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Wednesday, August 27, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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Scheduling headaches await UH if it chooses to go independent

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



The University of Alabama paid San Jose State a reported $1 million to entice the Spartans' football team to Tuscaloosa in September.

Wisconsin, it is said, forked over $850,000 to convince the Spartans to trek to Madison the following week.

And the University of Hawaii will shell out ... well, nothing to have the Spartans appear at a stadium near you come Saturday night.

At a time when the days of the Warriors' Western Athletic Conference membership may be numbered, the Spartans, of all people, should be a front-and-center reminder of the need to do due diligence about the consequences of independence before making the leap.

Even with San Jose State's 1-9 record (0-5 WAC) and a seven-game losing streak, it would be a mistake to take either the 30-point underdog Spartans' presence -- or the Warriors' WAC membership -- cheap.

The good news, if the Warriors opt for independence in 2012-13, is that they will be able to book their own schedule, lock, stock and, should they choose, Slippery Rock. The flip side is that they will have to pay for much of it. Often at market rates.

Right now, as a WAC member, UH is guaranteed eight games a season, meaning the Warriors only have to come up with five nonconference contests per year and the cash guarantees that come with the three or four home games.

As an independent, however, they'd be responsible for booking all 13 games and likely have to shell out guarantees for up to seven or eight home games.

Which, if you've looked at the prevailing rates of late, can run into some serious moolah. Consider that San Jose State walked away from a $450,000 guarantee from Arizona State to take the gig at Wisconsin.

While it is easy -- and these days fashionable -- to look down upon New Mexico State, Utah State, Idaho and, yes, even long-time foes such as San Jose State in the WAC landscape, they serve a purpose. They are an important, if not exactly marquee, filler to the schedule.

Often, as is the case with the Spartans this week, they occupy places in the usually difficult-to-fill October-November stretch.

UH has traditionally been able to fill the early (September) and late (post-Thanksgiving) portions of the schedule with notable nonconference opponents because most teams don't have both feet in conference play.

But few, even if they have the openings for it, will deign to make the trip here during the thick of their conference season, believing the impact of such a jaunt can play havoc in subsequent weeks. And with more conferences going to championship games, even late-season appearances will be hard to fill.

Instead, it is the Warriors who might well find themselves forced to play back-to-back midseason road games. With bills to pay and no conference disbursements, UH could become the will-travel-for-dough team that takes bruisings for bucks with so-called "body-bag games."

Look at what the nation's third-toughest schedule to this point, according to the NCAA, has done for the Spartans' record.

Make no mistake about it, this isn't to say UH should cross off independence as an option as it plots the future. Only that, as the Spartans' presence reminds, the Warriors should be fully aware of the potential pitfalls if they choose to pursue it.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@stradvertiser.com.

 






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