NORMAN — The Sooners' plane landed around 3 a.m. in Norman last October. Players returned to campus around 4 a.m. Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops wasn't pleased.
The following week, a severe thunderstorm delayed the kickoff against Texas Tech. For the second consecutive week, OU played a game that ended around midnight.
Stoops always has been a no-excuses, play-the-next-team, whenever, wherever, coach. But he felt there was some injustice last season.
Because OU produces higher television ratings than most programs, TV executives, given the choice, put the Sooners in prime time slots as often as possible.
Last season, they played nine of 13 games at night. It would have been 10 of 13 if OU officials hadn't asked FX executives to move Iowa State on Thanksgiving weekend to a day game.
“Hopefully, there will be some regulation on that,” Stoops said. “I don't think it played to our advantage whatsoever to have so many late night games. It seems to be taking advantage of one team and giving the others some pretty good advantages.
“You would think in a TV contract with a league it would be dispersed that everybody has their late games and everybody has their afternoon games and not one team should have to play six, seven, eight night games.”
Even if the Sooners balance the day-night discrepancy, the 2012 schedule is far from ideal.
OU opens on the road, Sept. 1 at Texas-El Paso, but it was the best alternative.
“It was a big hurdle for us,” Stoops said. “We didn't have much choice other than to find a game and not have (two) I-AA opponents. About all we could do was to go to UTEP. It's a place we've been before, playing there not long ago in the Sun Bowl.”
The most glaring issue with the 2012 schedule is OU's two bye weeks are both in September followed by a grueling stretch — nine games in nine weeks — to end the season.
Late in the season is when teams can get beat up. Injuries mount. At the back end of the nine-game stretch await West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU.
Both games against the conference's two new members are on the road. Morgantown, W.V., is never an easy place to play, especially in mid-November when the weather could get nasty.
“It's fair to say we're bringing in two ranked teams at the end of the year and the two that left (Texas A&M and Missouri) I don't know that they were (ranked),” Stoops said. “All I know is (TCU and West Virginia) are excellent teams. They're coached well, great athletes.
“We have to go on the road and play them both. That's challenging. You look at our schedule and throw Notre Dame in there with the rest of it, then it makes it tough.”
Stoops, though, complimented athletic director Joe Castiglione for the schedule considering unavoidable variables, the most significant being conference realignment.
TCU already was on the schedule as a non-conference game. When the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12, the game was moved to Dec. 1, which created an unwanted bye week.
“We didn't have any control over it,” Stoops said. “I thought Joe did a great job working it as well as he did to get where we're at. I know it's unusual.”
Another variable in the two early bye weeks was the home game with Notre Dame is in the middle of the season (Oct. 27). But that game was scheduled years ago.
Stoops was asked if it was an advantage or disadvantage to play the Irish in the middle of the conference race.
“That doesn't much matter,” Stoops said. “I don't see an advantage or disadvantage one way or another other than the early September schedule, you don't have the attractiveness of having it then. That would be great, but we're still going to play them.
“This was the best we could do. I think Joe did a great job. I like how it sets up.”
Stoops, as usual, was putting a positive spin on a it-won't-change situation. If nothing else, maybe the Sooners can avoid constantly playing at night.
2012 OU football schedule
Sept. 1 at UTEP
Sept. 8 FLORIDA A&M
Sept. 15 bye
Sept. 22 KANSAS ST.
Sept. 29 bye
Oct. 6 at Texas Tech
Oct. 13 vs. Texas
Oct. 20 KANSAS
Oct. 27 NOTRE DAME
Nov. 3 at Iowa St.
Nov. 10 BAYLOR
Nov. 17 at West Virginia
Nov. 24 OKLAHOMA ST.
Dec. 1 at TCU