The Search for a Season Opening Opponent

Robert Allen

STILLWATER -- Driving to work in Stillwater this morning and I'm listening to Big 12 This Morning on Sirius-XM channel 375, the Big 12 channel and I hear Oklahoma co-sideline reporter Chris Plank speculate that Oklahoma State may have picked up their 2020 season opening opponent to replace Oregon State and the new foe would be Colorado State on "zero week" Aug. 25. The Cowboys lost their Thursday nationally-televised opener with Oregon State when the Pac-12 decided to follow the Big Ten a couple of weeks ago and play conference games only in this COVID-19 pandemic attacked society and sports world. Colorado State lost their opening rivalty game with Colorado. 

I immediately sent out feelers to contacts in the Oklahoma State athletic department where deputy athletic director Chad Weiberg is the maestro of football sceduling for the Cowboys. Since coming on board as the deputy and the expected successor to Mike Holder, Weiberg has created football scheduling masterpieces such as home and homes with Oregon, Arkansas, Nebraska, and more. He also negotiated a pallatable long term deal with Tulsa. 

My feelers shot down the Colorado State story, not for good, but for at least the immediate future.

This scheduling situation is an even greater challenge as there are plenty of teams forced into looking for almost immediate solutions, but also those schools are wanting to maximize the situation for them whether than means negotiating for more games or perhaps, a few more zeroes on the check to come and play. 

Nick Saban of Alabama has some large players but Saban likely desires a softer opener than Oklahoma State.USA Today Sports Images - Reinhold Matay

Alabama lost a showcase kick-off game on ESPN in Arlington's AT&T Cowboys Stadium. While Oklahoma State would prefer a home game to replace a home game, playing Alabama in that stadium would rock. It sounds like Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban would prefer his defense not have to chase Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace. 

The rumors for over a week have had Alabama playing BYU. However, Brigham Young athletic director Tom Holmoe realizes he has options.   

“You’ve got to look at it this way,” Holmoe said to The Deseret without mentioning any school. “You’ve got to look at it this way. It might take me a year, a year-and-a-half, to put together a schedule normally. When those two conferences, the Big Ten and the Pac-12, announced that they were going to conference (play) only and opened up games, you are talking about not just me, but most of those coaches and athletic directors who had their games cancelled, had to start sprinting.

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BYU and Oklahoma State have never met on a homefield for either team with the two previous games being in bowl games. USA Today Sports Images - Jake Roth

“So I’ve had a lot of conversations with a number of people. Some have been reported from their side. I think that they’ll continue today and tomorrow and until this goes to the point that we are playing football.”

Our sources tell us that Oklahoma State and Oregon State have been involved in discussions with BYU. Yes, Oregon State because this could become a three-way deal where BYU comes and plays Oklahoma State and then in the future Oregon State pays Oklahoma State back by going to Provo, Utah to play BYU rather than making that trip they owe the Pokes to Stillwater. 

The Cowboys already have a game scheduled against a Division I FCS oppnents in Western Illinois, but the NCAA is letting the count two games this season with FCS opponents toward a bowl game instead of the customary one. Still, the preference is to find another FBS foe and Colorado State lost there first two games, the opener with Colorado and then a game with Oregon State.

Colorado State came to Stillwater for Homecoming in 1955 and spoiled the event with a 20-13 win over Oklahoma State.USA Today Sports Images - Ron Chenoy

“We’re looking a little bit at replacing those two lost games. There’s some interest from other schools that have been kind of put in the same situation,” Colorado State athletic director Joe Parker said to The Coloradoan in Fort Collins, Colo. “Still trying to fight forward as many games as possible. We’re going with the understanding that it’s not likely that we will replace those games but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to try and find some options to play.”

Another big splash for Oklahoma State would be playing Notre Dame, which lost multiple games from both the Pac-12 and the Big Ten. Notre Dame's other sports play in the ACC and that conference is more than happy to let the Irish in for a season. 

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick has recently gone to favoring a season delayed and perhaps, shortened. 

Notre Dame captain and quarterback Ian Brook has never played in Stillwater and the Cowboys and Irish have never played period.USA Today Sports Images - Kim Klement

“Certainly for the question of whether anybody’s going to start on time, you’ve got to be there at the end of July," Swarbrick lectured to ESPN. "I guess I sort of think of these in a series of questions. That’s the first one.

“If at that point a decision is made that nobody is going to start until the third week of September or the first week of October — whatever it is — then you’ve got more time to sort of absorb that data and see what happens."

Back to the potential FCS solutions with Northern Arizona and Northern Iowa being the most likely. Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley lost a game to Iowa and many would like to see it made up with Iowa State, but that not look like it will happn.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley before a game in Iowa City.USA Today Sports Images - Jeffrey Becker

“Instead of looking at the downside of (losing Iowa), we went immediately and started looking to replace that football game,” Farley said talking to The Gazette. “That’s still in the makings right now. We’ll see what comes of it.”

So, still lots of questions and not many answers, although plenty of conversations going on right now. One aspect of the rescheduling that we do feel solid about is that Weiberg and Oklahoma State are looking to bump the opener up to Aug. 29 and the zero week. Oklahoma did it with Missouri State and it gives more options and time to the first three weeks of scheduling. Also, it appears that the Big 12 is actively discussing a 10-game schedule with one non conference game and the rest of the games would be Big 12 conference games. It that schedule were to take effect, Oklahoma State's plus one would be Tulsa. 

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