Football Scheduling Issues Still Unresolved

NC State could face Middle Tennessee State on November 18th.

Next week the University of Wisconsin football team may have an opponent for its current open date on Sept. 10. For the time being, however, the Badgers' schedule remains in limbo, along with the schedules of as many as five other Division I-A programs.

UW was originally scheduled to host Western Michigan at Camp Randall Sept. 10. But at the request of the Mid-American Conference, UW released the Broncos from their contract, as long as the MAC could help UW secure a suitable replacement.

Since the scheduling void came to light two weeks ago, it has seemed likely that Temple, an independent program that hopes to join the MAC, would be the Badgers' Sept. 10 opponent. And for a few fleeting hours Friday afternoon, it appeared that the Owls had formally filled that slot.

A column attributed to UW athletics director and head football coach Barry Alvarez that ran on UW's official athletics Web site early Friday afternoon stated as much:

"The Badger football team will play Temple on Sept. 10 instead of Western Michigan. The Mid-American Conference asked UW to switch opponents (from WMU to a suitable replacement) as a favor to the league. UW granted that request and accepted Temple – who just joined the MAC – as the foe."

At the time the column was released, UW's schedule had been amended to show the Badgers hosting Temple Sept. 10.

Done deal then, this Wisconsin/Temple matchup?

"That is not an accurate statement," according to Justin Doherty, UW's director of athletics communications.

There were two problems actually. Temple is still contractually obligated to play North Carolina State on Sept. 10, not Wisconsin, and the Owls have not yet been formally offered a spot in the MAC.

Sure enough, Temple's Web site still maintains that the Owls will host North Carolina State in Philadelphia on Sept. 10.

The Wolfpack's Web site states the same. But David Horning, N.C. State's senior associate athletic director for men's sports, said that the Wolfpack do not expect to face Temple this season.

Larry Dougherty, assistant athletic director at Temple, declined comment.

MAC commissioner Rick Chryst was out of his office Friday afternoon and not available for comment. Gary Richter, the MAC's assistant commissioner for media relations, did not return a phone call Friday.

A few hours after it originally ran Friday, the Alvarez Web column was edited to remove any mention of Temple and the schedule was adjusted to again show UW's Sept. 10 opponent as to be determined.

"We are going to have a game to play that day," Doherty said. "We can't announce anything until the paperwork is official."

"As soon as we know we will announce it," he said.

UW's temporary proclamation Friday will probably look like a false start as early as next week. That is because the signs still point to Temple as the Badgers' 12th opponent for 2005.

That is assuming that Temple does indeed accede to MAC membership, which could come as soon as next week, when, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer the league's athletic directors are set to meet. A vote on a slot for Temple could come at that time or it may have to wait until the schools' presidents gather in June.

In the meantime, Wisconsin, Temple, North Carolina State, Middle Tennessee State, Western Michigan and Troy are waiting to have their schedules finalized for this fall.

As explained in an April 22 article ESPN's television contract with the MAC created a situation where WMU needed the Sept. 10 date to fill an obligation to play a conference game with Toledo.

So when the Broncos' schedule was released April 15, Toledo had replaced Wisconsin on Sept. 10 and Temple had replaced Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 24.

The Owls' and Blue Raiders' Web sites, however, still show Middle Tennessee State at Temple on Sept. 24.

For its part, North Carolina State does not expect to play Temple on Sept. 10. Horning, the senior associate athletic director, said N.C. State's athletics director has spoken with the athletics directors at Temple and Middle Tennessee State and the commissioner of the MAC.

"Discussions the past couple days have led us to believe that we're going to be playing somebody else and it's going to be here," Horning said.

Horning said "one possibility" had North Carolina State hosting Middle Tennessee State on Friday, Nov. 18.

The Wolfpack have a bye that weekend and could conceivably play the game on Saturday, Nov. 19 as well. The Blue Raiders, however, are scheduled to visit Sun Belt Conference foe Troy Nov. 19. That game would have to be moved to accommodate a trip to Raleigh, N.C.; it would likely be played the following weekend.

"Nothing has been established yet," said Mark Owens, the assistant athletics director for media relations at Middle Tennessee State.

Owens said that MTSU's athletics director had been in discussions with the commissioners from the MAC and Sun Belt conferences and with the athletics directors at Temple and N.C. State.

"Honestly, I don't know where it is at this point," Owens said. "It is probably going to be another week or so before we know."

By default it looks like N.C. State and Middle Tennessee State will have to play each other to make the schedule shuffling work.

"It is awfully late," Horning said. "If you would call up somebody right now and say, hey, we need one more game, do you have a game? They would laugh at you. Because there are no vacancies out there right now. Football, everybody has their schedule set. If two teams get dropped and have to come up with a game, well, in all likelihood those two teams at this stage in the game, close to May 1, have to play each other."

"[MTSU] got kicked off of Temple's schedule and then Temple because of this issue coming up with the Mid-American Conference… wanted us to play at Middle Tennessee," Horning said. "We didn't want to go do that. We'd rather just get another home game out of it."

N.C. State had already chartered its flight to Philadelphia and will lose a hotel deposit for its erstwhile travel to Temple. But the Wolfpack will gain a home game if the aforementioned scenario plays out. While that is a nice perk, N.C. State would have preferred to keep its schedule intact.

"It's really difficult at this time of year to really work and adjust schedules because people have sent their schedules out, their season ticket packages, everything else," Horning said. "So it changes up everything."

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