By Gage McGee, third place winner of our inaugural Arkansas Voices Essay Contest
Like many Arkansans during the Fall, I sit on the sofa with the television painted cardinal and white every Saturday with overwhelming anticipation; the pigskin soaring down the turf searching for the end-zone, but more importantly, the pride of each Arkansan. In the cold months of Winter and early Spring, I lay tucked in blankets, awed at the Hogs on the court as every basket strengthens the state’s pride. The wet months following, Baum-Walker is a wonderland of hot dogs and home runs. The Hogs are a force in competition, and the community. In fact, Hunter Yurachek led the athletics department to 18 of 19 teams ranked in the top 25 at the end of the 2021-2022 season. The program and student-athletes impact the community with many programs and events. The Razorback fans also strengthen the state with their loving spirit and deep-rooted tradition.
Fayetteville is a buzzing community, and the perfect home for the Hog. Donald W. Reynolds, Baum Walker, and Bud Walton carry an aura of hope for the average Arkansan. The pride grows each time Pittman turns up the jukebox, each time Muss goes running around the court in celebration, and each time Van Horn tips his hat to the opposition in victory. The power can be felt through every arena, barstool, and household throughout Arkansas.
The student-athletes strengthen the state with their determination and response to adversity, as the Hogs finished eighth place in the 2020-21 Learfield IMG Directors’ Cup and the 2021-2022 Fall Final Learfield IMG Director’s Cup. (The Learfield IMG Director’s Cup rewards points to teams based on their finish in each sport’s NCAA ranking.) Hunter Yurachek even won the NACDA Athletics Director of the Year 2021-2022 award.
The Razorbacks also strengthen the state with their helping hand in the community, and contribution to our future through various programs.
Many of these programs support elementary students; a critical part of developing the future of Arkansas. Book Hogs and Healthy Hogs are programs in which the Hogs visit the elementary schools in Fayetteville to encourage reading for 360 minutes during February to become a Book Hog member, and active eating habits, exercise, and drinking water to become a Healthy Hogs member. Both programs award grand prize winners a lunch date with a student-athlete. During the holidays, The Hogs raise money for ten elementary school students to participate in a $100 shopping spree with student-athletes, in the Shop with the Razorbacks program. RazorCalls allow student-athletes to Zoom elementary schools to respond to questions, read books, and CALL THOSE HOGS!
The Hogs also contribute to many other programs committed to helping the less fortunate in Arkansas. Student-athletes assist with stretching, setting up, and cheering on at the Special Olympics at Ramey Jr. High. Every year, the Razorbacks host a canned food drive that provides food for many hungry families suffering throughout the state. The Fearless Food Fight, sponsored by The Pack Shack and Blue Cross Blue Shield, is an event in which student-athletes and staff members package meals at Bud Walton Arena for more communities throughout NorthWest Arkansas. The Hogs distribute donations locally to NorthWest Arkansas food pantries. Student-athletes also care for veterans in Arkansas, delivering handwritten notes made by elementary students to veterans at the VA Fayetteville Medical Center every Valentine’s Day in the annual Salute to Veterans community collaborative.
Although many contributions from the program are appreciated, there simply wouldn’t be a program without fans. Tradition binds us together in a tight knit community like no other. The most famous tradition would be the hog call. The tradition sticks with fans their entire lives, as reports of the “WOO PIG SOOIE” have been reported across the nation.
The loving spirit each Razorback fan has for each other also strengthens Arkansas. A recent example of this would be the No. 1 Auburn @ Arkansas upset the Hogs pulled off at Bud Walton Arena in early February. Along with the record-breaking attendance of 20,327 fans and an amazing win, another extraordinary feat was accomplished. A sense of community was formed in the line of anxious fans. A DJ played as fans waited, tossing footballs. A spikeball tournament occurred and a poker game took place in the mass of Arkansans as well. The atmosphere was wild, with fans chattering and laughing with each other. The love the fans put into the team guides the expectations of the Hogs.
The strength of Arkansas lies in the community that the Razorback athletics program and the hard-working Arkansans have created. The strength continues to grow with every moment of joy the Hogs give through the hard work in competition, community engagement, and the creation of more loving Hog fans. Woo Pig.