Battle of the Boot Moves to the Hill
There won’t be a big game in Little Rock the day after Thanksgiving in 2012.
Arkansas released its 2012 football schedule Friday, revealing that the Razorbacks’ Nov. 24 regular-season finale against LSU will be played in Fayetteville for the first time since 1992. The Hogs’ last nine home meetings against the Tigers were played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
“Due to our November schedule this year, it is to our advantage to play LSU on campus,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said in a statement.
Moving the “Battle for the Golden Boot” to Fayetteville will allow Arkansas to play in front of a bigger crowd in 72,000-seat Reynolds Razorback Stadium than in 53,955-seat War Memorial.
“Playing the LSU game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium directly benefits our program in a number of ways including most importantly providing an additional 20,000 Razorback fans an opportunity to cheer on our team and in this great rivalry game,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said in a statement. “By re-arranging the rotation and playing the regular season finale in Fayetteville, it will also prevent our team from a competitive disadvantage of traveling three straight weekends in the most crucial part of the season.”
The announcement came less than two weeks after War Memorial stadium manager Charlie Staggs told the Associated Press he and the War Memorial Stadium Commission were exploring expansion possibilities for the 63-year-old stadium, a stadium where the Hogs went 5-4 against LSU since joining the Southeastern Conference.
“We are looking at something to see if we can entice them to stay here,” Staggs said.
The UA announced potential plans for renovations to Razorback Stadium when it unveiled its athletic facilities master plan in October. The renovations could add up to 5,000 new seats.
When Arkansas last hosted the Tigers in Fayetteville in 1992 – a 30-6 Razorbacks win – a crowd of just 32,721 attended the matchup in the then-51,000-seat stadium.
The Hogs were ending a 3-7-1 year, while LSU would finish just 2-9.
The matchups the last two years have featured both teams ranked in the top 12, including No. 12 Arkansas’ win in Little Rock against the No. 5 Tigers to clinch a Sugar Bowl berth in 2010.
“Playing on campus will also allow our football program the recruiting advantage of hosting prospects for a game that has traditionally carried conference and national implications,” Long said.
In addition to revealing the LSU game would be played in Fayetteville, Rutgers was announced as the Razorbacks’ final nonconference opponent in a game that will be played Sept. 22 in Razorback Stadium.
The Scarlet Knights went 9-4 last year, but coach Greg Schiano left to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job in the NFL in late January.
“We are pleased to add a quality non-conference opponent like Rutgers to our 2012 football schedule,” Long said. “The additions of Texas A&M and Missouri and the delay in the release of the conference schedule posed some specific scheduling challenges for the 2012 season.
The Hogs’ schedule also doesn’t have a set location for the Texas A&M game on Sept. 29, though Aggies athletic director Bill Byrne said Saturday night the game would be played in College Station, Texas. Arkansas and A&M were scheduled to play the fourth game in as many years at Cowboys Stadium in a series running through 2018.
“Texas A&M kind of put it out that ’12 and ’13 would be on campuses,” Long said in an interview on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly. “I tend not to release those kinds of things until we sign agreements, but it looks as though it’s headed there. I am still hopeful for us to go back and play at Cowboys stadium after those two on-campus games to play for an extended period of time.
“We have made it clear to the Cowboys we intend to honor that contract.”