University of Central Arkansas announced Monday it has added its seventh game in eight days, scheduling defending FCS national champion North Dakota State in Fargo, N.D., on Oct. 3.
This will be the first of a three-game series, with UCA traveling again to North Dakota State in 2023 and the Bears hosting in 2025.
The matchup brings UCA's 2020 schedule to nine games -- the most of any FCS school that intends to play at least one game this fall, which is currently only 14 programs because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite this, UCA has announced its intention to play as many games this fall as it can and opt out of the spring football season that its Southland Conference peers plan to hold.
The latest addition enhances the difficulty of UCA's schedule.
"To go up there and be their only game -- they're playing only one game this year to honor their seniors -- for them to want us to be that game and then also be able to compete against what should be the best at our level is exciting," UCA Athletic Director Brad Teague said. "And a lot of credit has to go to Coach [Nathan] Brown, who has said yes to every opportunity to play."
UCA was ranked No. 11 and North Dakota State No. 1 in Athlon Sports' preseason poll. The Bison have won seven of the past eight FCS national championships, including the last three.
Brown, who is entering his third season as the UCA head coach, knows the type of recognition this game will bring to his program.
"What a great opportunity for our program to get to play a team and a university like North Dakota State," he said in a statement. "This has been a whirlwind with the way the season has happened and the decisions to not play by a lot of conferences and schools. One thing I do know is we were willing to play North Dakota State from the start and I am glad it is going to work out in the end."
Teague, who has put together the nine-game schedule in virtually two weeks after the Southland Conference postponed fall sports Aug. 13, said his game plan has been "to find proximity games where we don't eat up a guarantee in plane costs." Although North Dakota State didn't fit that criteria, as the other eight have, the Bison agreed to pay UCA $100,000 to cover travel expenses, making the trip easier for the Bears.
Now the question becomes will UCA try to schedule two more games for a full schedule. Teague said he's still receiving calls from other FBS and FCS programs.
"If we could get a home game in that last two games, we would," Teague said. "We certainly could play 11, and we'd have two home games and nine road games. For now, I think we're going to pause and see what happens.
"We could have played 11 guaranteed road games against Conference USA and Sun Belt. There was a lot of interest out there when the Power 5s canceled their seasons or decided to only play conference games."
While UCA's three FBS games against UAB, Arkansas State University and Louisiana-Lafayette will be quality tests, its trip to North Dakota State on Oct. 3 will be circled on the calendar.
"We want to be where they are," Brown said. "They have been not only the best program at the FCS level the past decade-plus, but also in the nation regardless of level. It will be an opportunity to go against the best and see where we are as a program."
vs. Austin Peay (Montgomery, Ala.) Aug. 29
at UAB Sept. 3
at Arkansas State Sept. 19
vs. Missouri St. Sept. 26
at North Dakota State Oct. 3
at Eastern Kentucky Oct. 10
at Missouri St. Oct. 17
vs. Eastern Kentucky Oct. 31
at Louisiana-Lafayette Nov. 21