Re­cent storms help make case for ex­tra bye week

The Signal - - USA TODAY SPORTS - Dan Wolken dwolken@us­ato­day.com USA TO­DAY Sports

At the NCAA’s an­nual con­ven­tion in Jan­uary, the top leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee for Di­vi­sion I floated the idea of a 14-week col­lege foot­ball cal­en­dar, which would have the prac­ti­cal ef­fect of putting two bye weeks into the sched­ule for every team in the coun­try.

Like every po­ten­tial sig­nif­i­cant change, it has gone through the pol­icy wringer over the en­su­ing months with var­i­ous sub­com­mit­tees dis­cussing pos­i­tives and po­ten­tial un­in­tended con­se­quences, in­clud­ing whether that might push pre­sea­son prac­tice back into July (some­thing many coaches and prob­a­bly some con­fer­ence of­fi­cials would be against).

While the ini­tial push for a 14week cal­en­dar was rooted in build­ing in ex­tra re­cov­ery time for play­ers dur­ing the grind of a long sea­son, the ex­treme weather events that have wreaked havoc with games over the last two weeks have brought a sec­ond pos­si­ble ben­e­fit into fo­cus: more flex­i­bil­ity to resched­ule games that get can­celed.

“The pro­posal was re­ally di­rected for health and safety,” said North­west­ern ath­let­ics di­rec­tor Jim Phillips, who chaired the D-I coun­cil un­til ro­tat­ing off ear­lier this year. “But af­ter wit­ness­ing how Mother Na­ture can re­ally cause is­sues — light­ning strikes, hur­ri­canes, travel is­sues — an ad­di­tional week might take some pres­sure off and give flex­i­bil­ity for these types of (oc­cur­rences).”

Though this isn’t the first time hur­ri­canes and other forms of ex­treme weather have im­pacted col­lege foot­ball sched­ules — LSU has had a game can­celed, moved or resched­uled for three con­sec­u­tive years — the dis­rup­tions caused by Hur­ri­canes Har­vey and Irma have been mas­sive.

Eight games have been can­celed to date, in­clud­ing sev­eral key matchups in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence. Mean­while, Florida State-Miami was moved to Oct. 7, which was only pos­si­ble be­cause they shared an open date.

Though hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery ob­vi­ously is a higher pri­or­ity than play­ing a full 12-game foot­ball sea­son, there is typ­i­cally a de­sire for ad­min­is­tra­tors to try to resched­ule games be­cause of the lost rev­enue both for their ath­let­ics department and lo­cal busi­nesses that plan around col­lege foot­ball games bring­ing in thou­sands of vis­i­tors.

And in the case of the AAC, can­cel­ing a game such as Mem­phis-UCF with­out the abil­ity to make it up could sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact con­fer­ence ti­tle races and post­sea­son op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Mem­phis, in fact, got on a plane the night of Sept. 7 with the in­ten­tion of play­ing at UCF last Fri­day, landed in Or­lando, then turned around and headed home af­ter Florida Gov. Rick Scott closed all pub­lic col­leges in prepa­ra­tion for Irma.

“I’ve been work­ing with the con­fer­ence since last Fri­day to fig­ure out how to resched­ule ev­ery­thing and be­cause foot­ball sea­son doesn’t have a lot of flex­i­bil­ity,” Mem­phis ath­let­ics di­rec­tor Tom Bowen said. “A sec­ond bye week would al­low the en­tire FBS con­fer­ences, in my opin­ion, to deal with the un­in­tended con­se­quences of weather, act of God or act of gov­ern­ment. Right now, the way it works is you have one bye week, and it’s hard — al­most im­pos­si­ble now in our case — with­out can­cel­ing another op­po­nent or re­mov­ing a non-con­fer­ence op­po­nent, which isn’t fair to another con­trac­tual agree­ment made years ago with another in­sti­tu­tion.”

It’s un­clear whether Mem­phisUCF will be played, though there is a po­ten­tial win­dow Sept. 30 when Mem­phis is sched­uled to play at Georgia State and UCF hosts Maine. Mak­ing it hap­pen, though, would re­quire both schools buy­ing out of their non­con­fer­ence games and po­ten­tially per­form­ing other sched­ul­ing gym­nas­tics down the road.

And that would be one of the eas­ier moves, rel­a­tively speak­ing, if the goal was to resched­ule as many games as pos­si­ble. Thurs­day morn­ing, the AAC an­nounced South Florida-Con­necti­cut, which was sup­posed to be last week­end, will move to Nov. 4. But to make that hap­pen, Hous­ton had to move its homecoming game against East Carolina a week later to Nov. 4 and in­stead go to USF the week be­fore.

Though putting in a sec­ond bye week wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily solve the is­sue, it would at least ope up the chess­board to pos­sibl move more pieces — which seem like a good idea if you’re in­cline to be­lieve that cli­mate change will fuel more ex­treme weathe events.

“It creates a whole snow­ball ef fect when you only have one by to get it lined up,” Bowen said “My col­leagues in our con­fer­enc are go­ing to talk about it in ou meet­ings in Novem­ber. The ma jor­ity of games are played in out door sta­di­ums, and whe danger­ous in­clement weathe hap­pens it re­ally af­fects foot­bal You’ll see us ask­ing that as a con fer­ence, be­cause we have five un ver­si­ties af­fected by Har­vey an Irma and last year we had tw schools af­fected. So it’s two sea sons we’ve had this dy­namic We’re go­ing to have dis­cus­sion with Com­mis­sioner (Mike) Ares co. What are the pos­si­bil­i­ties her to give some flex­i­bil­ity to re sched­ule? That’s a good con­versa tion to have.”

JERRY LAI, USA TO­DAY SPOR

North­west­ern AD Jim Phillip also cited health and safety.

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