On Tuesday, the NCAA will announce pre-determined championship sites for a variety of sports for 2018-22. The University of Arkansas has submitted bids to host a number of different events including in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, gymnastics and men’s and women’s golf. Before the latest round of championship events are announced, ArkansasRazorbacks.com provides a little history of the University of Arkansas’ rich championship hosting history.
With 45 national championships and hundreds of conference titles to its credit, the University of Arkansas has long been known for its athletic success and championship teams. A regular in the top-25 of the Learfield Sports Directors Cup, the Razorbacks routinely are competing for SEC and national championships in many of the 19 sport programs.
However, in the past 25 years, the University of Arkansas has also developed a championship reputation when it comes to playing host to the nation’s best student-athletes. Since entering the Southeastern Conference in 1992, the University of Arkansas has hosted 92 SEC, regional and national competitions.
Since 2012, in addition to the nearly 200 regular season events already on campus, the University of Arkansas has hosted or will welcome 16 championship events including 2012, 2014 and 2016 NCAA Cross Country Regionals, the 2013 and 2016 SEC and NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, the 2013 and 2015 NCAA Track and Field Championships, a 2014 NCAA Track and Field West Preliminary, 2013 Women’s NIT first and second rounds, the 2012 SEC Women’s Golf Championship, a 2013 NCAA Men’s Golf Regional, a 2016 NCAA Soccer Tournament first round match and a 2015 NCAA Baseball Super Regional.
“Hosting championship events at the University of Arkansas is a source of pride for our program and for our university,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said. “Our student-athletes have the opportunity to compete for conference and national championships in front of the Razorback fans in some of the nation’s premier collegiate competition venues. The championships also have a tremendous economic impact on the region filling hotels, restaurants and supporting local businesses.”
The University of Arkansas has always welcomed championship events, however, it was the construction of the Randal Tyson Track Center in 2000 that helped firmly entrench Fayetteville as one of the nation’s prime championship destinations. Of the 95 championship events since 1992, 67 of those have been contested since 2000 including eight SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships and 12 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Center.
“The Randal Tyson Center has quickly become the standard for indoor track and field,” Long says. “Collegiate and professional athletes from around the world want to come to Fayetteville to compete on the world’s fastest indoor track. Since it opened its doors in 2000, outside the Olympic Games, the Randal Tyson Center has arguably played host to more elite track and field athletes than any other venue.”
While the Randal Tyson Track Center has been at the forefront of post-season competition, it is far from the only venue on the University of Arkansas to host championships. Since 2002, all 18 sports eligible to host SEC or NCAA championship competition have done so. Only football doesn’t provide an opportunity to host championship events on campus.
“We have really embraced a philosophy of hosting more championship events,” Associate Athletic Director for Event Management Chris Pohl says. “That means looking across the broad spectrum of sports that we sponsor here at the University of Arkansas. We believe we have championship caliber teams and facilities and because of that we should be going after these championships. What better way to culminate your career than being able to stay home in your own backyard and being able to compete at the highest level during a championship.”
Long before student-athletes, coaches, officials and visitors arrive in Northwest Arkansas, a dedicated team of Razorback athletic department staff members, part-time workers, volunteers and community organizers, work together to make the championship experience a rewarding one. From organizing hospitality areas to providing participation gifts, the championship team works to provide every participant with fond championship memories regardless of the results of the competition.
“Certainly the moment they step off the plane or arrive in our region, we try to do what we can do to make sure they understand this University and community is embracing the championship,” Pohl says. “It is a culmination of the career and achievements for our student-athletes. It is the pinnacle. We try to do every event in a championship caliber way. So whatever we can do to make sure our student-athletes and the visiting student-athletes get to experience that and get to create memories for a lifetime that is what our goal is.”