Schools would have more flex­i­bil­ity in reschedul­ing games

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - Dan Wolken FOL­LOW RE­PORTER DAN WOLKEN @DanWolken for break­ing news and in­sight on col­lege sports.

Colum­nist Dan Wolken says Hur­ri­canes Har­vey and Irma might help push for two bye weeks each sea­son

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 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 Mem­phisUCF 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.”

Mem­phis and UCF man­aged to resched­ule for Sept. 30, the schools an­nounced Thurs­day evening. But that move will re­quire other sched­ul­ing gym­nas­tics. Mem­phis was sup­posed to play at Ge­or­gia State on Sept. 30, and UCF was to host Maine. To make it hap­pen, the AAC will pay the buy­out for those non-con­fer­ence games.

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 open up the chess­board to pos­si­bly move more pieces — which seems like a good idea if you’re in­clined to be­lieve that cli­mate changes will fuel more ex­treme weather events.

“It cre­ates a whole snow­ball ef­fect when you only have one bye to get it lined up,” Bowen said. “My col­leagues in our con­fer­ence are go­ing to talk about it in our meet­ings in Novem­ber. The ma­jor­ity of games are played in out­door sta­di­ums, and when dan­ger­ous in­clement weather hap­pens it re­ally af­fects foot­ball. You’ll see us ask­ing that as a con­fer­ence, be­cause we have five uni­ver­si­ties af­fected by Har­vey and Irma and last year we had two schools af­fected. So it’s two sea­sons we’ve had this dy­namic. We’re go­ing to have dis­cus­sions with Com­mis­sioner (Mike) Aresco. What are the pos­si­bil­i­ties here to give some flex­i­bil­ity to resched­ule? That’s a good con­ver­sa­tion to have.”


The sit­u­a­tion at New Mex­ico, where Bob Davie is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for mis­treat­ing play­ers, is worth watch­ing be­cause it’s one of sev­eral messes that will have to be cleaned up by in­com­ing athletics di­rec­tor Ed­die Nunez, who was hired Aug. 31.

For­mer athletics di­rec­tor Paul Krebs, whose exit of­fi­cially was an­nounced in June as a re­tire­ment, over­saw an athletics depart­ment that was awash in mis­man­age­ment and scan­dal over al­le­ga­tions that he mis­used more than $65,000 in pub­lic money to pay for athletics depart­ment of­fi­cials and boost­ers to play golf in Scot­land (in vi­o­la­tion of state law) and then didn’t fully dis­close it to the univer­sity.

Mean­while, the school an­nounced in July — af­ter lo­cal re­porters be­gan dig­ging around — that it had dis­cov­ered $432,000 in un­col­lected pay­ments on suites at its bas­ket­ball arena.

“(Krebs) just stopped work­ing,” said one per­son fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter. That per­son also told USA TO­DAY Sports that Krebs, on his way out the door, gave mul­ti­year con­tracts to two of his top deputies — a sig­nif­i­cant breach of pro­to­col pre­ced­ing an ad­min­is­tra­tive change.

NM­fish­, an in­de­pen­dent web­site that does in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing on the Lo­bos athletics depart­ment, re­ported Wed­nes­day that the probe into Davie be­gan af­ter the lat­est round of ath­lete exit in­ter­views con­ducted over the spring.

The per­son with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion told USA TO­DAY Sports that Nunez, pre­vi­ously the deputy athletics di­rec­tor at LSU, was not in­formed of the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Davie when he took the job. But now it could very well be his job to over­see the house­clean­ing of a depart­ment badly in need of pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

Though Davie has taken New Mex­ico to bowl games each of the last two years, in­clud­ing a ninewin sea­son in 2016, don’t be sur­prised if this in­ves­ti­ga­tion lingers and sig­nif­i­cantly im­pacts the di­rec­tion of the pro­gram.


In a world full of in­sin­cere apolo­gies and un­nec­es­sary back­track­ing, Ok­la­homa quar­ter­back Baker May­field prob­a­bly gen­er­ated more back­lash over his apol­ogy for plant­ing the Sooner flag at Ohio Sta­dium than the act it­self.

“It was an emo­tional game, so af­ter the game I did not mean for it to be dis­re­spect­ful to­wards any Ohio State peo­ple at all, es­pe­cially not the team or the play­ers, be­cause they’re a great team and a great pro­gram,” May­field told re­porters in a video tweeted out by Ok­la­homa’s of­fi­cial ac­count. “I didn’t mean it to be dis­re­spect­ful at all. We do the flag thing at OUTexas, and so that’s just some­thing I got caught up in an emo­tional win, and yeah, it should have been some­thing I did in the locker room, so I apol­o­gize for do­ing it in the mid­dle of the field.”

No, Baker, you did what was au­then­tic — and most peo­ple loved it. There was no need to apol­o­gize. Was there even out­rage over this among Ohio State fans? You won, so you get to cel­e­brate how you want. Next time, don’t apol­o­gize.


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