Radio and television sports talk show host Paul Finebaum said he learned a lesson the last time he was in Little Rock, 10 years ago.
Finebaum was back to address the Little Rock Touchdown Club's luncheon at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Little Rock on Monday.
Before Monday's address, Finebaum said when he spoke to club members in 2012, he did not know Arkansas Razorbacks fans remained sensitive to Arkansas' loss to the Texas Longhorns in 1969.
"They had just honored both sides at the Touchdown Club, and I took I few shots," Finebaum said. "I realized you don't make jokes about that game in Arkansas. I'm not going to today. I learned."
Undefeated No. 2 Arkansas and top-ranked Texas met in Fayetteville for the final game of both team's Southwest Conference seasons on Dec. 6, 1969. Arkansas led 14-0 to start the fourth quarter, but Texas came back to win 15-14.
Finebaum, 67, said he watched the game from his hometown of Memphis.
"The first big game I remember watching on TV, the very first, was in December of 1969," he said. "It was the Arkansas and Texas game. I had never seen a game that big because, quite frankly, I don't know if there had been one that big involving Southern teams.
"Growing up in Memphis, Arkansas was a big deal. You had Arkansas, Ole Miss and Memphis State. Tennessee was around, but they weren't as omnipresent as they are now. I had a lot of friends who were Arkansas fans. I remember just being distraught at the end of that game when Texas won. We all know how long ago that was, but it's still etched in my mind."
Finebaum, a Tennessee graduate, was a sportswriter and columnist in Birmingham, Ala., from 1980 through 2001, when he joined the Mobile Press-Register as a bi-weekly columnist. He became a regular guest on sport-talk radio in 1986 but soon hosted his own top-rated afternoon radio program in Birmingham.
He launched The Paul Finebaum Radio Network with affiliates across much of the SEC area. In 2014, he signed with ESPN to appear on the SEC Network. He still hosts a daily radio show based in Charlotte, N.C.
Finebaum said Arkansas' current football turnaround under Coach Sam Pittman has impressed him.
"I just think everything about his program is going well," he said. "That's still hard for me to wrap my arms around, considering the dysfunctionality of this football program a couple of years ago."
Finebaum said Arkansas, which has opened this season victories of 31-24 over Cincinnati and 44-30 over South Carolina, is off to an ideal start.
"I thought the first two games were dangerous for them for obvious reasons, and they survived that very well," he said. "There are a couple of things about the schedule I don't like, namely the BYU game. But beyond that, I think Arkansas is in a great spot right now."
Finebaum spent most of his Alabama-based radio career in conversation about Alabama and Auburn sports. He remains an SEC authority and said fans should not make too much of Alabama's last-minute, 20-19 victory at unranked Texas on Saturday.
"If you look at Alabama last year, the Florida game, they were three-touchdown favorites and barely won," Finebaum said. "Same thing at [Texas] A&M, they lost. Same thing at Auburn, it took them four overtimes. They have a track record of this."
Finebaum said Arkansas has a legitimate chance to upset Alabama when they meet in Fayetteville on Oct. 1.
"That's a game I thought Alabama wasn't going to lose," Finebaum said. "Now, why would you think that game is going to be any different than the one we just got through seeing? At this point, I think Arkansas has a pretty good shot at winning, and that's not just talk-show-host speak. It's real. Arkansas can beat Alabama."