Yurachek Explains LR and ASU

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Following Wednesday morning’s University of Arkansas announcement that Razorbacks football games at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock would extend through 2025 and include the blockbuster that Arkansas State would be the Razorbacks opponent there in 2025, Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek wisely scheduled a Wednesday afternoon press conference explaining the chain of events that both extends the Fayetteville based Razorbacks presence in Little Rock but removes their SEC home games from there.
Arkansas’ agreement prior to this one scheduled the Razorbacks’ every other year SEC home game with Missouri on Thanksgiving weekend at Little Rock.
Starting this 2021 season on Nov. 27 that game will be at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Arkansas’ game with the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions, originally scheduled Oct. 23 in Fayetteville, now will be played the same date in Little Rock.
Arkansas and UAPB also will play on Aug. 31, 2024 at Little Rock, with War Memorial also hosting Arkansas vs. Western Carolina on Sept. 5, 2023 and finally Arkansas State’s Red Wolves on Sept. 6, 2025.
Arkansas Athletic Directors from John Barnhill, George Cole, Frank Broyles and Jeff Long affirmed Barnhill’s policy, strongly reaffirmed by Broyles (1972-2008) of not playing regularly scheduled competition against instate schools.
Yurachek had changed that policy for UA sports including, the University of Central Arkansas on this season’s men’s basketball schedule and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock on this season’s women’s basketball schedule and UAPB on the 2021 football schedule but ASU for 2025 definitely is a football first.
During his press conference Yurachek painstakingly stated he meant no disrespect to Arkansas late legends Barnhill and Broyles.
“I never had the opportunity to work with or get to know obviously John Barnhill or Frank Broyles and decisions that they made not to play in-state competition,” Yurachek said. “And it’s no disrespect to either one of those two. And the decisions they made, I am sure they made those in what they thought was in the best interest of the Razorback athletic program at that point in time in our history. We would not be sitting where we are today having the success that we are as an athletic program without their leadership and decisions.”
He explained why feels it’s right make the change.
“I felt like the timing is right as we opened up in-state completion with our sister schools in several sports two years ago to continue through this pandemic with many of our sports competing against Arkansas State and Central Arkansas,” Yurachek said. “Obviously it just makes sense at this point in time to enter into that football game with Arkansas State in 2025.”
Arkansas State Athletic Director Terry Mohjair was more than receptive. He rearranged a contracted nonconference game with Texas A&M to get Arkansas on ASU’s 2025 schedule.
“Obviously, for Terry and the Arkansas State program, this is a big deal,” Yurachek said. “It’s something that from the day I arrived or the day, quite honestly, I was announced because Terry and I have been friends, he’s been kind of knocking on my door to make this happen. So, obviously he was very excited. And thanks to (Athletic Director) Chris Peterson at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff for their willingness to move games in ’21 and ’24 from Fayetteville to Little Rock.”
Yurachek said this all was put into motion by his desire to keep an Arkansas football presence in Little Rock, stressing the Razorbacks belong to the entire state, and for Football Coach Sam Pittman’s desire to play all SEC home games in Fayetteville.
Pittman’s desire stems both from greater attendance and recruits visiting the campus attending the game.
Yurachek when asked said financially it benefits playing SEC games in Fayetteville.
“I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I didn’t tell you that the finances of having another SEC game versus potentially an FCS game here are not significant,” Yurachek said. “But the No. 1 driver was the competitive advantage that Coach Pittman believes it has for his football program for us to play SEC games here on campus.
After 2024 when the contract runs out that likely will include alternating the Texas A&M game between Fayetteville and Texas A&M’s Kyle Field in College Station rather than at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Yurachek said after talking with Pittman he then talked with Stacy Hurst, Secretary of the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commission which has oversight of War Memorial Stadium.
“One thing she made abundantly clear is if the Razorback football program was going to continue to have a presence in Little Rock at War Memorial Stadium, that she thought they needed to be meaningful games,” Yurachek said. “As we started to talk about what meaningful games look like, obviously in-state competition, starting with our game against the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff this year, and again, and then working towards that game with Arkansas State in ’25 are what her and I determined are meaningful games there at War Memorial Stadium.”
Yurachek said he’s well aware of the argument, particularly vs. FBS member Arkansas State, that the UA has nothing to gain but everything to lose as the state’s most elite football program with a loss.
He rebuts that the 2019 baseball Razorbacks, lost, 17-7 to the University of Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans, now preferring to call themselves Little Rock rather than UALR, yet the Razorbacks concluded a 46-20 season at their second consecutive College World Series.
“We still went on to the College World Series that year,” Yurachek said. “And we still had top recruiting classes. Things didn’t fall apart across our state because the Razorbacks were competing against other schools within the state. Yes, we could lose that (ASU football) game, but we’re still going to be the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. We’re still going to be a member of the Southeastern Conference. I think we will still dominate the state in recruiting with other in-state schools in all of those sports.”

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