This weekend, the University of Arkansas football team will be making a road trip that has been more than 73 years in the making. Coach Bret Bielema and his team will be making the trek to the East Coast for a regular season football game when they travel to Piscataway, N.J., to take on Rutgers. The Razorbacks and Scarlet Knights will take the gridiron for a nationally televised game not far from the skyscrapers of the Big Apple.
The last time the University of Arkansas traveled to the northeast part of the country for a football game was in 1940 when the Razorbacks played Fordham University. To put that in historical perspective, that game took place 18 years prior to Coach Frank Broyles’ first game as the Razorbacks head coach in the 1958 season.
Although it has been more than seven decades since Arkansas has played in that neck of the woods, displaced Razorbacks have been "Calling the Hogs" in that region of the country for years. In fact, this weekend a well-known watering hole in the heart of New York City’s Theater District will serve as the unofficial Home of the Razorbacks – or at least for its fans.
Hurley’s Saloon is located on West 48th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, but this weekend it might as well be located in the heart of the Natural State. Hundreds of Razorback fans from near and far will converge on the 100-year old establishment as the Razorbacks prepare for their first road game of the season.
For the past two years, Hurley’s has been the official Razorback hot spot. A close inspection of the premises’ décor reveals a framed print of the University of Arkansas’ signature building, Old Main, as well as many as six Hog Hats. The multi-floor saloon has hosted University of Arkansas watch parties for football, men’s basketball and even baseball games. Last month, Hurley’s hosted an event for the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
So how did this storied saloon become the hub for fans of an institution whose campus is located more than 1,300 miles away? Gordon Voight is likely the best one to provide that answer.
Voight has been the President of the Arkansas Alumni Association’s Greater New York City Chapter since 2006. Even before that, he was the Chairman of the Southeastern Conference Alumni Chapter in the area. For more than 15 years, Voight has been working to unite fellow Hogs within the Big Apple.
It all started at a bar called Mad Hatter Saloon. Located on Third Avenue, the Mad Hatter hosted Arkansas and SEC alumni events from 2007-11. In 2010, when former Razorback linebacker Ronnie Caveness was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the alumni chapter hosted a reception for Caveness the night before he was officially inducted at the world renowned Waldorf-Astoria just across town.
But soon the Mad Hatter wasn’t large enough to host the steady stream of watch parties, holiday parties and happy hours. So Voight went to work. A new upscale centrally located venue was needed to accommodate the growing number of fans. Voight worked with Paul Barbey, one of Hurley Saloon’s owners, and soon there was a new home for Arkansas and SEC fans alike.
It doesn’t take long talking to this passionate Razorback fan to realize his enthusiasm. When I spoke with Voight earlier this week and asked him a simple question, he rattled off a cadence much like a quarterback calling an audible at the line of scrimmage. Are you excited about the game this weekend elicited "jumping up and down," "bigger word than excitement," "overjoyed," and "ecstatic," just to name a few.
For Voight, this weekend will be a dream come true. On Friday, Hurley’s will host an official Razorback Foundation pre-game party. On Saturday morning, it will open its doors for a pre-game breakfast for the local alumni chapter. After the meal, nearly 200 Razorback fans connected with the chapter will board busses for the trip to Rutgers.
The world’s most bustling city is traversed by millions each day, but for Voight and other Razorback fans,
Hurley’s Saloon provides a sense of Razorback identity in the melting pot that is Manhattan. It may not be Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, War Memorial Stadium or Bud Walton Arena, but that doesn’t mean Voight isn’t looking for a sellout.
"My goal is to fill that bar with Razorback fans," Voight says. "I want to get 750 people in there. It may not happen this weekend, but it is going to happen."
After all, when it comes to being a Razorback, you don’t have to be within the state to embrace those signature words of the fight song. "Arkansas will Never Yield!"Razorback Road is a weekly column published on Thursdays by Associate Athletic Director for Public Relations Kevin Trainor. Trainor is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and has worked for Razorback Athletics for more than 20 years.