College football has been secondary to those in the Sunshine State as Hurricane Irma approaches the Florida coast but is still quite a bit of debate outside the area over whether or not to play games this weekend in advance of the front hitting.
While games like Miami’s trip to Arkansas State were cancelled early in the week, Thursday brought word that the remaining games on the schedule were not going to be played as campuses were officially closed by state officials. That does not mean that schools involved explored all avenues to get the games in though, and that was certainly the case in Gainesville as the Gators attempted to play their home opener with Northern Colorado before eventually cancelling the whole thing.
Among the options considered? Long time local columnist Pat Dooley says an empty Swamp was initially considered by the school in order to play the contest without putting too much of a burden on state and local authorities.
Perhaps the more intriguing idea was moving the game elsewhere, as FIU did with their game against Alcorn State, which is being played in Birmingham, Ala. on Friday. While Florida has not played on the Plains since 2011, one option for the team to go was apparently at SEC rival Auburn.
“We’ve had different conversations with people calling asking could they come here and just be here and practice,” Tigers AD Jay Jacobs said on the Tiger Talk radio program Thursday, according to AL.com. “University of Florida contacted me earlier this week, (athletic director) Scott Stricklin, about maybe them playing their game here on Saturday. But they decided, and rightfully so, instead of playing of bringing Northern Colorado this side of the country and probably the issue of possibly getting them back home, they actually canceled the game.”
As Jacobs alludes, it was the right decision for UF to go ahead and cancel the game instead of trying to play it, but the team certainly made a few calls early in the week to at least figure out a few possibilities if Irma was going to take a different track.
Iowa football finished just 8-5 last season but their biggest win for the school might have been at the box office.
A $4 million boost in ticket sales for the Hawkeyes played a big role in the athletic department finishing in the black during the most recent fiscal year, according to documents obtained by Landof10.com. It is the first time Iowa has shown a profit in three years as a result.
“When you look at the trends across the country in football attendance and basketball attendance, just nationally there seems to be a reduction,” athletics director Gary Barta told the site. “So I’m pleased generally that we’re holding our own. It seems to fluctuate a little bit more depending on good season/bad season. But for the most part we still have that core of support that’s as good as anywhere.”
Iowa managed a whopping $130.68 million in revenue overall according to reports given to the NCAA and spent around $128.9 million in the same time frame. A good chunk of that cash came as a result of the football program, including the school-record $23.7 million in football ticket sales.
Even with cost increases and salary spikes, it seems like the trend of finishing revenue positive for the department is likely to continue given the massive increases coming the way of Big Ten schools the next few years in television revenue from the conference. As big as some of the numbers put up by the Hawkeyes are though, they still trail others like Texas and Texas A&M by nearly $70 million in the last fiscal year.
It’s hard to believe that prior to last season, UAB didn’t have a football team for two years. As successful as the Blazers re-launch in the sport has been though, the next step for the program to truly be competitive in the sports landscape might have just happened on the desk of the governor this week.
AL.com notes that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a new tax law for Jefferson County that would provide a significant sum of money for a new UAB football stadium as well as other improvements to the sprawling Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) that already houses the arena for the program’s basketball teams.
Though there has been no contractual commitment to build the stadium just yet, the passing of the tax bill to provide some of the revenues needed is one of the first steps local leaders were hoping for. Current plans have the authorities responsible looking at building a 45,000-55,000 seat stadium for UAB football at an estimated cost of $175 million. The school is expected to chip in nearly $4 million a year toward the cost in lease payments.
It’s unclear as to the exact site of the potential stadium but it is expected to be in the downtown area somewhere near the current BJCC complex. It goes without saying that any new stadium, even an off campus such as this one, would be a massive upgrade from the Blazers current home Legion Field.
With the new law out of the way, the next steps appear to reside with local authorities to finalize plans and firmly commit to building the new venue. Construction on the new stadium is expected to begin in December of 2018 once the final green light is given.
Needless to say, UAB football is not only back but it certainly appears better than ever given this recent bit of news.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne seems to have shifted the Crimson Tide’s scheduling philosophy from having big neutral site openers for the football team to instead scheduling opponents the team has recently beat for a national title.
Following up their earlier report that said Alabama is looking to set up a home-and-home with historic power Notre Dame, the Tuscaloosa News says the school is also in discussions with Texas for a similar arrangement.
“I’ll say that we are exploring some home-and-homes,” a very coy Byrne told the paper.
The Irish lost to Nick Saban and the Tide in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game while the Longhorns fell out at the Rose Bowl to Alabama in the 2009 title game. The program is currently set to open with Louisville in Orlando for their 2018 opener while Duke (in 2019) and Miami (in 2021) are scheduled for games against the Tide in Atlanta. Outside of those three games and a handful of others against Group of Five opponents though, the schedule is otherwise wide open.
Texas is a different story on that front though as the Longhorns have games at Maryland and home against USC for the upcoming campaign and future dates with LSU (2019, 2020), Arkansas (2021), Ohio State (2022, 2023) and Michigan (2024, 2027). There is room for a home-and-home in 2025 and 2026 however.
Given this flurry of scheduling news and what looks to be a big change in philosophy, it seems like a home-and-home with Clemson is next up on the docket for Byrne and Saban to get done and really make beat-you-for-the-title-schedule-you-later thing an actual thing.
Tough news out of Western New York and it has nothing to do with basketball.
Syracuse quarterback Rex Culpepper posted on Instagram Friday that cancer has spread to his abdomen following surgery but it is treatable and he is expected to return to the field after undergoing chemotherapy.
Culpepper did see action last season and completed 45 passes for 518 yards and two touchdowns. The redshirt sophomore is once again expected to back up Eric Dungey once he returns to the team.
It goes without saying that the entire college football community is wishing the Orange signal-caller the best of luck and look forward to seeing him back out at the Carrier Dome next season.