Annual Meet The Trojans set for Thursday at UALR's Stephens Center

This season's "Meet the Trojans" event is at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Jack Stephens Center. Admission to the event allowing fans to get their first look at the UALR men's and women's basketball teams is free, although attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to contribute to the Reach 13,000 Food Drive.

2011 Meet the Trojans
"This is a free event, but we would like to encourage everyone to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Reach 13,000 campaign, a UALR campus-wide initiative to help provide holiday meals to the local community," said UALR Director of Athletics Chris Peterson.

The annual event will begin at 5:45 p.m. with coaches Steve Shields and Joe Foley introducing their teams, followed by a three-point shooting contest, a performance by the UALR dance team and a dunk contest.

The JSC concession stands will be open and fans will be able to enjoy free Pepsi products and Diamond Bear beer. The Trojans' Nike Team Store will also be open with all the latest Trojan athletic gear.

Players and coaches will be available for autographs and pictures in the mezzanine area at 6:30 p.m.

Ticket prices and information will be available for fans interested in season ticket packages.

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Bad news for UALR fans: Arkansas Sports 360 shutting down

Let's face it. The announced shutdown of Arkansas Sports 360 is bad news for UALR fans.

It's not as if AS360 spent all of its time covering UALR. But UALR got a lot of mentions on the site. And Jim Harris was a regular at the Jack Stephens Center, especially for big games.

UALR doesn't get a lot of coverage from the statewide daily. And while the local TVs do pay attention, they don't go all out for UALR. So the shutdown of AS360 means less coverage of an already undercovered group.

On a personal note, prayers go out to our friends Jim Harris and Chris Bahn. No idea how this impacts them but their writing on AS360 and on the Twitter-verse will be missed.

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UALR's first opponent Tennessee-Martin gets started with exhibition


UALR’s first opponent Tennessee-Martin gets its season started on Friday with an exhibition game against Illinois College.
Tennessee-Martin was picked to finish last in the Ohio Valley Conference’s West Division during a preseason poll.  They were picked behind Murray State, Southeast Missouri, Austin Peay, SIU-Edwardsville and Eastern Illinois. The Skyhawks do return four starters from last year’s team, but none were selected to the preseason All-Ohio Valley team.

Junior Mike Liabo certainly had good enough numbers to merit selection, averaging 15.2 points per game last season.

The Illinois College game is being played at 11 a.m. and billed as one of those children’s games like the Arkansas Travelers play each year.

One thing Illinois College won’t be able to do is prepare for the height UALR has the potential to utilize. The tallest players on the Blueboys’ roster are only listed at 6-6. If Tennessee-Martin, which has four players at 6-7 and another at 6-8, isn’t able to dominate the paint it will be telling.

Also keep an eye on the Skyhawks’ Little Rock contingent. Senior Jeremy Washington and sophomore Myles Taylor (both 6-7) are from Little Rock Hall.

Hear what Tennessee-Martin Coach Jason James had to say at Ohio Valley Conference Media Day:

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Javes' speed being counted on in post for UALR

It is safe to say that UALR will be counting on sophomore Michael Javes in the post.
Michael Javes
Javes, 6-10 from Cali, Columbia, started 23 of 30 games last year, averaging 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds. He shot 38.8 percent from the field and 54 percent from the free throw line, both of which he should be able to improve on.
What we saw from Javes in the open practice on Oct. 12 was more strength and improved post moves. But the coaching staff is looking for improvement in another area.
“Michael Javes heads into his sophomore season in the best shape he has been in since he got here,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “Now it is up to us to utilize his strengths, and one of those is his ability to run the floor. Mike has good speed for a post player and that can open up the floor for our guards.”
To prepare Javes, the coaching staff has shown him video of former UALR post players Darius Eason and Jamal Holden. Both were exceptional at getting out ahead of the ball on the break.
With Will Neighbour and Gus Leeper out for last Friday’s closed scrimmage against Stephen F. Austin, Javes is getting plenty of extra work.
 “What we have to work on is getting him into the habit of consistently running, which opens up space for our point guards. Every player and every team in the country says they want to run, but it is something that is difficult to do from a conditioning and mental standpoint,” Shields said. “I think it is an important part of the game, because you have to try and get some easy baskets in transition to have some success. You can’t expect your guys to just play against a set five every time down the floor.”

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UALR Athletics Department, Alumni Association need to better coordinate their schedules

Not sure who is to blame for this. But it's clear the Athletics Department and the Alumni Association need to coordinate a little better in the future.

This Thursday at 5 p.m., the Athletics Department will host Meet the Trojans at the Jack Stephens Center.

At almost exactly the same time, the Alumni Association is hosting their Grads at Work After Hours Party at Axiom in Little Rock. That runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

There's no excuse for these two events being held on the same night at the same time, forcing UALR grads to choose. Better yet, the Alumni Association should have held their event at Meet the Trojans. Combining those two events would have been a boost for both.

I don't know who scheduled their event first. But I do know Meet the Trojans is usually held on this Thursday every year.

The UALR coaching staff is giving up a night of practice for the fans. Both deserve better.

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Meet the Trojans, scrimmage highlight week for UALR

We're now inside of two weeks until the season opener and things are starting to pick up:
  • UALR returned to practice on Sunday after Friday's closed scrimmage against Stephen F. Austin at Centenary College in Shreveport.
  • Junior forward Will Neighbour went through warmups on Friday and was medically cleared to return from a sprained ankle. But he was held out of all three halves of the scrimmage. He was expected to return to practice yesterday.
  • UALR will host Meet the Trojans at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Come out and enjoy some free beverages, pick up your season ticket packages and check out the players. They'll likely be a short scrimmage, three point shooting and slam dunk competitions.
  • UALR then turns to its final closed scrimmage of the year when it takes on Harding University on Saturday. While the SFA scrimmage was played more like a straight game, the Harding scrimmage figures to include more situational work.
  • Freshman guard Mareik Isom is expected to have surgery this week.
  • And UALR hopes for the return from injury for sophomore forward Gus Leeper, who also did not play against SFA.
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Baptism by fire continues for inexperienced UALR players

With several of the experienced players out with injuries, the many newcomers on the UALR roster are getting a baptism by fire so to speak.
"Our young guys continue to get better each and every day, and that kind of development is what you want to see with a young team. The thing I am trying to stress to these guys more than anything else, is to raise the overall level of effort and intensity that we bring to the floor on an everyday basis," UALR Coach Steve Shields said. "When you have six true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen, the bulk of your team hasn't been through a season and seen what it takes to compete in Division I basketball. They have no idea what it takes to succeed at this level, so it's up to us to stress that to them at every opportunity we get.".

That development continued on Friday with the first closed scrimmage of the year. What we've seen in the past is that the lessons the coaches are trying to teach don't hit home until this first scrimmage. And to steal one of Shields' expressions: "The tape doesn't lie." They'll videotape all aspects of the scrimmage. And that tape will show pretty clearly who is and isn't getting it done."

Shields gave an example of one situation in which he already sees a need to get better.

"Our pace also needs to improve. It hasn't been where we need it to be, and that is apparent in the little things like our transition after made baskets, pushing the ball up the floor as soon as possible, and our transition defense," he said. "If a play doesn't go the way it should, we can't drop our heads and get hung up in our mistakes. We need to turn the page and move on to the next play."

And that is an aspect of college basketball that all freshman tend to have trouble grasping.

Under Shields, defense typically equals minutes. One important aspect of defense is communication.

"We also need to start communicating better on the defensive end. There has to be constant communication to become a solid defensive team and, like most young teams, we don't talk as much as we need to," Shields said.

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UALR opponent Cincinnati comes in at No. 24 in AP hoops poll

The Associated Press released its preseason basketball poll and one 2012-2013 UALR opponent made the list. Cincinnati comes in at No. 24. UALR will play at Cincinnati on Dec. 6

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Shields gives update on where things stand 2 weeks in for UALR

Want to know how the first two weeks of practice has gone? UALR Coach Steve Shields gives a pretty good report on where things stand:

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UALR begins play with scrimmage against Stephen F. Austin


UALR will take on Stephen F. Austin in its first closed scrimmage all day today in Shreveport. Per NCAA rules, the scrimmage is closed to both media and the public and coaches are not permitted to discuss the results.
While fans may not like the closed nature of the games, the coaches love it. And it’s more than just an exhibition game. Yes, they’ll likely play a full game. But they’ll also be able to work through scenarios set up by both coaching staffs.
To prepare, UALR practiced at 5 a.m. on Thursday morning and left Thursday night for Shreveport. The Trojans will not be at full strength going in. It appears they’ll be without sophomore forward Gus Leeper and junior forward Will Neighbour, who are out with injuries. Neighbour appears the more likely of the two to see some action.
Also out is freshman guard Mareik Isom, who has struggled with injuries since the summer. It appears likely that Isom will have surgery and redshirt this season.
Stephen F. Austin will provide a good test for UALR. The Jacks feature two preseason first team All-Southland Conference players in senior guard Antonio Bostic and senior forward Taylor Smith. SFA was picked second in the preseason Southland poll behind Horal Roberts by both coaches and sports information directors. SFA did receive 3 of 10 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and 4 of 10 in the SID poll.

UALR's season opener is two weeks from tonight against Tennessee-Martin.
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Neighbour first UALR player named preseason first team Sun Belt since Jones-Jennings

Rashad Jones-Jennings
UALR junior forward Will Neighbour is the first Trojan to be selected first team All-Sun Belt Conference in the preseason poll since 2006.
The last UALR player to claim that honor was rebounding sensation Rashad Jones-Jennings in 2006.
While UALR’s players haven’t spent much time on the preseason list, they have excelled on the postseason list. Jones-Jennings, Shane Edwards, Solomon Bozeman and D’Andre Williams were all named first team All-Sun Belt on the postseason list. In addition, Bozeman was named conference player of the year.

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UALR Coach Steve Shields speaks: Neighbour out with ankle; freshmenadjusting

Here's some highlights from UALR Coach Steve Shields' media day appearance.

- Will Neighbour has been out since last Friday with a badly sprained ankle. Before that, he was a little rusty coming back from shoulder surgery.

- They hope to get him back in a couple of days. Not sure if he will be available for Friday's closed scrimmage against Stephen F. Austin.

- Injuries continue to be an issue. Of 17 players only 10 were able to practice on Monday.

- Freshmen point guards still adjusting to pace and intensity level of college basketball.

- November conference games make things even more difficult for a team with so many young players.

- The coaches are trying to speed up the learning process, but it's not easy to do with so many newcomers.

Listen to Shields' appearance this morning at Sun Belt media day.

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Neighbour named first team All-Sun Belt; UALR picked third


UALR junior forward Will Neighbour has been named preseasonfirst team All-Sun Belt Conference after a poll of coaches and media members.Additionally, UALR was picked to finish third in the West Division behind NorthTexas and Arkansas State.

Will Neighbour
Joining Neighbour on the first team was North Texassophomore Tony Mitchell, Arkansas State senior Trey Finn, Middle Tennesseesenior Marcos Knight and South Alabama junior Augustine Rubit.

Mitchell, who could be a NBA Lottery pick next summer, waschosen as preseason player of the year. No other UALR players were selected toeither the second or third team.

Middle Tennessee was picked to win the East Division. Andlike North Texas, they received all 11 first-place votes. Arkansas State didn’treceive all 11 second place votes in the West Division, but they did comfortablyfinish second in the poll. Likewise, UALR, which was seven points behind ASU,was easily ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette’s 24 points. ULM was last at 13 points.

Neighbour was named second team All-Sun Belt last seasondespite playing the majority of the conference season with a severe shoulderinjury. He averaged 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds as a sophomore.

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National TV a possibility for UALR for fourth consecutive season


The Sun Belt Conference released its basketball televisionschedule this week and UALR appears a couple of times.

UALR’s Dec. 6 game at Cincinnati will be carried by FoxSports Ohio. The Trojans’ Jan. 12 game against Florida International at theJack Stephens Center has also been picked up by the hard to find Sun BeltNetwork.

UALR also has a potential opportunity for a nationaltelevision appearance for the fourth consecutive season. On Jan. 26, ESPN2 willtelevise either the UALR at North Texas or Western Kentucky at Middle Tennesseegame.

Last year UALR played Middle Tennessee on ESPN2. Two yearsago the Trojans played Florida Atlantic on ESPN2. And three years ago, UALRplayed Tulsa on ESPN as part of the College Basketball Marathon.

Additionally, UALR’s Jan. 16 game at Middle Tennessee can beviewed online on Watch ESPN.

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Where will UALR be picked in the preseason Sun Belt polls?

Be sure to check with Burn The Horse Wednesday morning. We'll have analysis of the preseason Sun Belt polls and all-conference lists right after they are announced at 9 a.m. We'll also recap UALR Coach Steve Shields' appearance later that morning. Make a prediction. Where do you think UALR will be picked to finish in the Sun Belt Conference's West Division? Click the link below to discuss.

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Media day, closed scrimmage highlight week for UALR basketball

There's a couple of things to look forward to this week as the start of the season gets closer.

First, Tuesday and Wednesday are Sun Belt Conference Media Days. The Men's basketball media day is Wednesday and UALR Coach Steve Shields is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. In the past, the Sun Belt has made these available later in the day. Hopefully that will be the case. BTH will try to get a recap if possible.

Second, UALR has its first closed scrimmage on Friday against Stephen F. Austin. The NCAA allows Division I teams to participate in these scrimmages against other Division I opponents. But NCAA rules are that they must be closed to the public. And the teams aren't even supposed to discuss what happens.

Typically, this will consist of a full game, or possibly a couple of shorter games. It would also generally include some situational scrimmages with scenarios set up by both coaching staffs.

This usually also starts to separate starters from non-starters as the season approaches.

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UALR hosts Meet The Trojans on Nov. 1 at JSC

Your next chance to check out the 2012-2013 UALR men's basketball team comes up on Thursday, November 1, when the Department of Athletics hosts the annual Meet the Trojans night.

Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. at the Jack Stephens Center. Season ticket packages will be available for pick up at this time.

The program begins about 5:45 p.m. when women's Coach Joe Foley and men's Coach Steve Shields introduce their players. This will be followed by:
  • Men's and women's three-point shooting contests
  • A performance by the Trojan Dance Team
  • And a slam dunk contest featuring the UALR men
That should all wrap up around 6:30 p.m. Players and coaches will stick around for a bit so you can get photos and autographs if you choose.

The event comes at approximately the midpoint of preseason practice. UALR has a closed scrimmage against Stephen F. Austin on Oct. 26 and will scrimmage Harding the following weekend. UALR then opens the season Nov. 9 against Tennessee-Martin.

If you go, note that there will be free Pepsi products and Diamond Bear beer. But there is not free hot dogs as there was last year. Instead, the concession stand will be open for food purchases.

And the Nike Team Store will also be open during the event.

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SpectacUALR a spectacular success for Trojan Athletics

The 2012 SpectacUALR fund-raising event raised more than $200,000 for Trojan Athletics scholarships. Congrats to everyone involved. Read about it by clicking HERE. And check out the slideshow from the event.

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UALR opens practice with open practice on Fisher Court

Thanks again to UALR Coach Steve Shields and his staff for opening up Friday's first official practice to the public.

A few observations:
  • UALR started practice with all 17 players in uniform and on the court. That included Gus Leeper, the last of the walking wounded to get cleared.
  • There are still some lingering injuries that they're dealing with, keeping at least three out of much of the action.
  • Friday's practice was pretty vanilla. I'd expect the pace to really pick up over the weekend.
  • Still, it was pretty typical of early-season practices. There was a little blood drawn on at least two occasions.
  • The physical transformation of the returning players from last season to this season is remarkable. Credit goes to John Barron.
  • Good to see former Trojans Solomon Bozeman, Courtney Jackson and Mike Smith there tonight
  • Next chance to take a look is Nov. 1 at Meet The Trojans.
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UALR men's basketball practice open to the public on Friday

We teased this on the Burn The Horse message board but we now have official word.

The public is invited to attend UALR's first official men's basketball practice of the year at 5 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 12) at 5 p.m. at the Jack Stephens Center.

This, along with the Meet The Trojans event on Nov. 1, will be the only opportunity to see the 2012-2013 UALR Trojans before their Nov. 9 opener against Tennessee-Martin.

"We're also excited to be almost back to full strength as official practice begins," UALR Coach Steve Shields said. "We've had a couple of guys sidelined for the last month or so with various injuries. Most of them had a target date to be cleared to return to practice by Friday, and fortunately nearly all of them have met that goal."

Thanks to Coach Shields for allowing this to happen.

FYI if you're planning to go. Recording devices, including cell phones, will be prohibited. Leave yours in the car.

Check out UALR's official release by clicking here. Lots of great Shields quotes in there.

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Basketball changes coming to Sun Belt Conference next season

Some solid info from ULL play-by-play man Jay Walker.

He reports as it relates to basketball:
  • Starting next season, student sections will no longer be allowed behind visitors' benches. UALR's is on the end of the Jack Stephens Center and should be OK. It's been a few years since I've made the round
  • No more automatic suspensions for ejections. Remember last year when FIU Coach Isiah Thomas was ejected in Little Rock and had to miss the next game at Jonesboro? Instead, these will be reviewed by the conference office on a case-by-case basis.
  • Also starting next season, no Sun Belt Conference games will be played before Christmas. This year, UALR opens SBC play in November.
Read details about that and more by clicking HERE.

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Trojans getting healthy as UALR preps for first practice on Friday

As UALR prepares for its first official practice on Friday at the Jack Stephens Center, positive news about lingering injuries is coming in.

Today we learned via Twitter that junior forward Will Neighbour has been cleared to resume practice. Neighbour had offseason shoulder surgery.

Sophomore guard Ben Dillard has also been medically released to resume practice. Both Dillard and Neighbour will be eased back into full contact.

Sophomore guard Taggart Lockhart and sophomore forward Michael Javes have already returned to workouts. Both should be available on Friday.

That leaves only sophomore forward Gus Leeper and freshman guard Mareik Isom still out. Both are awaiting clearance to return.

UALR opens the season one month from today against Tennessee-Martin.

Update: Mareik Isom's father tells BTH that Mareik has been cleared to practice.

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Big news for UALR as hoops practice begins on Friday

Big news this morning on Twitter:

UALR junior Will Neighbour has been on limited duty since shoulder surgery in the spring. If fully cleared, this would make him available when official practice begins on Friday.
Discuss Neighbour's return on the Burn The Horse Board.

Williams, Bozeman, Fowler, Edwards, Jones-Jennings named UALR best in BTH reader poll

The fifth and final poll results are in with Rashad Jones-Jennings beating out Darius Eason for best 5 in the Coach Steve Shields era at UALR.

That makes our winners: 1. D'Andre Williams; 2. Solomon Bozeman; 3. John Fowler; 4. Shane Edwards; 5. Rashad Jones-Jennings.

Those five, and the five runners-up (Zack Graber, Brandon Freeman, Alex Garcia-Mendoza, Courtney Jackson and Darius Eason) would make for a pretty formidable lineup.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote. The response was really great to each and every poll.

More importantly, we killed off about two weeks of dead time leading up to SpectacUALR on Thursday and the official start to practice on Friday.

SpectacUALR for UALR Athletics to be held Thursday night

Don't forget UALR's SpectacUALR will be held this Thursday at the Jack Stephens Center.
For information about SpectacUALR and this year's honoree, click HERE.

See photos from the 2011 SpectacUALR by clicking HERE.

Tickets are $50 and $30 of that is tax deductable. Order tickets by clicking HERE.

Edwards voted top 4; Who is the best UALR 5?

Congratulations to Shane Edwards for beating out Courtney Jackson for the best 4 in the Coach Steve Shields era at UALR. With one position to go, our BTH Vote fan poll looks like this:
  1. D'Andre Williams
  2. Solomon Bozeman
  3. John Fowler
  4. Shane Edwards
  5. Current poll
And that brings us to the final poll. Who was the best 5 in the Shields era at UALR. Here are the candidates:
  • Darius "Too Tall" Eason - Solid contributor on two Sun Belt division championship teams. Hit two of the biggest shots during that run. He scored on a dunk late to win at Western Kentucky. And he scored on a buzzer-beating layup to beat Louisiana-Lafayette in the final UALR game at Alltel Arena.
  • Rashad Jones-Jennings - Without much support around him, he was still named first team all-Sun Belt Conference. He led the nation in rebounding and was the bright spot on a couple of  bad teams. Averaged 12.5 points and 13.1 rebounds his senior year.
  • Mike Smith - He was also on the 4 ballot, but probably spent more of his time here. Smith won two division championships in his three seasons. In his third season, his knee injury in the first Sun Belt Conference game ended any hopes of a three-peat.
  • Derrick Bails - He was an enigma at UALR. One game, he looked all-Sun Belt worthy. The next, he couldn't even stay on the court. But he did win two division championships and the Sun Belt Tournament.
Vote once per day.

Fowler UALR's best 3; Who is the best 4 in the Coach Steve Shields era at UALR?

Congratulations to John Fowler, who was the winner at the 3 guard spot for best in the Steve Shields era at UALR.
Here are our BTH Vote winners:
  1. D'Andre Williams
  2. Solomon Bozeman
  3. John Fowler
  4. Current poll
  5. Coming soon
That brings us to the four spot, arguably the most competitive of the positions in our poll. Here's the candidates:
  • Richard Hardman - Solid contributor at UALR. Could do a little bit of everything. Won two division titles.
  • Shane Edwards - Also won two division titles at UALR and was named first team all-Sun Belt Conference during his senior year.
  • Mike Smith - He was also around for a couple of division titles and played both the 4 and 5. Career ended in a morale-crushing injury during the first Sun Belt Conference game of his senior year.
  • Courtney Jackson - Improved every year he was at UALR. He might have been even better if injuries hadn't limited him throughout. Became a serviceable free throw shooter his senior year to make him even more dangerous. Won a division championship as a freshman.
  • Will Neighbour - We've purposely left current players out of these polls. But Neighbour did make second team all-conference last year despite playing with a badly injured shoulder. Also won a division championship.
Vote once per day. After you do, log in HERE and talk about your selection.

UALR will require freshmen to live on campus next year; could this impact Trojan athletics?

Have you seen the news that UALR will require traditional freshmen students to live on campus beginning next fall?
If not, read about it HERE.

At first glance, it seems like a good idea. It seems like a way to increase the atmosphere surrounding the student section at on-campus events (like UALR basketball).

I'm still checking to see how this impacts UALR athletics and whether or not their freshmen will be required to live on campus.

What do you think? Have your say by CLICKING HERE, registering for a free account and giving your opinion.