Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Diamond Hogs' 2021 schedule a work in progress
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn gestures Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, to a friend in the stands during practice at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn is hoping for a 2021 schedule like the 18 he has scheduled before as head coach of the Razorbacks.
But Van Horn is mindful of the many schedule changes other coaches have faced since sports resumed on college campuses this fall.
"We want to probably control our schedule a little bit," Van Horn said of SEC coaches at the conclusion of fall practice. "If we knew that we were going to play and people weren’t going to cancel games or were going to be able to afford to test their student-athletes before they came to our campus, I’d feel like we’d play the schedule that we already have in place.
"But if we don’t feel confident with that, I think you might see where we’re playing more conference games where we can control what’s up."
Arkansas' tentative schedule has evolved in recent months and is far from finalized. Dates have been identified through open-record requests, past interviews and schedule releases by other schools.
Arkansas plans to play weekend nonconference series against Southeast Missouri State (Feb. 26-28) and Murray State (March 5-7) at home, and at Louisiana Tech on March 12-14. The Razorbacks are also planning to play TCU, Texas and Texas Tech at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, on opening weekend.
The 2021 season is scheduled to begin Feb. 19.
Van Horn said this summer the Razorbacks plan to play midweek games against all four of the other in-state Division I programs — Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Arkansas State and Central Arkansas — in 2021. Among in-state opponents, only the UCA date on March 30 has been contracted.
Arkansas has also contracted single midweek home games against Oklahoma on March 9, Abilene Christian on March 10 and Missouri State on April 27.
The Razorbacks are scheduled to play Grambling State at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock on April 20. Arkansas' men's and women's basketball teams backed out of scheduled games in North Little Rock after their schedules were truncated.
Arkansas is scheduled to play Nebraska on March 16-17 at Baum-Walker Stadium. D1Baseball.com reported earlier this month the Big Ten will prohibit its teams from playing nonconference games, which would eliminate the series against the Cornhuskers.
The Big Ten has yet to officially announce such a policy and Arkansas' games against Nebraska are still under contract.
The Razorbacks previously called off two midweek home games against Michigan State from the Big Ten. The 2021 series against Michigan State was to be a return for Arkansas playing at the Spartans' home stadium in April of this year. Those games were not played after the college baseball season was canceled in March.
“We couldn’t tell them we would be able to come back,” Van Horn said in September. “We just let that one go because we didn’t get to go up there this year.”
Keeping nonconference opponents has been one of the hardest aspects to scheduling during the coronavirus pandemic. Cal State Northridge had to back out of scheduling talks with Arkansas. The Matadors are coached by Dave Serrano, the former head coach at Cal State Fullerton and Tennessee.
“He just told me that their administration said, ‘Let’s not plan on going there this year,’” Van Horn said in September. “I was able to get Southeast Missouri State that weekend, who had somebody cancel on them that weekend. We filled in some of those other games with in-state schools, so it all worked out for us, if we get to play that schedule.”
It is unclear how the SEC schedule will be compiled in 2021 because the 2020 season stopped the day before SEC play was set to begin.
There is some thought the 2020 SEC opponents could be carried over to the upcoming season, but with the order of games potentially changed. Arkansas was scheduled to host Texas A&M, Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia, and play at LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and South Carolina during the canceled 2020 season.
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