduling is one aspect of ASU football that will change. ASU now plays two "money" games every year. These are games against big-time opponents like Alabama and Oklahoma, games that are always played on the big team's home field, games for which ASU is well compensated but has little chance of winning. It's a common practice among lower-level college teams; they need the money. But Malzahn says ASU will cut back from two such games a year to one. That, he says, is what Boise did.

Be like Boise, by all means. But what about that other team whose name has always come up in any discussion of ASU football? The cross-state team, currently Arkansas's only big-time football program, the team that has always overshadowed and ignored ASU? The team that ASU has dreamed of playing against? That's the Arkansas Razorbacks, to end the suspense.

For years, ASU has fought to win a share of the love that goes to Fayetteville, and one way they hoped to do that was by playing UA, eventually developing an in-state rivalry like Auburn-Alabama, Oklahoma State-Oklahoma, Texas A&M-Texas. UA has resolutely declined. ASU, which is considered the "home" university for East Arkansas, took the fight to the state legislature on several occasions, but never quite persuaded the legislators to mandate an ASU-UA game. One of the ASU backers' most promising campaigns ended when a legislator from Russellville amended their bill, adding a requirement that ASU play Arkansas Tech, then a championship team at the small-college level.

Those days are past, ASU people say. Ask athletic director Lee about an ASU-Arkansas game, and he says "Our philosophy here is to try to control the things we can control. We'll play the people on our schedule. If that [UA] game happens, it happens. From the fan standpoint, there's been interest on both sides. That doesn't mean the game is going to be played."

Virtually the same words come from Malzahn's mouth. Does his attention-getting hire at ASU bring a UA game closer? "I don't know," he says. "I've got immediate things to take care of."

Jeff Hankins of Little Rock, an ASU alumnus and avid fan (and in his spare time publisher of Arkansas Business), says:

"Someday, it'll be a terrific game and I'll be there. But I'm tired of pushing for it. I think there's been too much talk about how the Malzahn hiring affects Arkansas [the Razorbacks]. I want to see UA, ASU, UCA [the University of Central Arkansas] all do well. But they're at different levels, in different conferences. The 'Who you for, Arkansas or ASU' debate does not have to be an either-or decision for football fans in the state.

"I think Razorback fans were just as surprised that Gus Malzahn landed at ASU as ASU fans were. I don't think there was a soul in this state who wasn't surprised by the Malzahn hiring. Or any sports fan in America, for crying out loud."


Speaking of...

  • Auburn awaits

    October 22, 2015
    Eight weeks ago, as I became the latest utterly helpless victim of the hype train that Bret Bielema engineered all offseason, projecting the Razorbacks to plow through the opening six games with a 5-1 record and the only blemish being a loss to Tennessee, I was pretty leery of this little midseason bye week. Seemed like it could really stunt a flourishing team's growth. /more/
  • ASU application for osteopathic medical school rejected; school to try again

    December 15, 2014
    Arkansas Business' Lee Hogan reports that an accrediting commission has turned down an application to open a branch of a New York osteopathic college of medicine at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. ASU says it will try again, with hopes to open the branch by 2016. /more/
  • Gus Malzahn 'dancing' to MC Hammer

    November 3, 2014
    Apparently, while coaching high school in Arkansas, Malzahn was self-deprecating enough that he used to show it to his teams as part of pre-playoffs routine. /more/
  • Hogs break down at Auburn

    September 4, 2014
    When Auburn clanked a field goal attempt off the upright going into halftime, Bret Bielema's fist plunged skyward and Arkansas headed to halftime all square at 21. The game plan was working. Gashed early, the defense was settling in to make some stops here and there, and the offensive machine was humming. /more/
  • A path for victory for the Hogs versus Auburn

    August 28, 2014
    If Arkansas wants to convince a state and country full of doubters that it's pecking slowly back from beneath the weight of the rest of the SEC, a rare gift avails itself right at the start: a meaningful opener in late August, on the road, against a fashionable and traditional darling that just happens to have been in the Hogs' position merely a year ago. /more/
  • Ball control is Hogs' only hope

    July 24, 2014
    If Arkansas is going to be an unlikely world-beater this fall, or even a better than average bunch, the onus rests upon ball, and by extension, clock control. That's something we'll observe in this space throughout the course of the season. /more/
  • Bryan Harsin leaving Arkansas State for Boise State

    December 11, 2013
    The coaching carousel continues at Arkansas State, with Bryan Harsin leaving after one season, the third year in a row the Red Wolves have lost their coach to another school after just one season. /more/
  • All the college dudes love Malzhan's sweater vest, visor combo

    November 30, 2013
    On Malzahn, the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip and Wally Hall's politics. /more/
  • Hogs drop six in a row

    November 7, 2013
    With Arkansas in the midst of what has become the lengthiest losing streak since its native son launched a bid for the presidency, it seems apropos for the Hogs to adopt some Clintonian resiliency to finish this tortured 2013 season. Bielema's basically undergoing some de facto impeachment proceedings as it is. /more/
  • Police beat: Facebook foulup; pugnacious cops; football revival, church camp beating

    August 2, 2013
    An overnight news scan cries out for a police blotter roundup: * COPS IN BAR FRACAS CHARGED: Fox 16 reports that a Fayetteville prosecutor has approved warrants for the arrests of two men who pulled loaded guns in a Fayetteville tavern and charged them with disorderly conduct and harassment. /more/
  • More »

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

Latest in Cover Stories

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29  

Most Viewed

  • UAMS touts belt-tightening

    But it's not enough, chancellor tells UA board.
  • Arkansas and the 'black power' movement

    It gained hold in late '60s; event in Little Rock in 1974 might have signaled its end.
  • Out of Iowa

    Also, the child welfare director departs; whoa, Pigs; and more.
  • Happy New Year!

    The Observer is a dud when it comes to being creative, but we sure appreciate it in others. So we try never to miss the Japanese New Year's party thrown at a certain house on Dennison Street.
  • Against Jacksonville millage

    t's very sad and unfortunate, but on Feb. 10 many Jacksonville residents on fixed incomes will wake up to find a small group approved what's being called a 14 percent to 19 percent hike in their property taxes in a special election that they were not expecting nor had they been aware of, since the March 1 SEC primary is just down the road.

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation