Sooners, Ducks play scheduling Twister
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.
Scheduling can be the difference between winning the national championship and staying home for the holidays. ESPN.com's Pat Forde examined the finer details of scheduling.
The art of the deal
In the cautious world of scheduling, it's the bottom line that often dictates the matchups.
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While we're used to seeing Keith Jackson or Jill Arrington bringing us the game, the real credit often belongs to the network guys who make the matchups happen.
Scheduling your way to the top
Programs trying to break into the big-time have two scheduling methods: hit the road or play during the week.
Waking up the echoes
Notre Dame has always prided itself on a tough schedule, but even the Irish realize the importance of having a home breather.
Trying to make a last-minute schedule change requires patience and flexibility. Just ask Oregon and Oklahoma.
It's tough enough trying to play your way into respectability, but Idaho's schedule featuring nine road games is borderline insane.
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!' "
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.