The University at Buffalo is attempting to piece together its most attractive nonleague football schedule, but at least one school, West Virginia, is upset that the Bulls are trying to pull out of a game.
The Bulls are trying to drop a Sept. 9 date in Morgantown, and a Sept. 16 game at Rutgers is also in question. UB, which hasn't officially released its schedule, has added road games at Auburn and Boston College for this fall and is seeking another high level Bowl Championship Series opponent. A source indicated the Bulls are in talks with Wisconsin, which has an open date.
Whomever the Bulls add, they will fetch more than the $300,000 the Mountaineers offered them. If they can replace West Virginia and Rutgers, and add one more BCS opponent, the program's payouts for the three games will easily reach seven figures. The Bulls made an estimated $200,000 for road games at Connecticut and Syracuse last season but will receive an estimated $650,000 to play at Auburn. The West Virginia deal, struck by former UB Athletics Director Bob Arkeilpane, calls for UB to pay a $200,000 penalty for canceling.
Warde Manuel, UB's athletics director, declined comment. But it is known that the administration feels the school can do much better financially than the deals left by the previous regime.
Mid-American Conference Commissioner Rick Chryst has been in discussions with the Big East Conference about the matter for several weeks.
"Really it's been a matter of putting pieces together and until all that's final, I really don't have a specific comment on any one situation," Chryst said. "I've been in communication with the Big East, ACC, Big Ten and anyone who's part of the non-conference schedule."
One possible scenario is that Chryst replaces UB with Temple or another MAC school on the West Virginia schedule. When Temple joined the MAC, the league agreed to schedule six games for the school in 2006 (three home and three away) and eight in 2007. The Bulls could reschedule West Virginia for another season, or pay the $200,000 penalty. UB is unlikely to keep its date in Morgantown this year.
"We want to create something that works for everybody," Chryst said. "Everyone is finding the 12 games in 13 weeks challenging because the dates become so critical trying to match those up. We're further ahead in our schedule than we were a year ago, but we still have work to do."
Chryst said finalizing the dates was a "high priority."
UB is attempting to strengthen a cash-strapped program that's been losing money for years. West Virginia will enter next season ranked in the top five and, because of a favorable schedule, have a legitimate shot at playing for the national championship. It may have to add a Division I-AA opponent, which could hinder its BCS rankings.