A group of government, civic and business leaders from Central Arkansas today submitted an application to the NCAA for a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision bowl game to be played in Little Rock. If NCAA approval is obtained, the first game will be played this December at War Memorial Stadium.
The game will match teams from the Sun Belt Conference and the American Athletic Conference. The commissioners of the two conferences recently visited Little Rock and expressed their strong support for such a game. Members of the committee cautioned that this is only the first step in a process. The NCAA is expected to make a decision in May.
The mayors of Little Rock and North Little Rock, the chambers of commerce of both cities and the convention and visitors’ bureaus of the two cities are involved in the effort. If NCAA approval is received, the coordinating committee will announce the bowl’s name, title sponsor and television partner at a later date.
The bowl will give the Sun Belt Conference, which includes Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, its fifth bowl tie-in along with the New Orleans Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl at Mobile, the Camellia Bowl at Montgomery and the new Cure Bowl at Orlando.
In addition to Arkansas State, football members of the Sun Belt Conference are Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas State, South Alabama, Louisiana-Monroe, Troy, New Mexico State, Idaho and Georgia State.
Football members of the American Athletic Conference are Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, the U.S. Naval Academy, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane and Tulsa.
Navy, whose playing field is named for the late Jack Stephens of Little Rock, is joining the AAC for football this year. Navy will play in the West Division along with Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane and Tulsa. The East Division will include Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, South Florida and Temple.
War Memorial Stadium, built in 1947-48, is one of the most famous football venues in the South. The stadium originally seated 31,075. In the first game at the stadium, the University of Arkansas played Abilene Christian on Sept. 18, 1948. The stadium has served as the Razorbacks’ second home since that time. The current capacity is 54,120. In 2010, a $7.3 million renovation that included a new press box and major improvements in club seating was unveiled.
“We think a college bowl game will be the perfect addition to the event schedule at War Memorial,” said Kevin Crass of Little Rock, the chairman of the War Memorial Stadium Commission. “Arkansans love college football, and I have no doubt this game will be a success. We already have the strong support of key people in both Little Rock and North Little Rock. The game will showcase the attractions that Central Arkansas has to offer for a national television audience while introducing a new group of visitors to the area’s many amenities.”