The University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced plans to conduct a feasibility study to assess whether the university should consider adding a football and marching band program.
The study is a collaboration of UA Little Rock, the City of Little Rock, and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. UA Little Rock will go through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to hire a firm to conduct the study, with the city of Little Rock, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, and UA Little Rock paying equal parts of the study cost. The university will use private funds from the Athletic Department for its share of the expense.
Chancellor Andrew Rogerson and Little Rock Athletic Director Chasse Conque have fielded questions about bringing back a football program since Rogerson joined the university last September. This spring, a group of students presented the chancellor with a petition bearing 1,000 signatures in favor of a football program.
“Since that time, I’ve heard from many other students, alumni, community members, and business leaders who have expressed their interest in a Division I football program in greater Little Rock,” Rogerson said. “As a scientist, I have a high regard for data, so conducting an objective study seems like the right approach to determine if a football program and marching band would be a wise and meaningful addition to the university and our community.”
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and Parks and Tourism Director Kane Webb were among community leaders who favored a feasibility study.
“The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is a vital and critical educational component of our city, and I believe bringing football back would be yet another opportunity for our citizens, students, and alumni to rally behind our university,” said Mayor Stodola. “The availability of War Memorial Stadium is a natural asset. However, we want to make sure that the economic and community potential that many of us perceive with a football and marching band program actually plays out on paper.”
Webb added, “If the university determines through this feasibility study that a football program is a worthwhile pursuit, then War Memorial Stadium is a natural, ideal home for the Trojans. The timing of this is good, too, as the stadium is currently undergoing an outside study of its own to help us best plan for the future. We will let the data drive the decision, but the potential of UA Little Rock football is certainly worth taking a hard look at.”
Little Rock Trojans Athletic Director Chasse Conque said the feasibility study will examine every aspect of starting a football program, including initial and annual costs, staffing, playing venue, facility construction, and economic and student enrollment impact.
The study would put exact figures on both a start-up and annual cost for Little Rock football. The university will use this feasibility study to help determine if it will move forward with bringing college football back to Little Rock.
“We’ll learn a lot through this study, and I am anxious to see the data,” said Conque. “The interest from our students and other stakeholders in the community is evidence that we are in the midst of exciting times for Little Rock Trojan athletics.”
Once the feasibility study begins, the estimated time of completion is approximately six to seven months, Conque said. With an early fall start date, the study should be completed in the spring of 2018. When the study is concluded and the findings presented, the Little Rock Athletic Department will reach out to numerous entities to determine if adding a football program and a marching band would be a logical decision. These entities would include the UA Little Rock faculty, staff, students, alumni, board members, and supporters of the Athletics Department, as well as city and state leaders from the central Arkansas community.
Little Rock Trojans have been in Division I athletics since the late 1970s and a Sun Belt Conference member since 1992, providing a clear path to Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) membership with a football team on campus. Along with University of Texas Arlington, Little Rock is one of two full member universities in the Sun Belt Conference that does not currently field a football team.
When UA Little Rock was Little Rock Junior College, the Trojans fielded a successful football team. The college had many winning football seasons, including a 25-19 victory over Santa Ana in the 1949 Junior Rose Bowl Game, claiming the national championship. The Trojans also played in the Little Sugar Bowl in 1948 and captured the Mississippi Valley Conference championship in 1954. The team disbanded after the 1955 season.