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Archive for Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Delayed Big 12 schedule keeps fans, schools guessing

February 1, 2012

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The office phone of Kansas University athletic administrator Larry Keating rings, and visions of a thick, buttery slice of wedding cake, airborne rice, Adam Sandler on the microphone, a beaming bride walking down the aisle — her father on her arm, orange blossoms in her hands — begin to dance in Keating’s head, by now a Pavlovian response after almost nine years on the job.

That might be a slight exaggeration, but Keating does the scheduling for football and men’s and women’s basketball, and he is who a surprising number of people decide to call first when planning the big day.

He has fielded calls that start something like this: “My daughter is getting married a year from this coming fall, and I wanted to make sure there isn’t a football game that day.”

Sometimes such a call comes before the schedule is finalized, at which point Keating can see the voice on the other end leaning forward and cupping his hand on the side of his mouth before saying, “I know you know the schedule, so can you just tell me? I won’t tell anybody.”

Keating might want to employ an answering service because today is the day the Big 12 must turn in its anticipated schedule to the TV networks, but here’s the problem: That schedule won’t be made public until West Virginia completes negotiations with the Big East to be freed to join the Big 12. No agreement, no public schedule.

The smart money says that within a week or so, West Virginia will have joined the conference officially. When that happens, the schedule goes public and more than just wedding planners can line up events that in a typical year would have been secured months ago.

“The student union building does functions that depend on whether the team is home or away,” Keating said. “The alumni house, endowment, board meetings for the school of engineering, the school of business, for example. Alumni meetings. Band day. Homecoming weekend.”

Keating also pointed to things such as booking hotels for the team — a duty handled by director of football operations George Matsakis — which are also behind schedule.

In the unlikely event West Virginia must stay in the Big East next school year, each Big 12 school would have to line up a replacement team on the schedule and at this late date, not many are available.

“Our fans, too,” Keating said. “As soon as the schedule is out, the first thing some fans do is book a hotel room for the road games.”

Keating, by the way, also handles apparel contracts for the athletic department. KU’s contract with Adidas runs through June 30, 2013.

Keating said negotiations usually begin 13 or 14 months before that so that the athletic departments have time to order uniforms and equipment for the next school year. The existing apparel company has exclusive negotiating rights for a specified period of time, typically in the 30-to-60-day range. If no agreement on an extension is reached within that time, another company, such as Nike, for example, can enter the conversation. Coaches used to get money from such deals, but in almost all cases now, including at KU, the money all goes to the school.

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