Tuesday, January 24, 2006

TV deal, 12th game scheduling headache


The addition of a 12th game to the college football schedule starting this fall translates to more work for Kansas University associate athletic director Larry Keating.

That means more phone calls, more long-term planning and more tentative agreements teetering on the edge between done deal and dead deal.

On top of everything, Keating has to keep an ear on what the Big 12 Conference wants to do, too. With a television contract up for renewal after 2007, the conference office is brainstorming ideas about how to make the Big 12 more TV-friendly, particularly in September.

"The cycle that we're in now finishes in '07," Keating said of the Big 12 schedule. "Coincidentally, the TV contract is also up after '07, so the issue of games available for TV and dates and stuff is factoring in for this discussion."

For now, Keating is scheduling nonconference games - tentatively - in aggressive fashion, looking for winnable games (what the rebuilding Jayhawks want) and challenging matchups with BCS-conference teams (what the Big 12 wants).

The 2006 nonconference slate looks significantly more challenging than the '05 schedule of Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State and Louisiana Tech. Kansas will open against NCAA Division I-AA Northwestern State on Sept. 2, play at Toledo on Sept. 16 and play host to South Florida on Sept. 23. A fourth game for Sept. 9 will be added soon, possibly a home-and-home series that will wrap up in 2007.

After '07, Keating needs to keep options open. The Big 12 wants to make more of the schedule more intriguing to television partners, such as a nine-game conference schedule or shuffling the Big 12 season to have more weekends with league games. Currently, the Big 12 plays league games in an eight-week block, with some late-season matchups being moved to Thanksgiving weekend.

Keating and Big 12 associate commissioner Bob Burda said adding a game to the league schedule starting in 2008 was unlikely for numerous reasons. For one, a nine-game conference season would make for an unbalanced home-and-away schedule, which athletic directors don't want.

Instead, the league and its member institutions might have a handshake agreement for each school to make at least one of its nonconference games against another BCS-conference team, as Kansas is doing with Big East foe South Florida in '06 and '08.

"That's the idea," Keating said of scheduling the Bulls. "We don't have to do it in this current deal, but we're trying to get on television."

Kansas isn't the only Big 12 school getting tougher with nonconference foes. This fall, Baylor is traveling to Washington State, Nebraska will head to Southern California, and Colorado will play Arizona State and Georgia.

Even Texas Tech, snickered at for its murderer's row schedule of Florida International, Sam Houston State and Indiana State in '05, has TCU and Texas-El Paso in next season's nonconference slate.

Beyond '06, Kansas has had discussions with other BCS-conference schools for upcoming nonconference games, including Kentucky. But the only games set in stone are Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo and Central Michigan in 2007; at South Florida in 2008; and a four-year series with Rice (two home, two away) from 2010-2013.

A home-and-home with Fresno State is up in the air, and Florida International will travel to Lawrence, perhaps as soon as 2007.

Announcement coming: Sources indicate KU officials are close to making an announcement that they've secured enough money to move forward with a proposed football facility. The news could come as soon as Feb. 4.

Kansas has been fundraising for the $35 million facility for more than a year, getting key contributions from benefactors like Tom Kivisto and Dana Anderson. It is expected that those giving major gifts toward the complex will be present at the announcement.


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