Nicholas Petrone, Director of Athletic Communications
LITTLE ROCK – As part of Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Championship Day on the weekend of March 13-14, Hendrix will make the 30-minute drive south to Little Rock to face an East Division opponent at War Memorial Stadium, Warriors head coach Buck Buchanan announced Friday. SAA Championship Day, organized by Buchanan and stadium event manager Rick Tilley, will feature four contests, with each pitting a West Division team against one from the East Division based on order of finish from the regular season. SAA Championship Day will mark the first time in the illustrious 70-plus year history of the historic venue that any NCAA Division III team will play a game on its grounds.
“We are grateful to the War Memorial board, the Governor’s office and the state of Arkansas for being willing to be the host for our conference championship and crossover event,” Buchanan said. “This is an opportunity to add the schools from the SAA to the list of storied programs that have played at War Memorial Stadium. This event may be the first time any of us play in front of fans all year, so this will be extra special for our players, and it will be a very special send off for all the seniors in our league. Our student-athletes deserve to have some good things happen for them this year, and it is my hope that people will come out and watch live college football in March.”
During the four-game SAA regular season starting Feb. 6, all West Division teams will play each other, while all East Division squads will square off. Sewanee (Tenn.) has opted out of the spring season and will not compete in the March event. The top team from the West Division and top finisher from the East Division will play in the 2020-21 SAA championship game. The NCAA announced in August that no traditional fall sports will crown a national champion in 2020-21.
War Memorial Stadium has played host to major college football games, concerts and events for more than 70 years. The stadium has gone through several renovations since opening in 1948.
War Memorial Stadium opened with an original seating capacity of around 31,000. Expansion has seen the stadium’s capacity grow to 54,120, but fan attendance March 13-14 will be limited to just 25 percent capacity (13,530) due to COVID-19 safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The once-open areas on the north and south sides of the stadium have been closed with additional seating. Concession stands and restrooms have been renovated. The press box, once voted the best in the country, was torn down, rebuilt, and reopened in 2010 as part of a $7.3 million renovation that features a new, three-story press box and major improvements in club seating.
War Memorial Stadium was dedicated as a tribute to Arkansans who had given their lives in the service of their country during the two great World Wars. The Sturgis Plaza opened in 2008 on the northwest side of the stadium as a place of remembrance and reflection. The plaza was the centerpiece of the celebration of War Memorial Stadium’s 60th anniversary and rededication.
The stadium’s first event in 1948 was a Razorbacks football game, and War Memorial Stadium has since hosted more than 200 Arkansas contests. The stadium’s tailgating atmosphere is one of the best in college sports, expanding west to the War Memorial Golf Course.
Arkansas, Arkansas State, Central Arkansas, Arkansas Pine Bluff and multiple NCAA Division II teams from the Gulf South Conference have all played games at War Memorial Stadium.
Even though the Warriors will make their first trip to War Memorial Stadium in program history, 10 current Hendrix players have already played at the venue while in high school. War Memorial Stadium is the home of the Arkansas Activities Association high school state football championship games, and six Warriors on this year’s roster – Matthew Scirto, Eli Martin, Kevin Douglas, Matthew Bennett, Will Sewell and Garrett Pritchard – played in such contests. Scirto’s Har-Ber Wildcats appeared in the 7A championship game in 2015, while Martin and Douglas won 6A titles in consecutive seasons (2017-18) with the Greenwood Bulldogs. Sewell and Pritchard won the 5A championship with Pulaski Academy for three-consecutive seasons (2015-17) before losing to Bennett and Little Rock Christian Academy in 2018. Bennett also played in the title game in 2019. Caleb Sanders played home games at War Memorial Stadium while attending Catholic, while Joshua Cole and Tanner Barrett were on the opposite sideline with Little Rock Central. Tristan Sehika, while a student at Bryant, played at War Memorial Stadium in “The Salt Bowl” against rival Benton.
Sports are not the only events to make history at War Memorial Stadium. Concerts such as the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel and Elton John, The Eagles, George Strait and N’ Sync have graced the stage at the stadium, drawing tens of thousands of fans for each show. In 2017, big concerts returned to War Memorial Stadium when Guns N’ Roses played to some 25,000 music lovers.
Hendrix returns nine projected starters on each side of the ball this season and opens its campaign Feb. 6 at Millsaps (Miss.).
|March 13-14||#4-seed West vs. #4-seed East||TBA||Little Rock, Ark.||War Memorial Stadium|
|March 13-14||#3-seed West vs. #3-seed East||TBA||Little Rock, Ark.||War Memorial Stadium|
|March 13-14||#2-seed West vs. #2-seed East||TBA||Little Rock, Ark.||War Memorial Stadium|
|March 13-14||#1-seed West vs. #1-seed East (championship)||TBA||Little Rock, Ark.||War Memorial Stadium|