Texas A&M, Arkansas to renew football rivalry at new Cowboys stadium
08:26 PM CDT on Monday, March 10, 2008
ARLINGTON – Texas A&M and Arkansas are the newest long-term tenants of the Dallas Cowboys' burgeoning new $1.1 billion stadium.
The tradition-rich schools and former Southwest Conference rivals plan on settling in and building a new custom, similar perhaps to the annual Texas-Oklahoma showdown at the Cotton Bowl.
The renewed football rivalry will begin Oct. 3, 2009, the first game of an initial 10-year contract. But the schools can pick up five four-year options that could extend the series to a 30-year deal.
"We'd like to be here forever," A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said.
Wearing hard hats and orange safety vests, school officials – including Aggies coach Mike Sherman and Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino – joined Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in announcing the deal inside the under-construction stadium Monday morning.
"This stadium can be home to great games," said Jones, a former Arkansas player. "It's a thrill to have schools that are as closely aligned – and certainly the school that is my alma mater – to come in here and initiate what this stadium can do."
Each school stands to make a base of $5 million annually from the game, Byrne said. That number could grow with future sponsorships. Ticket prices have not been determined. A&M typically makes $3.5 million from a home game in College Station.
The Cowboys will charge the home team just $100 rent each year.
"The Cowboys have been very, very helpful," said Byrne, who has been in negotiations on the deal with former Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, new AD Jeff Long and the Cowboys for about a year. "They wanted this game. It's a good deal."
Byrne said the schools will use the Texas-Oklahoma game – played in the midst of the State Fair at Fair Park – as a gauge for prices. Although down I-30 in Arlington, Byrne said the goal would be to target the Arkansas-A&M game for the first week of the State Fair.
The massive new stadium will feature Razorbacks and Aggies seating zones, and tickets will be split 50-50.
The games will be televised according to which school is designated the home team. The Southeastern Conference is contracted with CBS, the Big 12 with ABC/ESPN. Arkansas will be the home team in odd years, A&M in even years.
Jones said the Cowboys hope to attract another college game in the future, but he didn't provide details.
The stadium has already landed the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, which is moving from Fair Park beginning in 2010.
"While we clearly would have liked to have seen the A&M-Arkansas rivalry played out in Fair Park," Dallas mayor Tom Leppert said in a statement, "we are glad to see the game being played here in the North Texas region. Meanwhile, we continue to have discussions with other schools to bring new events to the Cotton Bowl."
Arkansas and A&M last played in 1991 before the Razorbacks left the SWC for the SEC.
Officials from both schools touted recruiting and exposure as benefits of playing in the Dallas area, along with their large fan bases in North Texas.
"It's a new tradition," Long said, "we hope will last a long, long time."