The Arkansas Razorbacks will play only one game in Little Rock through the 2018 season, the university's football program announced Tuesday.
The athletic department and the War Memorial Stadium Commission amended a contract that was to have expired at the end of the 2016 season. That agreement had the Razorbacks playing twice per season in Little Rock.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said the team needs more flexibility in scheduling and said the Razorbacks were looking at four or five consecutive weeks without being in Fayetteville next season. Long said he needed "creative solutions going forward."
The lengthy gap between games at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, which has a capacity of 72,000, would put pressure on various school and community groups, limit the selection of games for homecoming and cause other disruptions, Long said.
The Southeastern Conference schedule isn't set beyond 2015, and Long noted, the league is considering going from eight to nine SEC games per season.
"The (new) agreement will allow us that flexibility," Long said.
Next season, Arkansas will take on Georgia at War Memorial Stadium on Oct. 18. Commission Chairman Kevin Crass said he expects the stadium to be packed, particularly considering that the Bulldogs haven't played in Little Rock before.
Long would not commit to having only SEC opponents play in Little Rock for the following years of the contract. He said War Memorial Stadium, which seats 54,000 people, should be full whether Arkansas plays an SEC team or an opponent from another conference.
But the fans will have to wait to learn which team the Razorbacks will be playing in 2015 and beyond in Little Rock.
"I think we'll make that decision on a yearly basis," Long said.
Last Saturday, Arkansas lost its seventh game in a row, falling to Mississippi State in overtime at War Memorial in front of only 45,000 fans.
"Anytime we don't have fan attendance, that's problematic," Long said.
The school is to pay the Little Rock stadium $400,000 in each of the coming three years — $1.2 million overall — which the university said will help offset the money War Memorial Stadium will lose without the second game and pay down debt from a recent renovation.
Arkansas won't, however, pay a rental fee for the 2017 and 2018 games; it has been paying $75,000 per game in stadium rental. Long said Arkansas would pick up between $900,000 and $1 million in revenue by adding a game in Fayetteville.
Crass said the agreement is a good one because it extended the university's commitment by two years to 2018, enabling the stadium to lock in advertising and other contracts.
The commission will have to find new revenue sources once the UA's payments stop after 2016, Crass said, noting, "We'll have some work to do."