Hogs vs. Irish, long time coming
FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks lost a much-anticipated football series with an iconic Midwestern power one year ago today, and they gained one back on Thursday.
The Razorbacks have scheduled a home-and-home series with Notre Dame beginning with a road game in South Bend, Ind., on Sept. 12, 2020. It will mark the first meeting between the Power 5 programs, who both rank among the top 25 winningest college football programs.
The Fighting Irish are scheduled to play a return game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Oct. 4, 2025.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville was scheduled to face Michigan in a home-and-home series in 2018 and 2019 but the Wolverines paid $2 million to break that contract last year because they were renewing a traditional series with Notre Dame.
The Razorbacks and Fighting Irish agreed on an allotment of 7,500 tickets for the traveling fan bases. Arkansas will be the first SEC West team to play at Notre Dame Stadium since LSU lost 39-36 there on Nov. 21, 1998.
“It’s remarkable to think our historic programs have never met, but we are excited that this will change in the near future as we add the University of Notre Dame to our football schedules in
2020 and 2025,” Arkansas AD Jeff Long said in a university release.
“This series will benefit our football program, our University and the Southeastern Conference, but more importantly it is an opportunity for our football student-athletes to compete against one of college football’s storied programs while providing a premier matchup for our fans.”
Notre Dame is the first known nonconference opponent for the Razorbacks in both 2020 and 2025. Long had been searching for a marquee opponent to face in 2020 on the road to balance out a home game against Texas in 2021.
“When a shared open date during the 2020 season became available, it was an opportunity that fit well into our future scheduling and we didn’t want to pass it up,” Long said in the release.
The return game in 2025 was the first date that fit into the previously arranged schedules for the two programs.
“Ever since I became a head coach I’ve wanted to get Notre Dame on the schedule and when it became a possibility we were 100 percent in on getting a home-and-home done,” Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said. “I’m excited for our program, but I’m also excited for our fans to experience a game at Notre Dame and then come back and show what an amazing home atmosphere we have.”
Arkansas is one of four SEC teams that have never faced the Irish, along with Auburn, Kentucky and Mississippi State. Notre Dame is tied with Alabama for national championships recognized by the NCAA at 12 apiece.
“This two-game series will provide our program with another opportunity to play a top-caliber foe from the Southeastern
Conference,” Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly said in a release. “Coach Bielema is a tremendous coach and his teams have always played a physical style of football. I know our team and fans will be excited to play the Razorbacks.”
The Fighting Irish rank sixth among Power 5 schools in all-time victories with 874, while Arkansas is tied at No. 22 with Florida with 706 victories.
“Whenever we have an opponent come to Notre Dame Stadium for the first time, there’s another layer of interest in the game,” Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said in the release. “The same is true for our program and fans when we play away from home at a first-time venue. “That is especially likely to be true of these games given the quality and tradition of the two programs.”
The SEC has mandated that teams schedule at least one Power 5 non-conference opponent each season, a rule for which Arkansas has been granted a waiver in 2018 and ‘19 due to the late cancellation by Michigan. The Razorbacks announced a home-and-home series with Colorado State of the Mountain West Conference this spring that would fill the spot on the schedule vacated by Michigan.
Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long said he wanted to find a marquee opponent for the 2020 season and he got one with Notre Dame.
Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly (right) led the Fighting Irish to the national championship game in January 2013, but lost to SEC member Alabama in Miami. Arkansas, which plays in the SEC West with Alabama, and Notre Dame will play a home-and-home series in 2020 and 2025.