Nothing has changed yet, but there is a real possibility the University of Maine football team’s scheduled Sept. 5 season opener will not be played at Florida State University.
Either way Maine will still receive a big paycheck.
According to published reports, Florida State University and the Atlantic Coast Conference have been involved in discussions that would open the door for the Seminoles to entertain instate rival Miami in a nationally televised (ESPN) showdown on Labor Day at 82,300-seat Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
“It’s not definite, but it’s a possibility,” Michael Kelly, the ACC’s associate commissioner for football operations, told The Miami Herald. “ESPN has mentioned it to be of interest to them, as Miami-Florida State has been one of the more highly rated games in the past.”
UMaine athletic director Blake James conceded Florida State appears to be pursuing a matchup against Miami, quickly adding it is by no means a forgone conclusion.
“If the season were to start today, we’d be going to Florida State,” James said Friday night. “Is there a possibility that there could be a change? Potentially.”
However, there have been discussions about the game.
“They have called us and have indicated that their situation might want to be adjusted and how it might fit into our schedule,” James said. “We’ve had conversations about potential scenarios and how it would work for both sides.”
A statement from Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt also indicates there is a move afoot to change the game.
“Miami is expecting to play on Monday [Sept. 7], Labor Day,” Hocutt told the Herald. “I know there’s a lot of interest in a Miami-FSU game, but it’s not a done deal yet.”
UMaine appears to be in the driver’s seat as far as the situation is concerned. James said the contract signed with Florida State stipulates UMaine will receive a guarantee of $450,000 if the game is played.
However, if FSU is unable or unwilling to play coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears, UMaine would either receive a buyout of $900,000 or FSU would have to find another Bowl Championship Subdivision opponent that fits into UMaine’s 2009 schedule.
“I don’t think they’re going to go the route of paying the buyout,” James said. “I know that isn’t what Florida State wants to do and it’s not what the ACC wants to do.”
Under the other scenario, FSU would have to find another opponent — presumably with a comparable payday — and have it fit into the Bears’ schedule. James said UMaine is still trying to secure one more nonconference game to complete its 11-game slate.
“If it works out that it [FSU’s proposed schedule change] benefits our schedule into something that we could make work, that’s something that we would consider,” James said.
The Herald reported the ACC’s television agreement with ESPN includes the Labor Day night contest and six Thursday night games.
Further evidence of an impending change of the UMaine-FSU game comes when considering recent changes in Miami’s 2009 schedule. The Hurricanes have moved three of their four nonleague games to new dates, including their originally scheduled Sept. 5 home opener against Florida A&M.
Miami now has an open date the first weekend of the season, having also switched games against Oklahoma, led by Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, and Central Florida.
Kelly said the ACC plans to announce its schedule Feb. 6.
This marks the sixth consecutive season UMaine has scheduled a BSC opponent. Last fall, the Bears opened the season at the University of Iowa.
UMaine, which is tentatively scheduled to travel to Syracuse in 2010, also has taken on Mississippi State (a 10-9 victory in 2004), Nebraska, Boston College and Connecticut.