FAYETTEVILLE — From a risk versus reward standpoint as far playing in-state schools, particularly Arkansas State, the risks far outweigh the rewards.
Arkansas and Arkansas State will meet in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on Sept. 6, 2025. It will be the first meeting of the two on the football field. It’s a game that Arkansas State has been seeking for years because of obvious reasons.
When Hunter Yurachek took over as vice chancellor and athletic director at Arkansas he seemed open to facing other in-state schools. Something that Frank Broyles had vowed wouldn’t happen in a regular season game. Not everyone connected to Arkansas apparently was on board with this decision.
“There were people that had varying opinions to mine about how we should move forward, but not to the point where they wanted to put their foot down and say this absolutely cannot happen,” Yurachek said. “Yes, there were people that disagreed with me about was this the right decision. But nobody that felt strong enough in their conviction about this that they were going to make sure it didn’t happen.”
Yurachek pointed out that Arkansas lost to Little Rock in baseball, but still made it to the College World Series and continued to dominate in-state recruiting. But is a 17-7 loss to the Trojans on April 2, 2019, in baseball a fair measuring stick?
Arkansas has had a lot of success in baseball so obviously one loss wasn’t going to really put that much of a bad mark on the program. Arkansas played 66 baseball games in 2019 compared to 12 each fall in football with 13 if a bowl game is involved. And most people realize in baseball the midweek games in college baseball come down to who has any available pitchers that night.
The Razorbacks haven’t exactly thrived in football in recent years. But they have continued to dominate recruiting in the state including prospects from Jonesboro. Offensive tackle Noah Gatlin, defensive end Jashaud Stewart, linebacker Marco Avant and linebacker Asa Shearin are current Razorbacks from Jonesboro are all on the current roster.
One reporter did a poll of Arkansas fans as far as approving of the game. While the majority did want to see the game, 34-percent objected.
“I’m just gonna go back to the competition that we’ve seen in our other sports,” Yurachek said. “We lost one of those games, a baseball game, and it didn’t hurt our recruiting in the state in our baseball program, it didn’t hurt us advancing to the College World Series. I don’t see that being the case. Yes, we could lose that 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.
“We play other Sun Belt schools. Arkansas State’s a member of the Sun Belt Conference. It’s a great football conference – you talk about Louisiana, Coastal Carolina, Arkansas State, App State – and what they’ve done as a conference. We’ve got Georgia Southern on our schedule this year. We were supposed to play Louisiana-Monroe. So I look at Arkansas State just as another Sun Belt Conference school. We’re going to play two Group of Five schools every year, whether it’s from the Sun Belt, Conference USA, the Mid-American, the American or the Mountain West, and Arkansas State falls into that category. I think what’s been pretty cool is there’s been a great deal of attention across our state on college football in February. I think that shows what this game is going to mean to people across this state, whether you’re a Razorback fan or whether you’re a Red Wolf fan. It’s going to be a pretty cool atmosphere in September of 2025.”
Yurachek did joke about the significance of this game in 2025 as far as him being involved.
“First and foremost, I hope I’m still here in 2025 and get to see these two teams actually on the field,” Yurachek said smiling. “I think that would be great. I will tell you I’ve gotten several text messages since this release and every single one of them is going to be positive. Maybe those that are going to send me negative text messages don’t have my cell phone number.
“I think it’s… I don’t know if we’re breaking down barriers, but I think it’s been really neat across some of our other sports. I have a grid of the 19 sports we sponsor and the other four in-state Division I schools and how many times we’ve played in the last two years and it’s starting to fill up green. If you go back and do some of the research, whether it’s track and field, cross country, baseball, our women’s soccer team is going to play Arkansas State twice this year, it’s pretty cool to see our in-state schools competing against the Razorbacks.”
Terry Mohajir is the athletic director at Arkansas State. As noted earlier, Arkansas State has wanted this game for several years. Yurachek was asked Mohajir’s reaction when he called him to tell him the game was on.
“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. It’s not easy to move football games, and Terry had to move a football game with Texas A&M and find them another opponent. So, he had to put in significant time and effort to make this happen, and I’m very appreciative to him for that. But he was very excited, obviously.”
The reward for Arkansas if they beat Arkansas State will likely be very minimal. It’s a game that any school in the SEC should win. But if they don’t win, the risk factors will be on display and will be interesting to see how it all develops.