Sooners, Ducks play scheduling Twister

Originally Published: September 23, 2004
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

The fact that Oklahoma and Oregon played a football game last Saturday was a modern-day scheduling miracle, brought about by Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione, Ducks AD Bill Moos and seemingly half the rest of Division I-A.

Castiglione says that the art of this deal can be traced to a phone call last January from the Arkansas State AD. The news from Jonesboro was not good: The Indians had two games scheduled for the opening Saturday of the season, and they wanted out of their visit to Norman.

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Castiglione was not pleased. He said this wasn't the first time in his tenure that Arkansas State had called to bail on a game. In fact, he told his counterpart, "This is the date your school selected as the make-good date for the first one."

Castiglione presented the AD with a choice: pay the liquidated damages specified in the contract for not playing the game, or find Oklahoma a replacement. So the search was on.

The first option was asking Bowling Green to move from the third week of the season to the opening week, and filling that spot with Florida A&M, which was moving up from Division I-A. That fell apart when FAMU instead voted to stay at I-AA.

So Castiglione got on the phone with ESPN schedule-maker Dave Brown and ABC programmer Loren Matthews, looking for help.

"We'll play anybody," Castiglione told them.

Anybody who wants to come to Norman, that is.

A deal was nearly struck with USC, but the Trojans wanted a home game. There were talks with West Virginia and Syracuse as well.

Finally, a match was made with Oregon. But getting the game to fit both schedules required an intercollegiate game of Twister -- at one point seven schools were involved in moving games.

"The more unlikely the scenario, the more defiant I got," Castiglione said. "I said, 'I will not be defeated on this! This is going to work!' "

Pause.

"Somehow."

Finally, in March, Oregon had to move a game with Nevada, and got the OK from Reno. But then the story broke that Oregon and Oklahoma were going to play, and it nearly fell apart because Nevada's people hadn't run the deal through all channels.

"The deal was almost lost four, five, six times," Moos said.

In the end, it happened. Oklahoma won 31-7, and the Ducks fans appeared to enjoy their visit to Soonerland. A return game in Eugene is scheduled for 2008 -- pending further plot twists.

Pat Forde is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.

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