Arkansas, Texas A&M Ready To Play

FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas football program ensured the Dallas area will serve as its second home for some time Monday, announcing it has finalized a 10-year deal to play Texas A&M in the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, Texas, beginning in 2009.

The lengthy and lucrative series was no surprise. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — an Arkansas graduate — and officials from both schools have been working on the details for the past few months. But it was formally unveiled during a press conference held at the site of the Cowboys' new stadium Monday.

The series will renew a Southwest Conference rivalry between teams that haven't played since 1991. Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long believes it will impact the university in other ways, too.

"It's important not only for football recruiting and other athletic recruiting, it's important to university recruiting from the students from metroplex," athletic director Jeff Long said. "It's one of the largest if not the largest alumni bases outside Arkansas. It makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways and, certainly it will help (new coach) Bobby Petrino recruit Texas. It gives us exposure in the state."

The contract runs through the 2018 season, but won't necessarily signal the end of the series. In addition, all parties agreed to the possibility of signing as many has five, four-year extensions that could lengthen the series to as many as 30 years.

Playing the same opponent that long does not concern Long.

"We're going to be playing football in 10 years," he said. "They're going to be playing high school football in Texas. This is an opportunity we could not pass up and one we anticipate will go on much longer than 10 years. Look no further than the (Oklahoma-Texas) series (in Dallas). We think it makes a lot of sense for institution and program to be in Texas."

The first game will be played Oct. 3, 2009 and the Razorbacks will be designated as the home team. Arkansas will be the home team in odd years. Texas A&M will be the home team in even years.

Long said each school could net between $4-$5 million a year for playing the game. The schools will split ticket sales from the stadium, which seats between 80,000 and 100,000 fans.

Long, Petrino, Jones, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman and athletic director Bill Byrne attended Monday's press conference.

Petrino was not available for comment, but emphasized the importance of the series in a statement released by the university.

"The University of Arkansas was a mainstay in Texas for many years as a member of the Southwest Conference and continues to have an avid fan base in Texas," Petrino said in the statement. "This series will enable us to rekindle that support and allow us to tell prospective student-athletes that when they come to the University of Arkansas, they will have an opportunity to play each year in the best National Football League venue in the nation."

But the Texas A&M series means the Razorbacks must make a change to their 2009 nonconference schedule.

The Aggies became the 13th team under contract for 2009, which forces Arkansas to drop a game. Texas remains the likely choice.

The Razorbacks begin a two-year series with the Longhorns in Austin next year. Arkansas was scheduled to play Texas at home in 2009, but the Austin American-Statesman reported in late February the Longhorns agreed to postpone the game until at least 2014.

At the time, Long said the report was "premature and added that nothing had been finalized Monday. But Long acknowledged Texas is one of the schools he has spoken with about bumping the game to make room for start of the Texas A&M series.

"We're getting close," Long said. "We should announce that soon."

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