Scheduling Giant

Just when West Virginia's football schedule seemed set for the next few years, confirmation has been obtained that the Mountaineers will meet Alabama in 2014. That contest will net West Virginia some $3 million in net profits, but will also have ramifications on WVU's future schedules.

WVU's future football schedules were set through 2015, with just one opening on the 2016 slate. The Alabama game, however, could cause a change in the 2014 opponent list -- if Big 12 expansion doesn't further muddy the waters. was told late Wednesday evening that the game was essentially booked, with a payout to WVU at or slightly above the $3 million mark. The game could take the place of one of WVU's scheduled three non-conference games that year -- Towson, Maryland or East Carolina, but that's not the only option to make room for a season-opening match-up with the Crimson Tide.

First, with only six home games scheduled, WVU isn't likely to give up the Towson game, which is the only one of the three currently set for Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. That would leave the Terrapins or Pirates as candidates for a scheduling deferment, as both schools have long term contracts with WVU. Maryland in on the schedule through 2017, while ECU's term extends one year further to 2018. West Virginia recently worked out a two-year gap with Maryland (in 2008 and 2009) to allow the Terps to schedule a series with California, so it might be safe to assume the Terps would return the favor. Also, Maryland's athletic department is in fairly severe financial straits, so a small payment from WVU could serve to make that adjustment easier to swallow, if necessary. ECU has also been a willing partner in scheduling over the years, so West Virginia has two solid options to work with.

However, that's not the only way the Alabama game could be shoehorned in. If Big 12 expansion occurs, that could cause a drop in the number of conference games each season, leaving another spot for a non-conference contest. Popular thinking holds that an expansion to 12 teams would result in two six-team divisions and an eight-game regular season league schedule, with schools playing every foe in its own division and three in the opposite division each year.

Of course, there is no guarantee that expansion will happen, or if it does, that an eight-game conference schedule would result. If it does, however, that could open the necessary spot for the Alabama game on the 2014 schedule.

There has been no official word from Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game officials on the match-up. This year, there are a pair of games set, with Tennessee and North Carolina State meeting in the Georgia Dome on Friday, Aug. 31, followed by an Auburn-Clemson game on Saturday, Sept. 1. The Chick-fil-A site lists Alabama and Virginia Tech as opponents in a 2013 game, with Mississippi and Boise State set for 2014. That contest would be a potential two-day doubleheader with the WVU-Alabama contest.

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