3 years after losing series with Michigan, Razorbacks hope they can salvage one with Notre Dame

By: Matt Jones
Published: Friday, July 31, 2020
Notre Dame Stadium is shown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against New Mexico in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Notre Dame Stadium is shown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against New Mexico in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

— For the third consecutive season, Arkansas has lost its chance to play a scheduled football game against one of college football’s most storied programs.

The Razorbacks had a home-and-home series against Michigan canceled for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and now the future of Arkansas’ home-and-home arrangement with Notre Dame is in doubt after a game scheduled for September between the teams was called off Thursday.

The SEC's decision to play a 10-game, conference-only schedule means the Razorbacks also lost scheduled nonconference games this season against Nevada, Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern.

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Arkansas' future nonconference dates

Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek said Thursday he has spoken with most of the athletics directors of the teams whose games against the Razorbacks were canceled, “and we will work to figure out a solution for each of those, whether that’s rescheduling the game in the future.”

The Razorbacks were only scheduled to play once against Nevada, ULM and Charleston Southern, and those games could likely be easily fit into future schedules that have not been completed.

Rescheduling the series against Notre Dame — which includes a scheduled game in Fayetteville in 2025 — might prove to be more complicated because of differences in the way the Razorbacks and Fighting Irish schedule their games. Notre Dame plays independent of a football conference (it will play as a member of the ACC this year given the unique circumstances) while Arkansas is bound to play eight SEC games per year.

The remainder of the Razorbacks’ desired annual football schedule includes one marquee game against either an independent or a team from another Power 5 conference, as required by the SEC; two games against teams from a Group of Five conference; and one game against a team from the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision.

Arkansas’ marquee nonconference schedule is set through 2028, when the Razorbacks are scheduled to play the back end of a home-and-home agreement with Utah. Arkansas also has games scheduled against Texas, BYU and Oklahoma State during that time.

Of rescheduling the Razorbacks’ first game at the historic Notre Dame Stadium, Yurachek said: “It would be my hope because I understand that Razorback fans were looking forward to going to South Bend, Indiana.”

"This is just an unprecedented and extraordinary year, and you recognize that going in," Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick told ESPN on Thursday.

By playing a conference-only schedule this year, it will mark the third year in a row Arkansas has not played a team that would satisfy the SEC's scheduling requirement for nonconference games. The Razorbacks last played another Power 5 team in 2017, when it lost 28-7 to TCU of the Big 12.

Due to the late nature of Michigan canceling its series against Arkansas in the summer of 2017, the Razorbacks were allowed by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to classify two games against Colorado State as meeting the league’s scheduling requirements.

The Razorbacks lost 34-27 at Colorado State in 2018 and defeated the Rams 55-34 last year in Fayetteville.

Michigan paid $2 million to break the contracted series against Arkansas. Ironically, Michigan canceled that series to renew a series against Notre Dame in 2018 and 2019.

With 962 victories, Michigan is the winningest football program in the history of the NCAA. Notre Dame has the second-most wins of any college football program with 629, counting 21 victories the NCAA vacated two years ago as the result of an academic misconduct finding.

Arkansas is scheduled to host Texas in Fayetteville next year. The Longhorns' 916 victories are tied with Alabama for fourth most in college football history.

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