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Cordelli says Hogs vs. Irish special

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Photographs by Jason Ivester

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema walks the sideline during a game against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Other than Lou Holtz, nobody brings insight like Pete Cordelli into this first-time Arkansas vs. Notre Dame football home-and-home series.

It recently was announced that in 2020 the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will host the Razorbacks in their first football meeting in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame in 2025 completes the home and home at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville's Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Holtz coached the Razorbacks from 1977-1983 and coached the Fighting Irish from 1986-1996. He also served as a network TV college football analyst.

Cordelli had two Arkansas years, 1977 and 1978, as a graduate assistant and returned full time as receivers coach in 1983. He assisted Holtz from 1986-1990 at Notre Dame before landing the head coaching gig at Kent State.

Now retired, Cordelli has extensive media experience as a sports talk radio host in Memphis. He didn't shy away from the fact the seat is sizzling under Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly coming off a 4-8 season, and he knows some Arkansas natives are restless after Coach Bret Bielema's 7-6 Razorbacks closed 2016 by blowing 24-7 and 24-0 halftime leads.

"Who are going to be the coaches in 2020 and who are going to be the ADs?" Cordelli asked rhetorically, noting football coaching heat can torch athletic directors, too.

Cordelli said he believes both "can turn it around, and I hope both coaches do turn it around."

If one doesn't, Cordelli says Louisiana Tech Coach Skip Holtz, the son of Lou Holtz, would be a good candidate for either program.

"Skip is doing a great job at Louisiana Tech," Cordelli said. "And he grew up going to Fayetteville High School. And at Notre Dame, Skip played there and coached there. So he's got a connection to both schools that's pretty strong."

Cordelli said the traditions of Notre Dame and Arkansas make it a huge game.

"The Arkansas fans, man, they are some of the best fans in the country," Cordelli said. "And the Notre Dame fans are also some of the best. So I like the matchup because of the history of both programs."

Notre Dame's history as the nation's most chronicled college football team since Knute Rockne coached the Fighting Irish from 1918-1930 speaks for itself.

But Cordelli said never discount what retired Arkansas athletic director and coach Frank Broyles built at Arkansas with its fervent fan base.

Even with sacrificial lamb New Mexico State as the opponent, Cordelli -- who had played for Holtz at North Carolina State -- said he still gets goosebumps recalling the War Memorial Stadium crowd when Holtz's 1977 Razorbacks debuted in Little Rock.

"When they brought the hog around on the trailer and went around the stadium, I had never heard how loud they were," Cordelli said. "It was like, man, this is college football."

Sports on 07/15/2017

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