Schools would have more flexibility in rescheduling games
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.”
COACHING CAROUSEL CLIPS
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.
NMfishbowl.com, 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.
FAUX PAS OF THE WEEK
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.