BREAKDOWN - THE ART OF NCAA FOOTBALL SCHEDULING
The Mid-American Conference battles WVU in the
National Championship Race
by Todd Helmick
February 7, 2006 - Dazed and confused
already by who plays who? If so, the best recommendation
may be to put this column down and step away, or else
you just might continue to become even more befuddled.
But with our trusted experience in deciphering the truths
about annual football scheduling, we can genuinely say
that the real underbelly of how competition in Division
I-A comes about might surprise you, to say the least.
NCAA has approved a 12-game schedule now for all Division
I-A football teams. Finding that extra opponent for
many schools like those in the Mid-American Conference
(MAC) has proven to be next to impossible. In the process,
other BCS schools such as West Virginia have fallen
directly in the path of Buffalo. Not in
a herd, but that Buffalo team that has compiled a 10-69
record since rejoining I-A football in 1999. Yes,
that Buffalo team whose new head coach is former Nebraska
starting QB (1981-83) Turner Gill.
you may ask?
Buffalo was slated to play West Virginia next season
(September 9, 2006 in Morgantown), minds change and
so do schedules. Remember, it was only last year that
UCF (formerly MAC members, currently in Conference USA)
contemplated replacing the Mountaineers on their non-conference
schedule. UCF did in fact back out, and WVU had to find
out about it indirectly, via a local newspaper article.
2006, and something strange made our wheels begin to
turn on Friday, February 3. Since the website NationalChamps.net
is one of the only public forums for listing and updating
all 119 Division I-A football schedules this early,
we take great care in being keenly accurate for the
insiders who use us. We knew it was no secret that Auburn
(SEC) was still in need of another non-conference opponent
for 2006, and this past Friday, Auburn’s schedule was
finally revealed, with Buffalo listed as a home date.
Auburn’s schedule unveiling meant that Buffalo now had
five non-conference opponents, one too many.
we called the Buffalo Sports Information Department.
Upon mentioning this fact, we were told that
Auburn had replaced WVU on their schedule. OK, sounds
like no problem, right? So then we called the WVU Athletic
Directors Office to confirm and to see who would replace
Buffalo. The first reaction…”What? No, we still have
Buffalo on our  schedule.” Well, no, they are
evidently dropping you, huh. “You have to be kidding
then it gets better (and by that, of course, we mean
even more confusing).
had confirmed Buffalo had a game with Auburn. We knew
U of B had a game with Boston College, since the ACC
released their full set of official schedules over two
weeks ago. We knew they had games listed with Temple
at home and with WVU and Rutgers on the road. Ergo,
someone had to go.
Temple into the equation as a pivotal player. Yes, Temple…the
team the Big East voted out of their conference just
two years ago. The Owls are now what’s referred to as
an “affiliate” MAC team for 2006. In short, it means
1.) Temple will play six MAC opponents 2.) They will
not be available to play for the MAC Championship 3.)
Their games will not count in the MAC standings, but
4.) They will still be eligible for one of the MAC’s
bowl tie-ins (should a Philadelphia phenomenon happen).
It also means that MAC schools who play Temple are still
required to play a full allotment of eight other in-conference
opponents. So for this campaign, the Owls are still
considered a non-con for Buffalo, and this will be the
only non-conference home game played at Buffalo Stadium.
Temple will become a full-time MAC member in 2007 and
will be placed in the East Division according to MAC
Commissioner Rick Chryst.
further contacts revealed that new Buffalo Athletic
Director Warde Manuel has made it clear that deals signed
for their road games were sub par, financially speaking.
Now his school was looking to drop both WVU and Rutgers
in 2006. These were deals that were made prior to his
arrival in August of 2005. Still, it doesn’t take an
accountant to understand that making a trip to Morgantown
for a guaranteed $300,000 when schools like Auburn are
offering a contract worth up to $750,000 is bad for
was handed down to the MAC that Buffalo wants out of
these old contracts. And who should handle this situation?
MAC Commissioner Rick Chryst of course. Confusingly,
the MAC has since told WVU that the game with Buffalo
is on, while Buffalo’s office will not confirm or (for
that matter) even return calls on the topic, not even
to the WVU people, let alone to spry journalists.
is handling this scheduling issue for WVU? Unfortunately,
not Athletic Director Ed Pastilong. Yes, he is the one
that has to sign any papers, but Deputy Athletic Director
Mike Parsons is handling these negotiations.
Mid-American Conference called our conference (Big East)
office to say the game was still on, but we have still
not heard from Buffalo," said Parsons on Tuesday.
"They still haven't returned our calls, and believe
me, we have tried to reach them multiple times."
us to answer the question since no one else seems to
be able to.
speaking with the Buffalo Sports Information Department
and The Buffalo News, we have concluded that the University
of Buffalo will not be coming to Morgantown in 2006
to play football.
latest scenario from the WVU office is that should Buffalo
back out, other MAC teams such as Ball State could replace
them. If a MAC opponent cannot be found for WVU, Buffalo
can buy out its contract by writing WVU a $200,000 check.
could still be left scrambling for an opponent at the
last minute. And a Division I-AA opponent may be all
that is left if the MAC hangs WVU out to dry. WVU needs
an answer now, not 30 days from now when all the other
unfulfilled schools have completed their schedules.
But who has an opening left?
you wish to catch a glimpse at the inside world of NCAA
football scheduling, you have come to the right place.
After compiling schedules for over seven years now (and
as you can now see through this year’s research), I
have come to realize that NCAA football scheduling is
extremely behind the times. None of the universities
has a system in place (such as ours) that searches out
and lists all other I-A schedules (and subsequent openings).
they have no way of crosschecking other schedules to
find other schools with the same need. They merely base
their scheduling on luck-of-the-draw contact information.
Even more important, why doesn’t the NCAA (as a governing
umbrella organization) provide such a tool for its institutions
(or a link to our site)? This is not rocket science.
Situations like this could easily be fixed internally
by an intern with a few extra hours.
over the next seven months, WVU will find itself sitting
in the top echelons of most preseason polls. Pat Forde,
a writer at ESPN.com has already made a quick jab by
putting WVU as his No. 1. NationalChamps.net isn’t quite
on board to that degree, but (by August) we could easily
peg WVU as a Top 10 team. The Mountaineers are in a
prime position to “run the table” since their current
’06 opponents are not top caliber. Their schedule is
light already with non-cons Marshall, Maryland, East
Carolina and Mississippi State.
addition, the Big East is still in transition due to
ACC expansion and is still considered a weaker BCS conference.
In the end, if WVU is forced to add a Division I-AA
opponent to replace Buffalo at the last minute, the
sentence could be sure BCS death. We can read the writing
on the wall already…it’s big and clear to most of us,
but can the WVU braintrust see this eventuality?
jump ahead to December 3, 2006, the day the BCS releases
its final poll to determine which two teams are No.1
and No.2 and in the title matchup. It is not so-far-fetched
that WVU could be sitting perfect, but the cries that
their schedule was too weak will ring out and true.
Statistically, they will never reach one of those top
two spots. Remember,
we told you here back in February how the cards were
assured, WVU has another option in place for Buffalo
should this MAC transaction fail. They would be stupid
not to. Exactly what that other option is remains a
guarded secret. And why should these issues be put out
in the open air, honestly? After all, it’s not like
the MAC officials could piece it all together with their
communication breakdowns. No one really knows what the
other is doing, from top to bottom.