Can you imagine, right here in the mid-season of college football, a lot of leaves still to change color . . . an Apple Cup this Saturday?
That’s apparently a possibility in a few years, although the athletic directors at Washington and Washington State are skeptical.
“It would be news to me, let’s put it that way,” says Scott Woodward of Washington.
Ditto for Bill Moos at Washington State.
You’re aware that this week is the Big Game in Berkeley – on Oct. 20, the earliest date the 115-year-old rivalry has ever been contested. It comes about because of a scheduling squeeze created by several factors, and the fact Cal and Stanford administrators didn’t want the most logical alternative – scheduling the game Thanksgiving weekend – because of multiple activities during the week around the game.
The Bears and Cardinal had a choice, but that may not be available to other traditional rivalries in the league for several years starting in 2015, when annually, one of those games is likely to be moved up several weeks on a rotating basis. In 2015, and a bit beyond, there are only 14 weekends available for play in the Labor Day weekend-through-early-December window, whereas in 2013-14, there are 15, so the problem isn’t as acute.
Meanwhile, there are several factors impinging on the natural rivalry dates we’ve always known:
— The wipeout of the final weekend of the season for the Pac-12 league title game.
— A late-November game with Notre Dame involving either USC or Stanford. Each school alternately plays the Irish on the road in mid-October but late in the year when it’s a home game.
— Thursday-night TV games. There are four league games this year (last of which is Oregon at Arizona State tonight), and every time they happen, per league policy the two schools have a bye the Saturday before them.
So there are some serious constrictions. The San Jose Mercury News quoted Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg as saying, “The burden will be shared around the conference. Once a rivalry game has been impacted one time, it won’t come around again until others have been similarly impacted.”
In other words, if it happens, it’s likely to be a one-time thing – at least until the next cycle, which probably means five or six years later.
Moos isn’t happy about the prospect, saying, “I would most assuredly oppose that.”
He has some hands-on experience with moving rivalry games. When he became AD at Montana, the Grizzlies had their traditional game with Montana State well before the end of the season. He pushed to get it moved to the finale, partly because with the earlier game, “inevitably, both teams would lose the next week.”
Then there was the issue of rugged weather late in the season.
“If the Griz are playing the Bobcats at the end of November in two feet of snow, you’re still going to fill the stadium,” Moos said. “If you’re playing Idaho State, you’re not.”
But a Pac-12 spokesman confirms the essence of the Mercury News report, which could make for some odd timing in a few years. Imagine, for instance, if this year’s Civil War were to take place this weekend, with both teams undefeated, rather than the climactic game that could take place Nov. 24.
It’s probably too much to expect the league to put the Apple Cup at the back end of the queue of potential rivalries inconvenienced after the league stuck this year’s game with a day-after-Thanksgiving slot in Pullman.
Says Moos, repeating his opposition: “There’s enough weirdness already.”