How AAC made sense of its schedule after Hurricane Irma

Pat Forde
College football and basketball columnist

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (cut-block instructional video sold separately at Kansas):

More Forde-Yard Dash: Hot seat | Oklahoma reigns | Contender or pretender?

FOURTH QUARTER: THE AMERICAN’S MINOR MIRACLE

Last week, the American Athletic Conference (31) announced something that seemed impossible just a few days earlier: Every league member would play its full, eight-game conference schedule.

With Hurricane Irma wreaking havoc, four AAC league games were postponed. Getting them rescheduled required some sleight of hand, some persuasion and diplomacy, some creative thinking and a buy-in from conference schools for the sake of a league that hasn’t exactly been a model of stability.

“There were times during the week when I didn’t think it would get done,” American commissioner Mike Aresco (32) told The Dash. “I don’t know what our phone bill will look like, because I think the number of calls was in the thousands.

“I’m really proud of the schools for doing things they didn’t have to do for the greater good of the conference. There are schools that clearly do not have as good a situation as they did before, but the cohesion everyone showed was remarkable.”

The league had to drop three non-conference games (at a price) in order to shuffle the league schedule and make it all work. Here was the league release of the restructured schedule:

Connecticut will host East Carolina on Sunday, Sept. 24 (replacing an open date) and will host USF on Saturday, Nov. 4 (replacing the original date of the ECU game). The game will be played on a Sunday due to the unavailability of Pratt & Whitney Stadium on Saturday.

Charlie Strong’s South Florida Bulls are one of seven AAC teams that have actually played three games this year. (Getty)

South Florida will host Cincinnati on Saturday, Oct. 14 (replacing a previously scheduled game against Massachusetts), will host Houston on Saturday, Oct. 28 (replacing the original game against Cincinnati), and will play at UConn on Saturday, Nov. 4 (replacing the original game against Houston).

Cincinnati will play at USF on Saturday, Oct. 14 and will have its open date Oct. 28 (replacing an Oct. 14 open date and the game at USF on Oct. 28).

East Carolina will visit UConn Sunday, Sept. 24 (replacing an open date), will have an open date Saturday, Oct. 28 (replacing a game against Houston), and will play at Houston on Saturday, Nov. 4 (replacing the previously scheduled game against UConn).

Houston will play at USF on Saturday, Oct. 28 (instead of Nov. 4) and will host ECU on Saturday, Nov. 4 (instead of Oct. 28).

Memphis will face UCF on Saturday, Sept. 30, at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The teams were originally scheduled to play Sept. 9. To accommodate the rescheduled date, Memphis will not face Georgia State this season, while UCF will not play Maine.

All that required an extraordinary amount of juggling of ticket sales, hotel rooms, charter flights, stadium rental and more. Aresco said he and his associate commissioners, Scott Draper and Tom Odjakjian, looked over three or four scheduling models before settling on one. They presented changes one at a time to individual athletic directors, then got them all on a conference call to ratify the new schedule.

Remember, this was the consolation-prize league, assembled from schools that couldn’t work their way into Power Five conferences. And as recently as a year ago, most of them were angling like crazy for a possible spot in the Big 12 (33) if it expanded. So it was important to see a disparate group come together for its own good, and to preserve the viability of its league season.

Now the American can crown a legitimate champion, without asterisks or dispute due to teams playing an uneven number of league games. And that champion right now would seem to have a great shot at a New Years Six bowl bid (though San Diego State could have something to say about that).

THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH A NORMAL KICKOFF TO START A GAME

Pregame flyovers of stadiums are become passé. So, too, are parachutists – or so The Dash thought. Then came video from the Wisconsin-BYU (34) pregame which provided a little more excitement than anyone was bargaining for.

That poor guy serves as a metaphor for the Cougars’ crash-landing of a season to date. BYU is 128th out of 130 teams in total offense and still has more first downs (43) than points (39).

TOXICITY UPDATE FROM COLLEGE STATION

You remember how bad it was for Texas A&M (35) on opening weekend, right? A blown 34-point lead against UCLA, an outraged Facebook post from an A&M Board of Regents member, a racist and threatening letter sent to coach Kevin Sumlin’s house … yeah. Not good.

Well, wheezing by FCS Nicholls in week two and trailing Louisiana-Lafayette going into halftime in week three didn’t improve the mood much. With the reception rather hostile in Kyle Field, freshman Aggies receiver Will Gunnell (36) gave the wrong hand signal to the fans on his way to the locker room. That’s, um, that’s not a “Gig ‘Em” salute, Will.

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Rocky Long (37), San Diego State. His Aztecs moved to 2-0 against the Pac-12, following a victory over Arizona State with a home shocker of Stanford. Long lost the leading rusher in FBS history last year in Donnel Pumphrey and has replaced him with the leading rusher in the nation this year, Rashaad Penny. A bigger program probably should have hired the 67-year-old Long years ago, but he’s living a good life and coaching a good team now in San Diego.

COACH WHO SHOULD RIDE THE BUS TO WORK

Pat Narduzzi (38), Pittsburgh. Since taking a 21-0 halftime lead on FCS Youngstown State in the season opener, Narduzzi’s Panthers have been outscored 111-54. They’re 1-2 and look far removed from the team that won eight games each of Narduzzi’s first two seasons at Pitt. The competition has been really strong the last two games (Penn State, Oklahoma State), but you still wonder how a guy with Narduzzi’s defensive reputation could be in charge of a team that is 128th nationally in yards allowed per play (7.73). Hugh Green cannot be liking what he’s seeing.

POINT AFTER

When hungry and thirsty in the endlessly cool college town of Palo Alto, The Dash recommends a visit to Local Union 271 (39). Sample the various offerings from the bacon bar, have some guacamole, get the caprese salad, try the fried chicken, and accompany it with an excellent Duet IPA from Alpine Beer Company (40). Thank The Dash later.


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