Big 12 presidents voted Monday to have their schools play a 10-game football schedule this season consisting of all nine conference opponents and one non-conference home game.
The Big 12 was the last of the power-five conferences to settle on a schedule model as college football leaders grapple with how to salvage a season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec, who is vice chair of the Big 12 board of directors, said he and Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt considered the “nine-plus-one” schedule “a reasonable compromise” among a wide range of choices.
“There were a number of proposals laid out before the board,” Schovanec said. “It ranged from 12 games to nine-plus-one, just conference games, or a spring schedule. The nine-plus-one sort of evolved into a discussion of nine-plus-two. It was a lengthy discussion, and eventually we all ended up on the same page.”
Presidents are recommending the conference schedule start on Sept. 19 or Sept. 26, Schovanec said, but will defer that decision to the conference’s athletic directors. Each team’s non-conference game is supposed to be played before that.
The mandate for home-only non-conference games puts Texas Tech’s season opener — Sept. 5 at Texas-El Paso — in question. Asked the possibility of simply keeping the same date and the Miners coming to Lubbock, Schovanec said, “I think that probably is not a large possibility.”
However, he said nailing down the non-conference date and opponent will be Hocutt’s call.
The Tech-UTEP contract called for Tech to receive a $300,000 game guarantee.
The Red Raiders’ Big 12 opener has been on the schedule for Sept. 26 at Iowa State, but that, too, is uncertain with a revised conference schedule possible. The Big 12 championship game is set for Dec. 5, but the Big 12 announcement said the game could be moved back to Dec. 12 or Dec. 19 to allow for schedule flexibility.
That means the conference regular-season schedule could be rearranged as well.
“I expect it will be modified,” Schovanec said, “because there is discussion of moving the championship back a week or two, which creates more open dates and more flexibility as we deal with the issues that may come up. So I would anticipate dates will be changed, but I’m not 100 percent certain.”
The Red Raiders are scheduled to begin preseason practice on Friday. However, NCAA rules stipulate practices may not begin earlier than 29 days before a team’s season opener.
Texas Tech had already lost two of its three non-conference dates: the Sept. 12 home opener against Alabama State that fell through when the Southwestern Athletic Conference postponed fall sports and a Sept. 19 home game against Arizona that was nixed by the Pac-12′s decision to play a conference-only schedule.
Presumably, that frees Tech from contract obligations that called for Tech to pay game guarantees of $300,000 to Alabama State and $400,000 to Arizona.
After each of those games fell through, Hocutt set about to replace them. Hocutt already had lined up two replacements for a 12-game schedule, but “given the sentiment of others in the league,” Schovanec said “I didn’t think that was ever going to happen.”
“As the meeting began (Monday), some of the presidents expressed their preferences,” Schovanec said, “and it ranged from 12 games to just nine games, conference only. I was in the group that felt the nine-plus-one was a reasonable compromise. And I was among the group of presidents that felt we needed to have a united decision, and that’s where we ended up after some discussion.”
None of the other four power-five conferences had opted for a 12-game schedule. Schovanec acknowledged that influenced the Big 12′s decision.
“I believe we would’ve been perceived as being tone-deaf to the risks and the complications we’d face if we’d gone to a 12-game schedule,” he said.
By choosing a full conference schedule, plus one non-conference home game, the Big 12 can deliver 55 games for its television partners ESPN and FOX, only two fewer than what the contracts are based on.
“If the 10 teams all broadcast their home game — that’s what we anticipate — we’ll deliver 55 of that planned 57 games,” Schovanec said. “Otherwise, at 45 (conference games only), it would be about $35 million of lost revenue.”
Schovanec said that topic did not come up in Monday’s discussion, however.
“That wasn’t a pivotal point: ‘Let’s play games and get the money,’ ” he said. “The issues that were discussed was what was manageable. How could you construct a schedule that had enough flexibility with open dates to deal with the possible complications that will arise?
“And also we had doctors on the call and they had presented sort of a planned policy for health protocols for the season. We wanted them to be there to speak to the issue of the safety of the student-athletes.”
The Big Ten publicly announced on July 9 that it would play a conference-only schedule this season, and the next day the Pac-12 did the same. The Big Ten has not announced a revised schedule. The Pac-12 plans to begin Sept. 26.
Last Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced its football teams will start the season the week of Sept. 7-12 and play 10 conference games and one non-conference game. The ACC will play over 13 weeks, giving each team two open dates.
Last Thursday, Southeastern Conference presidents and chancellors adopted a 10-game, conference-only schedule to begin Sept. 26. Ten conference games is two more than usual for the SEC.
Some Big 12 teams have already started preseason practice, with Kansas and Oklahoma slated to play FCS teams on Aug. 29.