A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
MONTGOMERY — Alabama State interim athletic director Ron Dickerson likes to map his days out weeks in advance and hates surprises.
Unfortunately, his school’s 2008 football schedule — which Dickerson finalized months ago — is in shambles now with the discovery of two games both scheduled for Sept. 6, 2008. It will now cost the university several thousand dollars to resolve the problem.
Part of the problem stems from the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s decision in spring of 2006 to go from a nine-game mandate within conference — meaning every SWAC team was forced to play each other — to a seven-game mandate.
The SWAC office, which schedules all games, was slow to release the new schedule for 2008. In fact, it wasn’t released until 2007, which meant that Dickerson was stuck with two open dates on a schedule — but he could not begin to fill those dates until recently.
“It’s just frustrating,” Dickerson said. “We did what we were supposed to do. I’m scrambling around here lining up games and putting together what we thought was a really good schedule.”
“There were a lot of good games that we had and there was a good balance. And then the SWAC decides to give us two more home games and takes their time about it. And now it’s just a mess, really.”
The original schedule Dickerson finalized early last year included road games at Jacksonville State and UAB — both money-making ventures for the Hornets. The rest of the schedule would’ve been filled with the standard nine SWAC games and the season-ending Turkey Day Classic with Tuskegee.
But once the revised SWAC schedule was released, it included an open date at the start of the season and another one three weeks later. These were in addition to the usual two off-weeks the football team has every season.
“I don’t have a problem with (the SWAC) changing (the schedules), but give the schools who were doing things the right way a little time,” Dickerson said. “It’s hard enough to build a schedule as it is. Help us out some.”
Further complicating matters was the recent revelation of a five-year-old contract with Bethune-Cookman College that was negotiated and signed by former ASU athletic director Richard Cosby for a Sept. 6, 2008, game. That is the same date Dickerson scheduled a game at Jacksonville State.
“Who would’ve ever thought that there would be a game signed by an AD that was here two ADs ago that would come back up?” Dickerson asked. “I certainly knew nothing about it. I don’t think anyone here knew anything about it. And then this fax comes rolling in. I was floored.”
That left Dickerson with only one option: Buy ASU’s way out of one of the games. The cost to buy out Jacksonville State was $10,000. The cost to buy out BCC was $50,000.
“Not a tough decision,” Dickerson said. “I called (JSU AD) Jim Fuller and told him what we were facing here. I apologized, and he (understood). I certainly hope people know that I would never sign a contract with the intent of backing out just to get a home game one year. That’s not the way you do business — not if you want to have any friends in this business.”
Dickerson believed he had one of the open dates filled with Florida A&M. The Hornets were going to travel to Tallahassee, Fla., on Aug. 30 to start the season. But now, FAMU is considering an option to buy out the contract with the Hornets — the cost of which was not available — so it can play the Miami Hurricanes for what would likely be a sizeable payday that weekend.
If that happens, it could cause problems for several years to come. Dickerson had hoped to parlay the FAMU trip into a long-running series with the Rattlers in Mobile.
Had that happened, it would’ve given ASU a permanent opponent for the Gulf Coast Classic game and, in turn, brought a top SWAC opponent — probably either Southern or Jackson State — to Cramton Bowl each year.
“I don’t know what FAMU’s doing at this point,” Dickerson said. “I called down there a few days ago to discuss the long-term deal and I haven’t gotten a call back yet. So, I don’t know what’s going on there.”
Whether a long-term deal is worked out or not, ASU will still be looking for two opponents with just seven months until the season starts.
“We’ve talked with several teams, I can say that much,” Dickerson said. “We have some possibilities out there and we’ll put something together. It won’t be the schedule we wanted, but hopefully we can make it a good schedule for us.”