Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year twice.
UA eschews former practice; Hogs baseball team schedules 2 in-state programs
UALR head coach Chris Curry (left) congratulates Nick Perez after he scored in the bottom of the third inning during the Trojans' game against South Alabama on Friday, May 4, 2018, at Gary Hogan Field in Little Rock.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas announced its baseball schedule Tuesday, but nonconference road series against USC and Texas were just appetizers.
The big news is that for the first time in that sport the Razorbacks are playing in-state schools.
Arkansas -- the flagship school of the UA System -- is playing the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in games at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas will play UALR on April 2 and UAPB on April 16.
Those baseball games mark an end to Arkansas' long-standing policy against scheduling in-state schools in any sports.
"I'm excited for the guys, excited for the players," UALR Coach Chris Curry said. "The environment, it's probably going to be 10,000-plus in April. Hopefully it will be warm."
Curry was a volunteer assistant for Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn in 2009-10.
"I've been in that other dugout and experienced that environment, and I want these guys to experience it," Curry said of playing at Baum Stadium.
Previously if the Razorbacks faced an in-state school, it was in postseason play. Arkansas beat Arkansas State University 67-64 in overtime in the NIT in 1987 in Fayetteville, or ASU beat Arkansas 98-84 in the women's NIT in 2005 in Jonesboro.
Don't look for the Razorbacks to schedule ASU in any sports.
"While I know that this announcement will generate additional speculation, there are no plans to expand in-state scheduling beyond those schools affiliated with the University of Arkansas system," Hunter Yurachek, hired as Arkansas' athletic director nine months ago, said in a statement. "As the flagship institution within our state, this is an opportunity for us to enhance interest in our non-conference schedules while supporting other schools within the University of Arkansas system.
"We have initiated with baseball this year and are exploring opportunities for future years in other sports."
Yurachek couldn't be reached for further comment, but his statement could open the door for playing UALR in sports such as men's and women's basketball, and UAPB in men's and women's basketball and football.
"Any sport that we could play with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, we would be delighted to do it," said Elbert Bennett, UAPB's interim athletic director. "I'm happy to see it happen for our baseball program. We're looking forward to our basketball program being able to do that as well in the future."
Arkansas usually plays one Football Championship Subdivision team annually and is paying Eastern Illinois a guarantee of $525,000 for Saturday's opener. Last season, Arkansas paid Florida A&M a $700,000 guarantee for a game in Little Rock.
"We'd love to play the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville [in football] and keep some of that money in our state instead of having it go to a school in Florida or Illinois," Bennett said. "It would certainly boost our program, and we're ready to do that. I think eventually we'll get there."
Curry said he had discussions with Van Horn about the benefits of an Arkansas-UALR game.
"He's coached at other places where they played in-state schools. I've coached and played at other places where you play in-state schools, and so we've seen firsthand the excitement it brings and the positivity and the fun games," Curry said. "I'm not sure the details of how that went down in Fayetteville, but we got a call to see if the date was open, and it was open, and of course we were happy for the opportunity to play against the national runners-up and an in-state school."
Van Horn said in a statement it's exciting to play UALR and UAPB.
"It's going to be great for the game of baseball in our state," Van Horn said in a statement. "I think this will help grow baseball. The fan interest is there and it'll be big. I know after talking to Coach Curry and [UAPB] Coach [Carlos] James, they're both very excited to have the opportunity to play at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville."
James tweeted about the possibility of an Arkansas-UAPB game in Pine Bluff in 2020. Curry said the Trojans and Razorbacks might play more games, too.
"There have been some talks, but nothing is finalized," Curry said. "I'm not the authority on this, but I don't believe this is a one-year deal."
Bennett, a Pine Bluff native and UAPB graduate, said he's been an Arkansas fan going back to Frank Broyles' days as the football coach.
"I remember when I was a little boy, I used to take my transistor radio and listen to Frank Broyles and the Razorbacks," Bennett said. "I've always been a Razorbacks fan -- and why not? I love the state of Arkansas."
Matt Jones of wholehogsports.com contributed to this report.
At a glance
ARKANSAS BASEBALL SCHEDULE
• A look at the 2019 baseball schedule for the University of Arkansas. Game times have not been announced.
Feb. 15;E. Illinois
Feb. 16;E. Illinois
Feb. 17;E. Illinois
Feb. 22;at Southern Cal
Feb. 23;at Southern Cal
Feb. 24;at Southern Cal
Mar. 1;Stony Brook
Mar. 2;Stony Brook
Mar. 3;Stony Brook
Mar. 5;UNC Charlotte
Mar. 6;UNC Charlotte
Mar. 8;Louisiana Tech
Mar. 9;Louisiana Tech
Mar. 10;Louisiana Tech
Mar. 12;W. Illinois
Mar. 13;W. Illinois
Mar. 19;at Texas
Mar. 20;at Texas
Mar. 22;at Alabama*
Mar. 23;at Alabama*
Mar. 24;at Alabama*
Mar. 26;at Missouri State
April 5;at Auburn*
April 6;at Auburn*
April 7;at Auburn*
April 9;Oral Roberts
April 12;at Vanderbilt*
April 13;at Vanderbilt*
April 14;at Vanderbilt*
April 19;Mississippi State*
April 20;Mississippi State*
April 21;Mississippi State*
April 23;NW (La.) State
April 24;NW (La.) State
April 30;Grambling State#
May 3;at Kentucky*
May 4;at Kentucky*
May 5;at Kentucky*
May 16;at Texas A&M*
May 17;at Texas A&M*
May 18;at Texas A&M*
#at Dickey-Stephens Park, North Little Rock
Sports on 08/30/2018
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