Tradition. It is one of the things that helps set college football apart.
While each Saturday brings a new chapter to the history of a program, it often also reminds us of days gone by, moments from the past that are emblazoned in our hearts and minds.
This weekend provides another of those special opportunities. On Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Arkansas and Texas A&M will meet for the 70th time on the football field.
It is the first time the Razorbacks and Aggies will meet in Fayetteville as members of the Southeastern Conference, but it is far from the first time they will battle as conference foes. The series actually began back in 1903 with Arkansas holding a 41-25-3 advantage.
As former Southwest Conference rivals, the two institutions have played numerous times as conference members. In fact, in one of the most memorable meetings came 25 years ago when the Aggies made a visit to Fayetteville.
It was Nov. 12, 1988 and both teams were undefeated in SWC play. However, No. 11 Arkansas had already clinched the conference crown and a berth in the Cotton Bowl because Texas A&M was not eligible for the conference title or even a national ranking. Although the conference representative in the Cotton Bowl had officially been determined, former Razorback assistant coach and then Texas A&M head coach Jackie Sherrill added a little spice to the game when he was quoted as saying that any team that wanted to win the championship had to go through the Aggies.
The capacity crowd of 53,818 that filed into the stadium that day can attest it was a championship game feel and the two teams didn’t disappoint in providing one of the most memorable games in the 75 year history of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
It was not your typical game, as Arkansas relied on its stingy defense led by Patrick Williams 47-yard interception return, a safety and a school record five field goals to earn a 25-20 victory.
I remember it well. I was there to cheer on my favorite Razorback of all time. With all my respect to Lance Alworth, Darren McFadden, Loyd Phillips and others, my favorite Razorback is All-American placekicker, Kendall Trainor, who also happens to be my brother.
One of the defensive stars of that game was another Razorback All-American tackle Wayne Martin. Martin is the University of Arkansas’ 2013 SEC Football Legend. The Cherry Valley, Ark., native will be recognized at halftime of Saturday’s game and then honored with other conference legends at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta in December.
Martin was a consensus first-team All-American and All-Southwest Conference defensive tackle, Wayne Martin racked up 162 tackles in his Razorback career including 37 tackles (-189) for loss and 25.5 sacks. He helped lead Arkansas to four bowl games and a Southwest Conference Championship in 1988. He still holds the single game and career records for sacks at Arkansas and ranks third on the school list for tackles for loss. Following his Razorback career, Martin went on to star for the New Orleans Saints for 11 seasons playing in 171 games and earning 596 tackles and 82.5 sacks. Martin is a member of the University of Arkansas’ All-Century Team, 1980s All-Decade Team and the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame.
But for now it is the Razorbacks and Aggies rekindling a storied rivalry on the same field that saw that memorable 1988 game and so many other great moments along the way. Next year it is back to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to revive the Southwest Classic in the most spectacular sporting venue in the world.
That is the great part of college football. Even as things change, tradition finds a way to shine through.
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.