Games in Little Rock helps meet attendance mininum

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas and Louisiana-Monroe will play five football games over the next 10 years at Little Rock, but in an arrangement to keep Louisiana-Monroe in Division I-A, the Indians
will be considered the home team.

Both schools touted the agreement as a benefit, with Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles saying the in-state game would help "meet our obligations financially." Arkansas will collect all walk-up ticket sales at the games and control a majority of the season-ticket sales.

But the agreement announced Friday clearly was intended to help a struggling Louisiana-Monroe program stay afloat. Under new rules implemented this year, teams must host at least five other Division I-A squads and average at least 15,000 fans per home game to remain in Division I-A.

Louisiana-Monroe Athletic Director Bruce Hanks praised Broyles and his staff for "their willingness to look at something different to help us."

The games are scheduled for this coming season, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012.

The Razorbacks usually play two or three games each year at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, instead of Razorback Stadium 200 miles to the northwest in Fayetteville. Arkansas has averaged
52,357 fans for the last 10 games in the state capital, just 370 fans less than the stadium's capacity.

Hank Largin, Louisiana-Monroe's sports information director, said the Indians averaged more than 15,000 fans per contest for several years in the 1990s, which allowed them to move up to
college football's top division. But since 2000, the school has suffered losing records and has not been able to meet the minimum.

After dipping below an average of 8,000 fans for five home games in 2000 and 2001, Hanks succeeded in tripling season-ticket sales and the team averaged 11,000 per home crowd last season.

"We'll get the count of 50,000 on our home attendance," Largin said. "But we've still got to sell more tickets here in Monroe.

From a financial standpoint, we really need 20,000 at our home games."

Even if the Indians continue to draw just 11,000 per game in Monroe, adding 52,000 from the Arkansas game would raise the school's six-game home average to 17,833.

Arkansas will run all services at the games and collect all concessions revenues. Both schools will be allowed to sell tickets in their season-ticket packages.

The two football teams have met four times -- 1996 and 2000 in Fayetteville and 1997 and 1999 in Little Rock -- with Arkansas winning each time. Louisiana-Monroe changed its name from Northeast
Louisiana University in August 1999.