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Big Ten, Conference USA swapping bowl tie-in for 2017

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The middle of September isn’t typically the time that bowl arrangements are tweaked but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen.

Conference USA confirmed details of a bowl tie-in “swap” with the Big Ten on Wednesday, causing a bit of a Texas two-step in the postseason picture for both leagues in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The move on the Big Ten’s end was originally announced back in May but it appears the CUSA end is just now being confirmed officially.

As a result:

  • A Conference USA team will now play in the Armed Forces Bowl. They’ll play against Army if the Black Knights are eligible,
  • The Big Ten will place a team in Heart of Dallas Bowl against vs. a Big 12 opponent

While the exact reason for the swap is unclear, it certainly makes a little more sense for a Big Ten team to be in Dallas against a fellow Power Five conference like the Big 12. In addition, the Big Ten has not had a team filled a slot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl since 2014 and have actually never scored a victory in the game either.

There was supposed to be a B1G squad in the bowl last season but, because of shortages elsewhere in terms of eligible teams, the game wound up being an Army win over an eventual 5-8 North Texas squad.  Conference USA apparently remains contractually tied to the Heart of Dallas Bowl until 2019, just not this year.

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 23 in Fort Worth while the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl is slated to be played on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

Houston, UTSA agree to cancel season opener that was postponed following Hurricane Harvey

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Hurricane season has forced a rash of canceled college football games and you can add one previously postponed season opener to the list.

Houston and UTSA jointly announced on Wednesday afternoon that they have agreed to cancel their game this season and not make it up. The two programs have worked together to navigate the tricky issues surrounding Hurricane Harvey and had left things a bit open-ended as to when they could play each other until the most recent announcement.

“We appreciate the support and understanding of our fans, and their concern for those who have been impacted by Harvey,” Roadrunners AD Lynn Hickey said in a statement. “We encourage everyone to consider using their ticket refund to make a donation to hurricane relief and recovery efforts. The devastation in South Central and Southeast Texas is beyond imagination, and as the Roadrunner Family we can make a real difference at this critical time.”

According to a release, administrators on both sides will look to make up the game in a future year and reschedule it when the teams have an opening in their non-conference slate. When that might be is still up in the air but the 2017 game was slated to be the first in a series of four meetings between the Cougars and Roadrunners. The next scheduled date of the series is Sept. 3, 2022 in Houston, with additional games in 2023 (at the Alamodome) and 2024 (in Houston) already on the books.

The schools also confirmed that tickets to the canceled game will be refunded.

As a result, that means that Houston’s new season opener will be on Saturday at Arizona, while UTSA kicks off the year up the road in Waco for a game at Baylor.

Houston-UTSA canceled due to Hurricane Harvey

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All Houston athletics events have been canceled for this upcoming weekend, the Cougars announced Tuesday, which includes UH’s scheduled football opener at UTSA on Saturday.

The Houston-UTSA game was scheduled to be played in San Antonio. While the game could have logistically been played — there has been no reported damage to San Antonio’s Alamodome — it is certainly understandable why the Coogs opted to focus on more pressing matters as the city of Houston deals with the aftermath of a once-every-500 years flooding event.

“Everyone in our university community, including our student-athletes, coaches and their staff, has been impacted by this incredible storm. This is a time for all of us to focus on the wellbeing of our families and neighbors and the recovery of the Houston area,” UH president Renu Khator said in a statement. “We’ll be excited to resume athletic competition, but right now our student-athletes are anxious to contribute to getting the city we love so much back on its feet again.”

“As families across Southeast and South Central Texas struggle with the catastrophic flooding and impact of the storm, our focus must be on how we all can help,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “In lieu of this weekend’s game, I urge Roadrunners, the San Antonio community and all Texans to support recovery efforts in Houston and across the region, including donating to disaster relief efforts.”

With the cancellation, Houston will now open its season at Arizona on Sept. 9. (Rice is also on the road on Sept. 9, meaning both the Coogs’ and the Owls’ first home games will come, fittingly, against each other on Sept. 16.) UTSA will now open Sept. 9 at Baylor.

The announcement stated that the two sides will attempt to reschedule the game, but the teams do not share a bye week. Houston is off on the weekend of Nov. 11, when UTSA plays a conference game against UAB. UTSA is off for the weekend of Sept. 30, when Houston plays an AAC game at Temple. Our Kevin McGuire notes that UTSA and UAB also share bye weeks, so it would technically be possible to play UTSA-UAB on Sept. 30 and move Houston-UTSA to the Coogs’ scheduled off week of Nov. 11, but the Alamodome is occupied that weekend by San Antonio’s annual Fall Home & Garden Show, which means such a reschedule would require finding a new stadium and asking three teams to give up their off weeks in an effort to get a non-conference game played.

This would leave only the weekend of Dec. 2 as open for both teams, assuming neither reaches their respective conference championship games.

UTSA announces new five-year contract for head coach Frank Wilson

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Look at any of the ‘hot name coaches’ lists about those who could be candidates to take some big Power Five jobs after this season and chances are that you’ll find Frank Wilson somewhere on the page.

The UTSA head coach had a very nice turnaround campaign in his first year on the job that included the young school’s first-ever bowl game appearance. While Wilson has already been mentioned for openings, such as the one at Ole Miss, the program is stepping up their game in hopes of keeping him around San Antonio longer than expected with a new contract.

While a few details leaked ahead of time, the school confirmed on Thursday that system regents had approved a new five-year deal for Wilson, starting on Sept. 1st, that will run through the 2021 season.

“We are very excited about the leadership that Coach Wilson has brought to our football program and athletic department as a whole,” UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey said in a release. “Our objective is to be a dominant player in Conference USA, and making a commitment to Coach Wilson is an intentional step in ensuring that we become a program of excellence. A strong commitment to our football program will build the foundation that is needed to strengthen and grow resources for our all of our sports. We are fortunate and grateful for our donors who share in our vision and have enabled us to make this commitment.”

The new deal guarantees Wilson $900,000 for the upcoming season, followed by $50,000 and $25,000 increases the next two years. That results in a total of $4.775 million over the lifetime of the deal, which replaces the previous one agreed upon between the two parties and makes Wilson the highest paid coach in Conference USA when all is said and done.

Wilson is just 43 and has already developed a strong reputation for his ability to recruit after stops at LSU and Tennessee among others. Given how quickly he turned around things at UTSA it makes sense for the program to reward him with a new deal, not only as a way of saying thanks but also in hopes of having him stick around to keep things pointed in the right direction before Power Five programs come calling.

UTSA-Texas State series rebranded H-E-B I-35 Showdown

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For those not familiar with HEB Grocery Company, it’s a grocery giant founded in Kerrville, Texas, in 1905 by a man named Florence Butt. H-E-B now owns nearly 400 stores stretching across south and central Texas and central Mexico. H-E-B essentially owns the San Antonio area and leases back to its million-plus residents, so it makes sense that when UTSA and Texas State wanted to brand their rivalry, they turned to H-E-B.

Starting this season, the UTSA-Texas State series will now be known as the H-E-B I-35 Showdown

Cue the AD boilerplate!

“We’re thrilled that H-E-B has become the title sponsor for the I-35 rivalry football games between UTSA and Texas State,” UTSA Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Lynn Hickey said. “No matter the sport, both fan bases always show up in strong support when the Roadrunners and the Bobcats get together on the playing fields. This newly-branded name for the football games this season and next will only add to the rich history between the two schools.”
 
“It is great to have H-E-B supporting the I-35 football series between Texas State and UTSA,” Texas State Director of Athletics Larry Teis said. “H-E-B has a great relationship with the state of Texas and both universities. We have continued to play UTSA in other sports and the rivalry is strong for our student-athletes and fans.”

The two schools are natural gridiron rivals. They sit just 50 miles apart — connected by Interstate 35, of course — and compete for athletes and regular students alike. The Roadrunners and Bobcats have been Olympics sports rivals for years, primarily as members of the Southland Conference. Each football program is (obviously) in FBS now and have met only once, a 38-31 UTSA win in 2012, since the Roadrunners’ program launched in 2011.

The series will resume Sept. 23 in San Marcos, with Texas State making a return visit to San Antonio on Sept. 22, 2018.