ESPN is known for its quick soundbite-style of sports journalism, but they have many fine writers on their website, ESPN.com.
Two of their best college sports writers, Ivan Maisel and Pat Forde, have put together an outstanding series on the changing state of University of Arkansas athletics.
The four parts of the series are:
All are worth reading, but the story is only a microcosm of the fundamental changes in Arkansas itself. Since the state's very beginnings, Little Rock existed as the base of political and economic power for the entire state. President Bill Clinton build his path to the Presidency from this small, southern town.
Little Rock now has competition from the northwest corner of the state. That is where Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods call home. Northwest Arkansas has become a power base of its own. Wal-Mart remains one of the largest corporations in the world. It has spent the last decade as "the tail that wags the dog" in the retail world.
Now, this same corner of the state is trying to flex its muscle on the pride and joy of Arkansans - the Arkansas athletic program. When a legend like Frank Broyles can be muscled into retirment and a football coach coming off of a 10 win season is on the brink of being fired, it seems that this muscle is being felt. Considering Wal-Mart's global reach, it doesn't seem far fetched to assume that it can make it presence felt down the road in Little Rock.
Swampland.com attempts to chronicle the winds of change across the South as they occur. Change isn't always for the better, but change is part of life. Frank Broyles integrated two college football programs (Missouri and Arkansas) in addition to providing stability and growth for Arkansas' athletic program over the last 50 years.
Broyles is a true Southern sports legend. It will be a shame to see him go at year's end.
I hope the folks up in NW Arkansas realize what they will be losing.