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, Rice '21 game in works
A Rice helmet sits near the end zone during the second half of of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas officials are working to complete an agreement that would set up a season-opening football game against Rice on Sept. 4, 2021, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has learned.
The contracts are not completed for a matchup between the former Southwest Conference rivals, but the paperwork has been drawn up for a game that has been in the works for several months.
Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said he did not anticipate any obstacles for the Arkansas and Rice game, which is one piece in a complicated series of scheduling maneuvers involving Arkansas, Rice, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Oklahoma State and Missouri State.
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The Razorbacks have multiple upcoming games against those programs over the next nine years, including their first two-game set with the in-state Golden Lions in 2021 and 2024.
Arkansas senior deputy athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples, the sport administrator for football, has been working with her counterparts at the other institutions for months to fit the schedules together.
Arkansas currently has a game against Missouri State slated as the 2021 season opener, but Yurachek told the Democrat-Gazette earlier this month that game would not take place after the Razorbacks announced they would host UAPB for the first time that season, on Oct. 23.
Because Missouri State and UAPB are both Football Championship Subdivision teams, playing both in the same season would go against the Razorbacks' scheduling parameters. Football Bowl Subdivision teams can only count one game per year against an FCS opponent toward bowl eligibility.
If the series of negotiated changes falls into place, Oklahoma State, currently scheduled to host Rice in a 2021 season opener, would instead play Missouri State in that game, effectively swapping openers with Arkansas. The Cowboys were originally scheduled to play Missouri State in 2022.
The Razorbacks would move their 2021 game against Missouri State to the first month of the 2022 season.
Yurachek suggested several scheduling moves were on the horizon in an interview with the Democrat-Gazette earlier this month.
"There are several dominoes that are in the process of falling right now," Yurachek said. "Putting together a schedule is very much like putting together a puzzle."
Additionally, UAPB would travel to Stillwater, Okla., to play the Cowboys on Sept. 17, 2022, the original date of the Oklahoma State-Missouri State game.
Arkansas has contractually agreed to pay UAPB the difference between Oklahoma State's standard game guarantee for an FCS opponent and the Razorbacks' normal guarantee for an FCS opponent. That figure is redacted in the memo of understanding between the schools obtained by the Democrat-Gazette through a public records request.
Arkansas and Oklahoma State have previously announced a home-and-home series. The teams are scheduled to play in Stillwater in 2024 and at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville in 2027.
The game against Rice would be Arkansas' 21st meeting against a former Southwest Conference rival since leaving the conference for the SEC in 1992.
The Razorbacks have a 12-8 record in the previous non-conference games against five former SWC opponents, including a 3-0 mark against Texas A&M between 2009-11. The Aggies have a 7-0 record against Arkansas since joining the SEC in 2012.
Arkansas is 3-2 against Texas, including a 27-6 triumph in the Cotton Bowl after the 1999 season and a 31-7 victory in the Texas Bowl after the 2014 season.
Arkansas is 4-4 against SMU since 1992. The Razorbacks split four games against Texas Tech and TCU between 2014-17, with each team winning at the other's home stadium in those seasons. The Razorbacks have not played Baylor, Houston or Rice in football since leaving the conference.
When the Rice game is finalized, the Razorbacks will play three former SWC teams in the first four games of the 2021 season. Arkansas is scheduled to host Texas on Sept. 11, 2021, and scheduled to play Texas A&M on Sept. 25, 2021, in Arlington, Texas.
Sports on 05/27/2019
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