Arkansas' Pittman hopes to play Texas every year

by Ricardo Gutierrez - Arkansas coach Sam Pittman hopes the Razorbacks can play Texas every year when the Longhorns begin SEC conference play.

Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman hopes to play Texas every year when Longhorns begin SEC competition 4:23 PM ET Chris LowESPN Senior Writer Close College football reporter Joined in 2007 Graduate of the University of Tennessee Grueling schedules have been the norm for Arkansas football and third-year coach Sam Pittman, so he's not concerned about the Hogs' schedule potentially getting even more daunting once the SEC expands with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma . Pittman, entering his third season as coach, told ESPN on Tuesday that he's in favor of Arkansas playing Texas on a yearly basis. Arkansas and Texas were fierce rivals during their old Southwest Conference days and faced off in many memorable matchups. "Personally, I love the rivalry games and would hate, once Texas gets into the league, not to play them every year, for the fans and everybody else," Pittman said. "I'm not calling out Texas. Texas has a great program, and I have high respect for them. I'm just saying for the fans, and obviously for the team because we've got a lot of Texas kids on our team, I think it would be a neat home-and-home each year." Oklahoma and Texas are set to join the SEC for the 2025 season, perhaps even earlier, and the league is discussing a new scheduling format that would eliminate divisions. One of the options is remaining at eight league games and playing one permanent opponent each year and seven rotating opponents. A second option is adding a ninth league game and playing three permanent opponents and six rotating opponents. Editor's Picks Arkansas' Pittman gets new contract through '26 13d Adam Rittenberg What we learned about Georgia, Alabama, LSU and the rest of the SEC this spring 40d Alex Scarborough and Chris Low 2 Related Currently, Arkansas plays in the SEC's Western Division, and its permanent cross-divisional opponent in the Eastern Division is Missouri. Pittman's Hogs beat both Texas and Texas A&M last season, the first time that had happened since 1988, the first of back-to-back Southwest Conference titles for Arkansas. A 3-6 format, in Pittman's opinion, would open the door for more annual rivalry games but also allow the Hogs to keep Missouri on their schedule. "I would want to do that for the state of Arkansas and what it means to so many people here, to be able to play Texas every year," Pittman said. "Now, I'm not saying, 'Man, we want to play Texas.' I'm not saying that. I'm saying -- for the fans, for recruiting, for the tradition of this game and things of that nature -- I would like to play that game every year. But, certainly, I'm not counting out the Longhorns by any stretch." Arkansas finished 9-4 a year ago, the first time it had won nine or more games in a season since 2011. Two weeks after beating Texas 40-21, the Hogs defeated Texas A&M 20-10. It was their first win over the Aggies since A&M joined the SEC in 2012. Pittman last week signed a new contract that will pay him an average of more than $6 million annually. As a first-time head coach, he inherited a program that had lost 19 straight SEC games. The Hogs were 4-4 in the SEC a year ago and 3-7 in 2020, Pittman's first season, when the SEC played a 10-game all-league schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "We were able to renegotiate a contract that really says something about their belief in what we're doing," Pittman said. "I'm very appreciative of that. We have a good football team that understands that loyalty, hard work and toughness is how we win games and that's it. You don't always have to have the best players. You just have to have the best team, and our players are getting better and better, but on Saturday you just have to have the best team. "They're not ranking stars out there. They're ranking who gets the most points at the end of the game, and our kids believe in that." The schedule won't get any easier for Arkansas in 2022. In addition to playing in the SEC West, the Hogs will face Cincinnati , BYU and Liberty in nonconference games. Arkansas and Auburn were the only two SEC West schools to face both Alabama and Georgia each of the past two seasons. "I understand why there's some concern in our league about going to nine [league] games," Pittman said. "You know, I think some people want to play 10, and some are happy with eight and some really good nonconference games. But we've had the hardest schedule in football my first three years here, so we'll play whoever they line up in front of us." In 2022, Arkansas will face five teams ranked in ESPN's latest Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings and a total of 11 teams that played in bowl games last season. "I keep saying that they're trying to run me out of town with these schedules, but the kids and the assistants aren't letting them," Pittman said with a laugh. "We'll be fine at Arkansas with whatever format they come up with. If it's 3-6, it certainly could hit you depending on who your three permanents are. But the models the league gave us, I thought, were very fair because they're taking how you played over the past five and 10 years and setting up your schedule that way. I would imagine after that first four-year cycle, they would go back and readjust who are the top eight teams and who are the bottom eight. I think the league is trying to do everything it possibly can to have a fair schedule for all." Arkansas opens the 2022 season Sept. 3 at home against Cincinnati, which played in the College Football Playoff a year ago. Pittman is fully aware of the heightened expectations when a team goes from 0-19 in the SEC to a nine-win season in two years. "We've got some guys on our team who will have to step it up, and we did go to the transfer portal to help at certain positions," Pittman said. "But winning builds confidence. It just does. And your mind is so powerful that you can do dang near whatever your mind will allow you to do. So winning nine games has helped us. We're so far from cocky or even confident, though. We're just a team that believes in what we do, and that's the way we have a chance to win games. "In the SEC, I don't know that you sneak up on anybody."