Weathering The Storms

May 31, 2006

By Adam Caparell


Adam is's football editor and national football writer.
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The NCAA's decision to allow Division I-A teams to play a 12-game schedule may be good news for fans, but it could be a nightmare for many schools and administrators around the country if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate.


And odds are she won't.


The National Hurricane Center forecasted two weeks ago another long and busy storm season. A record 28 storms were named last year. Fifteen developed into hurricanes and four made landfall in the Southeastern US. With the new 12-game schedule in a 13-week regular season, it's a distinct possibility games could be lost altogether because of severe weather.


"With 12 games, it's entirely possible if some of theses games are canceled because of hurricanes, you're really looking at [not rescheduling] them," Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters said.


The adoption of the 12-game schedule has meant the forfeiture of an extra bye week, or in some cases two, that teams have been accustomed to. The likelihood now of two teams having a corresponding open date during the season's final weeks is remote at best.


"With 12 games in 13 weeks you really have no flexibility to reschedule a game," Mike Finn, ACC Assistant Commissioner of Football, said. "There are very few instances where both teams have a weekend open."


For conferences with a few or all of their members in potential hurricane danger zones -- like the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Conference USA, SEC and Sun Belt -- schedule flexibility and severe weather has been a hot topic of discussion.


Many have already mapped out specific contingency plans if games are canceled. C-USA has asked members to submit catastrophe plans and has asked that they be kept in the loop when it comes to the rescheduling of any games. The ACC has its own set of guidelines.


"All of our schools are vulnerable to something like this," Finn said. "Our ADs wanted to put together a policy which would emphasize the importance of playing the game, getting it rescheduling and gave several different priorities."


Finn said the conference has four options in rescheduling games.


First, the ACC would look at trying to reschedule the game at the same site at another date. Last year's Georgia Tech-Miami game that was canceled because of Hurricane Wilma in October was rescheduled for Nov. 19 when both teams luckily had an open date. In the 12-team league this year, only Clemson and Virginia have an open date in November, but on different weeks.


The ACC's second option would be to reschedule for a date at a neutral site that made sense for the home team. The third option would be to reschedule a contest for its championship weekend, but only if the outcome has no bearing on the championship picture. The fourth option -- that they hope to avoid at all costs -- would be to try and play a game at the site of the visiting team. LSU, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year, opted to play its game against Arizona State -- originally scheduled for Baton Rouge -- in Tempe.


"We understand the motivation [behind the 12-game schedule]," Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson said. "It's a push for more revenues. The major concern going on nationally is expenditures are tripling over the past decade and revenues have increased by about a third of that. So you're looking to every avenue as to identify additional resources. Of course one of the biggest single events you can do is a college football game."


The financial impact of cancelled games could be staggering. Schools stand to lose millions from lost ticket sales. There are traveling expenses for road teams that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars along with the lost money from nationally televised games never broadcast.


And the institution of conference championship games presents yet another potential problem.


"We've complicated that for ourselves by nearly everyone going to conference championships," Dickson said. "So we're really doing a 13-game schedule in essence in a limited time frame. It takes away the flexibilities of open dates and a number of other things that we've had an easier time navigating."


Schools and conferences, for the most part, are willing to be whatever is feasibly possible to make sure a canceled game is made up.


"People are going to do everything they can to get the games in," Waters said. "The flexibility of having two or three open dates on the schedule is no longer there."


Expect to see a lot more games moved up a few days in advance or pushed back to avoid cancellation. Miami-Florida State's 2004 meeting, scheduled for Labor Day, was moved to the following Friday because of impending Hurricane Frances. The LSU-Tennessee game last Sept. 24, scheduled for a Saturday, was pushed back to Monday night thanks to Hurricane Rita.


While there's nothing that can really be done except to hope severe weather stays away, Dickson believes several measures should be taken to increase the chances games aren't canceled.


"We need going forward -- just for our own flexibility -- we need to probably start at the earliest possible date and build in an open date just as a precautionary [measure]," Dickson said.


Many feel adding another week to the season is something that should be seriously considered.


"I think whatever's necessary to establish a minimum of a 14-week [schedule]," Dickson said. "We need to have at least minimum flexibility of 14 weeks because it gives you some protection."


"To have that second open date weekend is important for our schools," Finn said.


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