Southwest Classic to return to AT&T Stadium in 2021
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FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ annual matchup with Texas A&M will return to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, next season.
This year’s game, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday, will be played at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field in College Station. It was a move made in response to the SEC’s modified schedules that eliminated non-conference games and limited teams to only five home dates in 2020.
It was widely speculated that the Razorbacks would host the game in Fayetteville next season before it returned to the neutral site, but Texas A&M athletics director Ross Bjork said that wouldn’t be the case during an “Aggie Town Hall” interview on the school's Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s one year back on campus (and) next year will return to AT&T Stadium,” Bjork said. “So really, Arkansas, I guess, gave up a home game in Fayetteville by returning that game to AT&T Stadium for the ’21 season.”
According to Travis Brown of The Eagle newspaper, the Texas A&M athletics department originally said it was Arkansas' decision to move the game back to AT&T Stadium next season instead of playing it in Fayetteville, but later clarified that it was a joint decision.
A source in the UA athletic department told HawgBeat that had the 2021 game been moved to Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the contract with AT&T Stadium - which currently goes through the 2024 season - would have been extended another two years.
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek confirmed that the series will return to Arlington next year in a tweet Tuesday evening.
"As a result of the ongoing pandemic & SEC only schedule, all parties agreed to move the SW Classic game with A&M to campus in 2020," Yurachek wrote. "The current plan is for 2021 SWC game to remain in Arlington per contract. We will actively access (sic) future circumstances that may alter those plans."
Bjork said he and Yurachek worked closely over the summer as they discussed moving this season's game to College Station. The Arkansas AD told reporters as such in July, when the Aggies originally lost their home game against Colorado.
During that same press conference, Yurachek said he would want a return trip to Fayetteville in 2021 if this year's game was moved.
“If that game is moved to College Station, I think it would be fair that we get that return game here in Fayetteville next year and then potentially resume in Dallas for the final two years of that contract,” Yurachek said. “I wouldn’t want to see Texas A&M get a home game this year and for us not to get that return game next year.”
The move became official when the SEC went to a 10-game, conference-only schedule this season, giving each team five home games and five road games.
It wouldn’t have been unprecedented for the two schools to play a home-and-home. After three non-conference games at AT&T Stadium from 2009-11, the series briefly went to that format when Texas A&M joined the conference in 2012.
They played in College Station that year and in Fayetteville in 2013 before returning to Arlington, where they are under contract to play through 2024.
The future of the Southwest Classic beyond the current contract is uncertain.
Bjork has been outspoken about his desire for the game to be permanently moved back on campus and reiterated his opinion during Tuesday’s Aggie Town Hall interview.
“Our plan is to move that game back to campus after the ’24 contract is expired,” Bjork said. “We think this game deserves to be on campus. It’s an SEC game. We need to play as many of those games on our campus as possible.”
Yurachek has never come out and explicitly given his opinion on the game, but he has to tread carefully because AT&T Stadium - and the Dallas Cowboys who call it home - are owned by Jerry Jones.
A member of the Razorbacks' 1964 national championship team, Jones is arguably the school's most famous booster. He has donated millions of dollars to the program, with his and his wife's names on Arkansas' Student-Athlete Success Center.
“Obviously, we have a relationship with the Jones family here,” Yurachek said in July. “They’re very supportive of that game, they own that venue, so (Bjork’s) feelings on that may be slightly different than mine.”