Hogs Heading Back To "Barnhill South"

FAYETTEVILLE -- ESPN basketball commentator Dick Vitale isn't going to be handing Arkansas any cupcake awards next season.

In addition to the Razorbacks' trip to the 2005 Maui Invitational to take on the likes of Arizona, Connecticut, Gonzaga, Kansas, Maryland and Michigan State, Arkansas is now very close to an agreement to play Texas Tech in Dallas with a return trip by the Red Raiders to North Little Rock in 2006. The Maui Invitational will run Nov. 21-23.

Razorbacks assistant coach Rob Flaska, who handles much of Arkansas' scheduling, said Arkansas will play Texas Tech in the American Airlines Center just before Christmas and Bobby Knight's Red Raiders will play in Alltel Arena around the same time the following season.

The game will be the first in Dallas for Arkansas since the 1994 Midwest Regional when the Razorbacks defeated Tulsa and Michigan en route to the NCAA championship.

During Arkansas' Southwest Conference days, Dallas was often referred to as "Barnhill South" with a huge Razorback booster club in the Dallas metroplex area.

Dating to its three straight Southwest Conference tournament titles from 1989-91, Arkansas has won its last 11 games in Dallas and coach Stan Heath has been trying to schedule a game there since he became the Razorbacks coach in 2002.

"It's something we're both looking at as a strong possibility," Heath said. "It's not a signed contract, it's not a done deal. The opportunity to go to Dallas and play in front of a large Razorback fan base is very appealing to us.

"I know Texas Tech feels the same way. There's a lot of Texas Tech fans in the Dallas area."

Texas Tech has a year-to-year agreement in Dallas based on how well Red Raider fans support the game.

Only 7,500-8,000 advance tickets were sold for Thursday's Ohio State-Texas Tech game, but if the past performance of Razorback fans is any indication, there should be no problems selling seats for an Arkansas-Texas Tech matchup.

Arkansas fans outnumbered Texas fans around 35,000 to 25,000 at the 2000 Cotton Bowl and were about even with Oklahoma fans at the 2002 Cotton Bowl.

Heath said the agreement will be for two years and Arkansas will have to see if it can find another Texas team to start a series with in 2007.

Knight said he likes playing in Dallas, but Tech has relied on walk-up sales and charity giveaways to pad the attendance in the last two seasons against Knight's former player and current Iowa coach Steve Alford and against his alma mater Ohio State.

The Tech-Iowa game drew 14,831 and Tech-Ohio State drew just 9,624 for the Buckeyes' 77-71 win.

"We've tried from day one to find a matchup in the Dallas area," Heath said. "It just so happened that Texas Tech was looking for the same thing in that market. We'll see how it goes after year one to see if it becomes an official situation."

Heath, an assistant at Michigan State while Knight was at Indiana, could only recall one conversation with the legendary and famously hot-tempered coach.

"I shook his hand after a few games," Heath said. "One time he called and (Michigan State coach) Tom (Izzo) was out of town. (Knight) likes to fish up in Michigan and we talked one time on the phone.

"He was looking for some lodging up there. I'm sure he doesn't remember me, but I remember that one call."

Knight may be the all-time winningest coach or very close when Texas Tech makes the trip to Alltel Arena in 2006 and Heath, who was a bit disappointed in only 13,140 showing up for top-ranked Illinois on Dec. 4, will be hoping for a larger crowd in central Arkansas.

"We look forward to the return game in Little Rock and hopefully grab a big crowd that wants to see a great matchup," he said.

A Dallas presence will also be a boost to recruiting. Arkansas has yet to establish a foothold in an area loaded with prep talent.

"We've wanted to hit the Dallas, Texas, area and we haven't been close," Heath said. "We haven't been able to land some top guys down there. That's important. Recruiting is important and bringing back the fans to the Dallas area will be a great experience for us."

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