Big 12 football: Scheduling marathon finally over
I visited Big 12 headquarters Monday in the trendy Los Colinas area of Irving, Texas. I had an hour-long interview with commissioner commissioner Chuck Neinas about a variety of subjects, which I’ll be writing about over the next few weeks. But I also got to chat with a few Big 12 staff members, including old pal Tim Allen, the associate commissioner who is the happiest man in America, now that the conference football schedule is set.
Allen showed me some of the computer program that helps develop the conference schedule. He jokingly said there were about 17,000 options in putting together the schedule, but he’s not far off. Allen called up one file full of schedules: 300something options were listed. Another file had another 300something. And the program contained file after file of such options.
The Big 12 schedule contained a few parameters. No team should open the conference season with two straight home games or two straight road games. No team should have three straight road games, and three straight weeks of no home games (two road games and a bye, for example) should be avoided.
Then some solid-date games are added, like OU-Texas for whatever is the selected date during the State of Fair of Texas, and whatever December games are selected for television.
Then Allen punches a button, and the computer does the work. But not all the work. He has to scan 17,000 — or whatever the number is — schedules. Which is the best way I’ve heard in awhile to go absolutely batty. So what Allen does is pick out a schedule, and if it seems like it would work, he scans the 10 just above it and the 10 just below it, because they will be very similar, with likely only one change. Of those 21 schedules, he picks one he likes the best.
Then Allen moves on and finds some more to his liking, developing a collection for the schools to consider.
If Allen’s initial pick doesn’t seem all that solid, he moves on down the list aways.
Of course, it’s possible that the networks still could ask for games to be moved around. But Allen said the longer we go, the less likely that is to happen. A Thursday night game for ESPN is possible, but it requires much negotiation, since Fox Sports holds the cable rights to any Big 12 game, and Fox Sports would have to sign off on allowing ESPN to air a game. Fox has done that, but wants something in return. That could be all kinds of negotiations — cash, scheduling considerations, even a game to air on Big Fox, the national over-air network which airs the NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR but has no regular-season college football. ABC/ESPN holds the rights to over-air network games for the Big 12.
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