Jeff Long Says No Venue Decision For LSU, Other Razorback Home Games

by Chris Bahn  on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 8:36 pm  

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Arkansas has yet to determine which of its 2012 home football games will be played in what venue. A decision is on hold until the Razorbacks find a 12th opponent and complete their schedule.

Athletic Director Jeff Long did not rule out the possibility of LSU moving from Little Rock to Fayetteville when discussing next year’s schedule. Long said he wants to wait until that time to decide between War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock or Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

“Until we get that 12th game I don’t want to make that decision,” Long said. “It widely depends. That 12th game could affect that decision.”

LSU has been a fixture in Little Rock since 1994. Arkansas' first year in the league the game was played at Razorback Stadium, but moved after that. Mississippi State replaced South Carolina as the War Memorial opponent for odd years in 2005.

All that the contract with the stadium calls for is “at least one” SEC game a year until the deal ends in 2016 or is renegotiated. Ole Miss and Kentucky are possibilities for this season.

It does appear Louisiana-Monroe will be set as the non-conference opponent in Little Rock. Arkansas has a contract that ends this year and allows the War Hawks to claim themselves as the home team and help maintain FBS status.

Arkansas is negotiating with a number of programs for a game. Options range from programs in BCS and non-BCS conferences. Long said the worst-case scenario would be adding another FCS team to the schedule. Currently the Razorbacks are set to open the season Sept. 1 with Jacksonville State, a FCS opponent.

Conference expansion, including the SEC going to 14 teams, complicate the scheduling process. Texas A&M was supposed to be a league opponent for the Razorbacks until 2018, but the Aggies joined the SEC. Other leagues are also in flux and the threat of litigation as schools try to leave current conferences for future homes has complicated matters.

A&M would like the Arkansas game to move to a home-and-home format, rather than a neutral site. Long said he believes the agreement with Cowboys Stadium should be followed until it expries. He added the Razorbacks would consider other opponents for a game in the NFL venue, but like the rest of scheduling, that isn't as easy as it sounds.

Also complicating scheduling, and hurting, the prospect of a home-and-home with a BCS-caliber school is the fact the 2013 schedule for the SEC is unknown. The league said Wednesday it will look at other options for scheduling 14 teams, but essentially did what it could to accommodate the expanded league SEC on short notice. Without a solid date available for 2013, the Razorbacks are having a difficult time finding an opponent willing to agree to a mulit-year, home-and-home.

At least 30 schools have visited with Arkansas about the possiblity of a game. But talking is as far as things have gotten at this point.

“We think we have options,” Long said. “People aren’t committing. … There’s really a little bit of a logjam here until that uncertainty is removed, some people aren’t going to move. To be honest with you, I’m not sure I have the stamina to wait or — let’s see, I want to use the right word there — I’m not sure I can gamble and wait that long to see if an opponent will fall out of that. It may be a choice of here’s an opponent you can get, it may not be the most desirable, but you want to fill your schedule with 12.”

There is one certainty in the scheduling uncertainty for Arkansas. The Razorbacks will have a 12th opponent for 2012. There’s no chance of two bye weeks, Long said with a laugh.

“Well, I guess the worst [scenario] could be, yeah, we play 11 games,” Long said. “I don’t think that is a real possibility. So the worst case scenario would be two FCSs. Again, we’re working very hard to see that that doesn’t happen."



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