CONFERENCE SHIFT UA Little Rock Athletics Headed to Ohio Valley
July 18-24, 2022
By Angelita Faller
The Little Rock Trojans and University of Arkansas at Little Rock are among the newest members of the Ohio Valley Conference. The team officially joined the conference on July 1, along with Lindenwood and Southern Indiana.
The move to the Ohio Valley Conference provides a new conference affiliation for 13 of Little Rock’s 15 intercollegiate athletic programs. The new membership was officially announced last December in a press conference at the Jack Stephens Center.
“In accepting the Ohio Valley Conference invitation, we begin a new and exciting chapter for UA Little Rock and Trojan Athletics that better aligns our sports portfolio with available conference resources and reaffirms our commitment to athletic and academic excellence,” said UA Little Rock Chancellor Christina Drale in that December press conference.
“I am very excited that the day is finally here, and we are now proud members of the Ohio Valley Conference,” said Director of Athletics George Lee. “In doing our research on the Ohio Valley Conference, the history and tradition of the league made it an enticing new conference home for our Trojan athletic programs as we look forward to adding our mark to the history of the OVC this year as the league celebrates a milestone anniversary and for years to come.”
The move to the OVC offers several benefits for UA Little Rock and the Little Rock Trojans. With all but one member in the OVC located less than 500 miles from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s campus, student-athletes will benefit from reduced travel time and fewer missed classes, helping ensure student-athletes are maximizing their educational opportunity. Additionally, the reduced travel also means lessened travel expenses for the entire athletic department.
The proximity of conference teams also means that fans of the Little Rock Trojans are more able to attend road and conference games.
“I am very excited about how close we’ll be with some of our new conference opponents,” said Director of Athletics George Lee. “The proximity to our conference foes will allow us to explore new and exciting opportunities to engage our students, alumni, donors and fans to attend road conference games to support Little Rock’s team.”
Another benefit that will impact the entire Little Rock community is the return of doubleheaders. With the move to the OVC, the men’s and women’s basketball teams will play with back-to-back tip-offs every Thursday and Saturday in conference play.
“We’re really excited about the return to double headers in basketball this fall. That was something that we had years ago, and we consistently heard from our fans that they missed that aspect of the game. Having doubleheader games makes for an fun evening of basketball at the Jack Stephens Center,” said Lee. “Our hope is that we’ll see students and members of the Little Rock community come out to cheer on the Trojans for two great games. It can be a full evening with dinner and a great night of basketball. We’re already thinking about several special promotions to support that as well.”
As part of joining a new conference, the athletics department is spending the summer updating the Jack Stephens Center and installing several upgrades. When fans return this fall, they will be greeted with several changes, most noticeably an updated court design.
“We have a lot of improvements taking place at the Jack Stephens Center this summer, but none may be more visible than the update to our court design,” Lee said. “Our fans will notice larger logos and graphics, a classic but attractive design and brighter colors on the floor when volleyball home matches take place this fall and when the basketball season begins in November.”
As part of the updated design, the court will also highlight Little Rock’s new conference affiliation with OVC logos in both basketball lanes. Additionally, the word mark along the baselines is set to a specific length so that letters will not be cut off as TV cameras pan across the court, maximizing exposure for the brand of Little Rock’s Team.
Instead of just updating the current design, the entire floor will be sanded down and fresh paint applied to the entire court, allowing the athletics department to fix or replace any floorboards in need of replacement. The court refinishing work is expected to begin in late July and will take about two weeks to complete.
Crews are also busy this summer removing the current facility videoboards and installing new ones. The new videoboards, housed on the east and west sides of the arena, are an identical pair of 15-by-60-foot high-definition videoboards that will provide better contrast and colors, as well as a larger video picture.
“This is an upgrade we have been discussing for a while now and it will be even more impactful as we begin play in the Ohio Valley Conference this year,” said Lee. “I’d like to thank UA Little Rock Chancellor Dr. Christina Drale for her support in helping to make this possible.”
The new system will provide enhanced gameday experiences for men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling.
“We already have a great gameday experience for our fans, but this will make it even better,” head women’s basketball coach Joe Foley said of the upgrade. “Our alumni, fans and even student-athletes will be able to enjoy the new system as it helps provide an even tougher experience for visiting teams to play the Trojans at the Jack Stephens Center.”
Some of the benefits of the new videoboards include the ability to differ what information is displayed throughout the event, meaning that boards can dynamically adjust throughout the game giving fans access to video content and scoreboard data when relevant, helping them feel part of the action.
A final upgrade planned as part of the transition to the OVC is upgrades to the men’s and women’s basketball locker room at the Jack Stephens Center. This summer’s renovation will mark the first renovation to the basketball locker rooms since the Jack Stephens Center opened in 2005.
“I’m excited for this update, and it’s something that has been long overdue,” said men’s head basketball coach Darrell Walker. “It will be state of the art when it’s done, and I’m excited for the guys to have something they can take pride in and truly feels like home.”
The first contests for the Little Rock Trojans are about six weeks away. The Little Rock Trojans soccer will open its season on Saturday, August 21 with a home contest against Mississippi Valley State, followed by another home contest on Saturday, August 28 against University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.
Meanwhile, the first Little Rock Trojans team to face a home contest against an OVC opponent is expected to be both soccer and volleyball when they host a combined three OVC games during the third week of September.
1. CONFERENCE SHIFT UA Little Rock Athletics Headed to Ohio Valley
2. (a nd b) As part of joining a new conference, the athletics department is spending the summer updating the Jack Stephens Center and installing several upgrades. When fans return this fall, they will be greeted with several changes, most noticeably an updated court design.
3. The Jack Stephens Center on the UA Little Rock campus gets a new Ohio Valley Conference logo.
4. The first Little Rock Trojans team to face a home contest against an OVC opponent is expected to be both soccer and volleyball in late September.