With the Carolinas and Virginia coast currently bracing for Hurricane Florence, athletics directors up and down the coast will have to get their student-athletes, their staffs and their families prepared for the storm while also attending to the complicated matter of a cancelled football game.
One of those matters is this: what do you do about the lost football game?
In the vast majority of cases where simply moving the scheduled game to a different date isn’t feasible, the athletics director and his staff will have to find a new opponent on extremely short notice. Some ADs schedule games a dozen years in advance; these unlucky ADs won’t even have a dozen weeks. And as Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard can testify, the actual process of rescheduling the game is even more difficult than it sounds.
Iowa State’s opener with South Dakota State was washed out on the night of Sept. 1, and a simple tit-for-tat rescheduling wasn’t in the works. Iowa State’s bye week is Oct. 20; South Dakota State’s is Sept. 22.
So Pollard lined up Drake, an FCS program in Des Moines, Iowa, less than 40 miles south of Ames. The game was to be played Dec. 1, and both athletics directors agreed to the game, but the NCAA’s Football Issues Oversight Committee nixed the game because Drake is a non-scholarship program.
“They just decided that they wouldn’t approve that wavier because it wouldn’t be fair to all the other schools that we were going to try to count a win against a non-scholarship football program,” Pollard said on Iowa State’s coaches radio show, via the Des Moines Register.
Iowa State’s staff found 19 FCS programs with Oct. 20 byes, but the NCAA nixed any and all of those possibilities, because it would change the strength of schedule calculation the NCAA uses to fill the FCS playoffs bracket.
(The natural question, then, is why couldn’t Iowa State schedule an FCS opponent and exclude the game from the FCS team’s strength of schedule calculation? Then again, how many FCS teams are willing to sign up for a paycheck game on short notice just for the thrill of it?)
With those obstacles stated, it may seem simpler to just punt on adding a 12th game and play an 11-game season. But it isn’t that easy. Iowa State planned on, and budgeted around, hosting seven home games. Dropping to six would have an impact on the Cyclones’ finances and the overall Ames economy.
There’s also a practical issue: Iowa State needs wins. The Cyclones would like to build on last year’s 8-5 campaign, but the South Dakota State cancellation plus last week’s loss to Iowa finds the team at 0-1 with No. 5 Oklahoma coming to Ames on Saturday. If the schedule remains as it looks right now, Iowa State would need to go 6-3 over the rest of the season to reach a bowl game, assuming a loss to OU. Add an FCS opponent and the equation changes.
Those are the issues at Iowa State. Nebraska is currently working through the same problem and now, a number of schools across the mid-Atlantic are getting in line, too.