The Southern Arkansas University Muleriders and the Ouachita Baptist University Tigers will take to the field at Memorial Stadium in El Dorado at 2 p.m. Nov. 4, for a Great American Conference game to decide who takes home the 2017 Murphy USA Classic trophy.
“The Murphy USA Classic offers a one-of-a-kind game day experience, bringing two teams together in a town filled with plenty of alumni from both schools,” John Thomas Shepherd, game chairman, said during a luncheon in El Dorado Tuesday. “We are thrilled to welcome both of these outstanding teams, along with their fans.”
Shepherd said the college football game will be the centerpiece of a weekend of football activities for students, alumni and fans from around the state.
As title sponsor, Murphy USA’s involvement has helped transform the game into an expansive tailgating event, bringing together each school’s alumni presence in an afternoon of football revelry as the two GAC rivals prepare to meet on the gridiron, Shepherd said. Tailgating activities are expected to begin around 11 a.m. on the grounds of Memorial Stadium and Fifth Street.
SAU and OBU faced off in the 2015 Classic, with the Muleriders taking the win 32-28. This year is expected to bring another exciting matchup, with the Tigers (7-4, 2016) coming off their ninth-straight winning season, and the Muleriders (9-3, 2016) as the GAC’s pre-season favorite for 2017, Shepherd said.
Guests attending the luncheon included Dr. Trey Berry, president of SAU; Don Miller, director of category management at Murphy USA; David Sharp, OBU
athletic director; Steve Browning, athletic director at SAU; Jim Tucker, superintendent of the El Dorado School District; Phillip Lansdell, athletic director for the ESD; Billy Blann, El Dorado alderman; Rob Reynolds, chairman of El Dorado Works; Mary Pat Anthony, a member of the OBU board of trustees; El Dorado Fire Chief Chad Mosby and Representative Matthew Shepherd.
The first match-up (then called the Boomtown Classic) between two college teams in El Dorado occurred Nov. 7, 2009, when the Muleriders played the University of Arkansas at Monticello Boll Weevils. This year’s game will be the seventh Classic game in El Dorado for SAU and the third for OBU. SAU will be the home team.
Shepherd said seven Great American Conference football players who participated in the Murphy USA Classic in El Dorado went on to sign National Football League contracts and two GAC teams who played in El Dorado were conference champions.
OBU now has three or four team members from El Dorado, including Lucas Reed, son of El Dorado Wildcat Head Football Coach Scott Reed and Hugh Goodwin Elementary Principal Connie Reed, Sharp said.
He also mentioned that SAU is one of the best teams in the conference and the Muleriders are expected to win the conference title this season, under Head Football Coach Bill Keopple. “SAU will be a formidable opponent,” Sharp said, explaining that four Arkansas teams – SAU, OBU, UAM and Henderson State University – are some of the best teams in the GAC.
“We are excited to promote our city by bringing the college football experience to El Dorado for our young people,” Miller said. “The last few years (of the Murphy USA Classic) have gone down to the wire,” Miller said, encouraging local and area residents to bring their families to the game and tailgating.
“This is a great event and we feel right at home in El Dorado,” Berry said, thanking Murphy USA for their support of SAU on the school’s campus – in the engineering department, along with softball and football programs. He said there are about 2,000 alumni of SAU in Union County and the school now has 400 students from Union County. “Come out for what we call ‘mulegating’,” Berry said with a smile.
“This is not only about bragging rights, but also about bringing college football to El Dorado in a family atmosphere,” Browning said. “Both teams will be ready to play” on Nov. 4.
Shepherd said the Murphy USA Classic Committee is still accepting sponsorships and those interested can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Carol McDade or Clark Hale at The Diamond Agency.
Tickets for the Nov. 4 game will be available at select Murphy USA gas stations throughout the region. For more information, follow the Murphy USA Classic on Facebook at facebook.com/boomtownclassic.