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At last, it's happening

It's just a handful of football games. In reality, though, it's much, much more than that.

On Tuesday, Arkansas announced a new agreement for five additional games in Little Rock, and among them are three games against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Arkansas State. The Razorbacks will face UAPB twice, beginning this Oct. 23 and again to open the 2024 season; they'll meet A-State Sept. 6, 2025.

As part of the agreement (UA also announced games with Western Carolina and UAB), Arkansas will move its 2021 and 2023 home games with Missouri back to Fayetteville.

“We are grateful to the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and War Memorial Stadium for working with us to be able to host some historic in-state matchups at War Memorial Stadium, while also allowing us to host Southeastern Conference games on our campus,” Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek said. “The Razorback program belongs to our entire state and as we have shown in many of our sports, it is important that we continue to maintain a presence in Central Arkansas. It is also essential we provide our coaching staff the opportunity to showcase our campus during SEC games to potential student-athletes.”

As the only Power 5 program in the state, Arkansas has long treated its three in-state Division I neighbors with something between callous indifference to outright disdain. Many, including myself, have pushed the Hogs to acknowledge Arkansas State's, UAPB's and Central Arkansas' presence with every-so-often games -- as LSU does with its neighbors, as Texas and Texas A&M do with theirs. The push continually fell on deaf ears, until now.

“I’m happy the two FBS university football team’s in our great state of Arkansas will have an opportunity to participate in a regional matchup at War Memorial Stadium in our capital city of Little Rock,” Arkansas State AD Terry Mohajir said. “As an athletics director, you’re always trying to provide an opportunity for your students and university community to experience an exciting atmosphere. I appreciate Hunter’s willingness to provide those experiences for his school as well.”

Facing Arkansas this fall will be especially helpful for UAPB after missing the 2020 fall season due to the pandemic.

To date, Arkansas has played all of three games against in-state competition. The Razorbacks faced Central Arkansas in 1923 and 1926 and Arkansas A&M (now Arkansas-Monticello, a Division II school) in 1944.

Though the games will be home dates for Arkansas, that they're taking place in Little Rock -- the state's capitol and largest city, located right smack dab in the middle -- is all the more symbolically significant.

No one has ever asked nor expected Arkansas to prop up its lower-profile, lesser-resourced neighbors. All three must stand on their own two feet. But the least Arkansas can do, in scheduling two buy-games year after year, is include A-State, UAPB and UCA in the rotation, to throw them the occasional bone they toss other Group of 5 and FCS schools' way, to acknowledge they exist.

At last, it's finally happened.