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In a matter of days, the rivalry between the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arkansas State University became heated.

Intensely heated.

It started in Little Rock, then continued on to Jonesboro.

Some say the head coach of the Sun Belt champion Trojans, Darrell Walker, reacted to ASU Coach Mike Balado saying something to Markquis Nowell, UALR's leading scorer.

It was allegedly something about Nowell being short, and UALR Athletic Director George Lee pointed it out in a letter to the Sun Belt.

Balado said he never would make a remark to an opposing player.

Some thought perhaps if he did, he was responding to Nowell, who has a reputation for taunting opposing coaches.

Whatever the reason, Walker told ASU Athletic Director Terry Mohajir to "Take that s*** back to Jonesboro" after the game.

Walker did not deny saying it.

Mohajir fired off a letter to Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill about his Red Wolves not getting to practice on the main floor of the Jack Stephens Center the day before the Feb. 8 game, and also about Walker's comment.

UALR originally was not going to practice on the main floor either because it was being set up for a wrestling match, but the setup began later than expected and the Trojans conducted their one-hour shootaround on their home court.

The Trojans -- who everyone knows are strapped for cash -- were fined $15,000 for the incidents.

Lee objected to Gill about the amount.

UALR won that game 90-87, then waited two weeks for the rematch in Jonesboro, where the rivalry became more heated.

Traditionally, the visiting team's official party sits behind its team's bench. The Trojans' official party was seated at the top of First National Bank Arena.

After the Trojans won 81-78, Mohajir followed Walker off the court, almost demanding that he talk to him.

Lee, who was in between them, and other personnel blocked the door to the visiting dressing room to ensure Mohajir didn't go in.

He did not go hear Balado's postgame news conference, choosing to stand down the hallway from where UALR was getting dressed for the bus ride home.

Mohajir did attend Walker's news conference.

He didn't say a word, but in the 41 years this reporter has covered college basketball, an AD never has been seen in the other team's news conference.

Mohajir then went outside and ensured UALR left by watching the Trojans get on the bus.

There have been several phone conversations between Lee and Mohajir since, most never very pleasant.

It appears the issue is between Mohajir and Walker more than the basketball programs or schools.

A few years ago, an ASU booster suggested Mohajir interview Walker for the head coach opening at ASU.

Mohajir refused. Only he knows why.

It is no secret former UALR AD Chasse Conque did not want to hire Walker but was told to by then-chancellor Andrew Rogerson to do so.

One year later, Conque left for the same job at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

It is not known whether Conque and Mohajir are friends.

It is known that the rivalry between the two schools escalated to a new level last week, which is a good thing if it is kept between the playing lines. That would start with keeping the welfare of the student-athletes at the forefront.

If it doesn't help the kids and the program, don't do it.

Unless the teams meet in the Sun Belt tournament, Walker and Mohajir shouldn't cross paths for almost a year. That's a lot of time to cool down and move on.

Sports on 03/01/2020

Print Headline: Trojans, Wolves kick rivalry up a notch

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