Hogs vs. Ir­ish, long time com­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - TOM MUR­PHY

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.

Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

Arkansas Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Jeff Long said he wanted to find a mar­quee op­po­nent for the 2020 sea­son and he got one with Notre Dame.

AP file photo

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.

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