Boise State Leaving Big East: Does USF's 2013 Schedule Change?

Otto Kitsinger III

A look at how Boise State leaving the Big East could change USF's 2013 opponents.

For those who haven't heard the latest sign of our impending doom: Boise State has announced that it will "remain a member of the Mountain West Conference in all sports." Which apparently came as a surprise to the Big East, since they had already announced a 2013 football schedule including Boise. Happy new year, everyone.

Assuming that Boise does not join the league for 2013 -- which I'm sure is just a matter of settling exit fees -- the league schedule is going to have to change, which means USF's opponents could change.

USF's 2013 conference football opponents were previously announced as Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, and SMU at home, with UCF, UConn, Houston, and Rutgers away. (Game dates haven't been set yet; they typically aren't set until much later.) Even though USF doesn't play Boise, having to juggle opponents could result in USF's opponents changing. Here's why:

The 12-team league is now an 11-team league, and the teams that would have played Boise State are now a game short. The easiest way to fix this would be to pair the teams that would have traveled to Boise (Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers) against the teams that would have hosted the Broncos (Cincinnati, San Diego State, SMU, Temple).

The rub is that Memphis already plays Cincinnati, San Diego State, SMU, and Temple. So there's no way to remove Boise from the schedule without having uneven home and away games, having two teams play twice, or changing existing games. There is some precedent for unorthodoxy: UConn's 1998 team, coached by a guy named Skip Holtz, had to play conference opponent UMass twice. In 2000, UAB had to count a game against Kansas as a conference game, because a 9-team league can't play an 8-game schedule. (Clearly, Conference USA thought that through.)

But I would hope the Big East tries to create a proper 11-team schedule. This would create a "The Prisoner of Benda"-style problem, in which multiple parties have to make swaps in a way that everyone ends up with the right number of home and away games, and no duplicate opponents, at the end.

Let's see how USF could be affected. The below is one of myriad ways this problem could fall out, so don't take this as any kind of prediction.

Let's say the league schedules Houston at Cincinnati, Rutgers at SMU, and Louisville at Temple. That gets all the games set except one: Memphis already plays San Diego State, so playing them again would be a duplicate. That would leave the schedules like this:

UCF
Home: UConn, Houston, Rutgers, USF. Away: Cincinnati, Louisville, SMU, Temple

Cincinnati
Home: Houston, UCF, UConn, Louisville. Away: Memphis, Rutgers, San Diego State, USF

UConn
Home: Louisville, Rutgers, San Diego State, USF. Away: UCF, Cincinnati, SMU, Temple

Houston
Home: Memphis, San Diego State, SMU, USF. Away: Cincinnati, UCF, Rutgers, Temple

Louisville
Home: UCF, Memphis, Rutgers, San Diego State. Away: Temple, Cincinnati, UConn, USF

Memphis
Home: Cincinnati, San Diego State, SMU, Temple. Away: TBD, Houston, Louisville, USF

Rutgers
Home: Cincinnati, Houston, USF, Temple. Away: SMU, UCF, UConn, Louisville

San Diego State
Home: TBD, Cincinnati, SMU, Temple. Away: UConn, Houston, Louisville, Memphis

USF
Home: Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, SMU. Away: UCF, UConn, Houston, Rutgers

SMU
Home: Rutgers, UCF, UConn, Temple. Away: Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, USF

Temple
Home: Louisville, Houston, UCF, UConn. Away: Memphis, Rutgers, San Diego State, SMU

San Diego State needs a home game, and Memphis needs a road game, but they can't play each other. Let's give Memphis a game at Rutgers. Memphis' schedule is set -- four home, four away, no duplicates -- but now we have this:

Rutgers
Home: Memphis, Cincinnati, Houston, USF, Temple. Away: SMU, UCF, UConn, Louisville

San Diego State
Home: TBD, Cincinnati, SMU, Temple. Away: UConn, Houston, Louisville, Memphis

Now Rutgers has 9 games, 5 at home, while SDSU has 7 games, 3 at home. To make it all square, we need to identify a team that plays at Rutgers, and doesn't play San Diego State anywhere, and send that team to San Diego instead of Piscataway. Guess who fits that description:

Rutgers
Home: Memphis, Cincinnati, Houston, Temple. Away: SMU, UCF, UConn, Louisville

San Diego State
Home: USF, Cincinnati, SMU, Temple. Away: UConn, Houston, Louisville, Memphis

USF
Home: Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, SMU. Away: UCF, UConn, Houston, San Diego State

And with that, USF gets a road game in America's Greatest City, instead of New Jersey's Greatest City With A Rutgers Campus (the other two being Newark and Camden).

To prove that it all adds up, here's the rest of the modified league schedule, with four home, four away, and no duplicates:

UCF
Home: UConn, Houston, Rutgers, USF. Away: Cincinnati, Louisville, SMU, Temple

Cincinnati
Home: Houston, UCF, UConn, Louisville. Away: Memphis, Rutgers, San Diego State, USF

UConn
Home: Louisville, Rutgers, San Diego State, USF. Away: UCF, Cincinnati, SMU, Temple

Houston
Home: Memphis, San Diego State, SMU, USF. Away: Cincinnati, UCF, Rutgers, Temple

Louisville
Home: UCF, Memphis, Rutgers, San Diego State. Away: Temple, Cincinnati, UConn, USF

Memphis
Home: Cincinnati, San Diego State, SMU, Temple. Away: Rutgers, Houston, Louisville, USF

SMU
Home: Rutgers, UCF, UConn, Temple. Away: Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, USF

Temple
Home: Louisville, Houston, UCF, UConn. Away: Memphis, Rutgers, San Diego State, SMU

Games that changed from the original 12-team Big East schedule are underlined. Only UCF and UConn were unaffected.

Of course, this is just one of many, many ways to solve the problem. USF's schedule might not change at all. But this does illustrate that Boise's departure will likely affect teams that weren't even scheduled to play them, and that the calculus of creating a balanced schedule is likely to benefit some teams at the expense of others. And since our home/away slate was regarded as pretty uncool, there's a good chance that any opponent swap on USF's schedule will be an improvement.

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