Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Arkansas, UAPB to meet in football
Arkansas-Pine Bluff quarterback Brandon Duncan (2) gets hit by Arkansas State linebacker Kyle Wilson (15) during a game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, at Century Bank Stadium in Jonesboro.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Once the University of Arkansas' long-standing policy of not scheduling in-state opponents in the major sports was eliminated, it didn't take long for a football game to jump on the docket.
The Razorbacks and the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday announced a two-game series on the gridiron with games in 2021 and 2024.
Arkansas' first game against an in-state opponent in more than 75 years -- since a 41-0 victory over Arkansas A&M (now Arkansas-Monticello) in 1944 -- will take place on Oct. 23, 2021, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Razorbacks and Golden Lions also agreed to meet in the 2024 season opener on Aug. 31 at Razorback Stadium.
The game guarantee the UA will pay UAPB for each of the games was redacted in a copy of the memorandum of understanding between the schools received by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via a public-records request.
UA Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said he and UAPB Athletic Director Melvin Hines had been discussing ways to play in football since the Razorbacks' scheduling parameters changed.
"We have a scheduling philosophy where we're going to play one FCS team every year, we've got our league-mandated Power 5 opponent, and then we'll try to work in another Power 5 or two Group of Five teams that make sense for us," Yurachek said. "As we started looking at these FCS games and where to plug them in, it just made sense for us to keep the money in-state, within the system and schedule games with Pine Bluff."
Arkansas played both UAPB and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in baseball this season, and dates in football and basketball were thought to be on the horizon. The Golden Lions and Razorbacks also competed in softball and tennis during the 2018-19 school year.
"We're excited to further expand our connection with the University of Arkansas in another historic competition," Hines said in a statement. "This matchup in football creates a significant opportunity to grow the UAPB brand within the state as well as nationally while strengthening our overall University System."
The Razorbacks currently have a game against FCS opponent Missouri State scheduled as the season opener Sept. 4, 2021.
"That's not going to happen," Yurachek said. "That would go against our philosophy. There are several dominoes that are in the process of falling right now. Putting together a schedule is very much like putting together a puzzle. The UAPB game, being in this '21 year, obviously means there's another domino now which is getting ready to fall, which would be the movement of Missouri State to another year."
Additionally, per the memo, UA agreed to pay an undisclosed "game guarantee offset" to the Golden Lions in exchange for UAPB playing a football game against Oklahoma State in 2022. That scheduling item is likely a collateral issue from the recently announced series between the Razorbacks and Cowboys, which will take place in 2024 at Oklahoma State and 2027 at Arkansas.
Another item in the agreement called for UAPB to pick up the bill for shipping 128 football lockers previously used by the Razorbacks to Pine Bluff, which took place earlier this year.
The UA recently completed a renovation of its 5-year-old locker room at the Fred Smith Center, which included the installation of state-of-the-art lockers.
Yurachek signed the memo Feb. 26, and Hines signed it March 25.
The Razorbacks' other nonconference games in 2021 are scheduled against Texas and Georgia Southern.
Sports on 05/02/2019
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