Hogs Tabbed For ESPNU Classic

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' basketball Razorbacks haven't won a Super Bowl, but they are going to Disney World.

Well, at least they're going to the inaugural ESPNU Classic, a three-day, eight-team event scheduled for Nov. 23, 24 and 26 at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla.

Joining the Razorbacks are Minnesota, Southern Illinois, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Montana, Marist and Western Michigan.

Hogs coach Stan Heath was out of town Thursday, but he said in a UA press release, "With the change in the schedule rule this year, we were able to become a part of an outstanding tournament near Orlando. We are very excited about the competition and the exposure, as well as the opportunity to play in a tournament that will help prepare us for the season."

Arkansas played in the Maui Invitational early last season and eventually reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.

ESPN Regional Television, a subsidiary of ESPN, Inc., will own and operate the ESPNU Classic, a 12-game tournament to be played over three days on Thanksgiving weekend. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will serve as the sponsoring conference.

The tournament will feature four games on each day, with each team playing daily. First-round matchups have not been announced. The two undefeated teams will face off in a championship game on the final day, while the remaining teams will play in consolation games.

Arkansas, Minnesota, Montana, Southern Illinois and West Virginia all played in either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT last season. Montana won the Big Sky Conference, and SIU took the Missouri Valley en route to the NCAA Sweet 16.

Other conferences represented are the Big Ten (Minnesota), ACC (Virginia Tech), Big East (West Virginia), Mid-American (Western Michigan) and Metro Atlantic Athletic (Marist).

"There are some outstanding teams in this tournament," Heath said. "The field is very competitive. It will give us a gauge of where we are early in the season and give us a chance to vie for a tournament championship."

ESPN Regional Television owns and operates three other basketball events: the O'Reilly Auto Parts All-College Classic, Pape Jam and the Spartan Clash.

Disney's Wide World of Sports will provide marketing, management and game-day operations support for the ESPN Classic.

The Wide World of Sports Complex calls itself the No. 1 venue for amateur and professional sporting events and hosts more than 170 events each year, including the Tampa Bay Bucs training camp, the Atlanta Braves spring training, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, the Pop Warner Super Bowl and several AAU national championships.

The 220-acre, state-of-the-art facility houses a 9,500-seat ballpark, a 5,000-seat fieldhouse, a track-and-field arena and a tennis stadium.

Tickets for the ESPNU Classic will be available to the general public in August at Ticketmaster outlets and the Wide World of Sports Complex box office. In July, special travel packages will be available for fans of the participating teams.

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