Ball bounces in a new in-state rilvary: ‘It’s on’
The UALR Trojan men’s basketball team will get a highly anticipated opponent on their schedule for the first time ever when it plays the Arkansas Razorbacks at the Jack Stephens Center to open the 2014-15 season.
The meeting between the two schools was orchestrated largely between two professional basketball players and alumni of each school: UALR’s Derek Fisher and University of Arkansas’ Joe Johnson. The two met after a game between their respective teams and hatched the plan to get the game put together.
The matchup is something that the Trojans have been looking forward to since 2012. That was when secret negotiations prompted by the Arkansas NBA players began between the two schools. The game will be an annual event for the foreseeable future. The contract between the schools runs through the 2020 season and the teams will alternate games between Little Rock and Fayetteville.
The Trojans players and staff are looking forward to the challenge from the state’s flagship university. “Everybody is already pumped up to play the Hogs,” UALR Assistant Coach Mike Lowrey said. “Oh, it’s on!”
University of Arkansas Assistant Coach Marcus Burnett was not quite as enthused about the matchup. “It’s definitely not on,” he said when hearing of Lowrey’s comments. “We just want to continue to improve and start the new season off right.” The Razorbacks are coming off their first post-season appearance in eight seasons after a run in the NIT last month.
The game may also prove to be a financial boon for both schools during this tough economic climate with tickets for the game nearly sold out already. Negotiations have begun for the women’s team to play each other within the next two seasons. Other sports haven’t been ruled out as the attention of the basketball matchup has made a baseball game a possibility for the future.
For now, however, the basketball matchup will be more than enough to start a new in-state rivalry. The two famous alumni that started it all have done well to get the rivalry started as well. “I told him (Fisher) that his school had no chance,” Johnson said.
“Oh, it’s on!” Fisher replied.
“It’s definitely not on,” Johnson responded.