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Should College Football Teams Get Extra Bye Week?

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USA TODAY

 

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 14-week 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 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."

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."

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September 15, 2017
 
 
 

 

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