Karl Benson and the Sun Belt offices didn’t really have a role to play in the rescheduled game between Florida State and Louisiana Monroe.
The game was originally canceled due to Hurricane Irma. On Tuesday, the game was rescheduled for Dec. 2. The Sun Belt won’t have a conference championship game until next season, and 3-5 Florida State won’t be making the ACC’s title game. The Noles might not make a bowl without a win in this game, and that’s ostensibly the reason the game is being rescheduled.
For the non-conference game, the Noles and Warhawks largely did business with themselves.
“Florida State was very committed to not just leaving ULM hanging out there due to the cancellation,” Benson said in a phone interview with SB Nation. “So there’s always been a willingness by both parties to get the game played, so that ULM could benefit from the financial part of the game.”
Per FSU, there was no new contract drawn up. Instead, both parties are operating under the agreement signed in 2015. The agreement, obtained by SB Nation, has a clause in which each party was relieved from “any and all” obligations if playing the game became impractical due to, among other things, a hurricane.
“Had they been [Sun Belt] conference games, then we would have been involved heavily,” Benson said. “But these are contracts that are outside the jurisdiction of the Sun Belt and whatever we can do to help and assist, we’re there. But it’s primarily the two universities working out a deal.”
ULM vs. FSU is one of three games Sun Belt teams had scuttled due to Irma.
The other two, Miami vs. Arkansas State and Memphis vs. Georgia State, were non-conference home dates for Sun Belt teams that won’t be made up this season.
The Panthers got their payout from the Tigers, and were essentially paid to not play a game.
"We are disappointed for our fans and our football program with the cancellation of this game, but it is beyond our control,” Georgia State's athletics' director Charlie Cobb said. “All we can do is search for a suitable replacement, preferably a home FBS game this season.”
Georgia State was paid $1.1 million for losing the game, a sum they get to keep regardless if they find an opponent -- home or away, FCS or FBS -- to fill the date.
The Red Wolves are in a different situation. Arkansas State did go out of its way to try to accommodate the Hurricanes, but Miami found it in its best interest to keep the game canceled.
It’s hard to see any way this game could’ve been rescheduled to any other point in the season. Miami’s open date this season is Oct. 7. Arkansas State’s are Sept. 30 and Nov. 4.
Standard language from the game’s contract, obtained by SB Nation previously: “This contract may be terminated without penalty by mutual written consent of both parties.”
The game now stands in a relative state of limbo. Perhaps the teams will agree to play in a different season, but a home game against an ACC team would have been a coup for Arkansas State and the Jonesboro economy. But safety takes precedence.
Benson and the Sun Belt are looking to get insurance in place for all their teams.
“What this has caused us to do is to look at some type of an umbrella cancellation insurance policy to protect in the future,” Benson said. “We’re also encouraging our schools, when they enter into game contracts, that they be more specific in game contracts that deal with this cancellations due to weather.”
In 2014, Florida canceled a game against another Sun Belt team (Idaho) due to lightning after kickoff. Florida refunded tickets to fans, and paid out the full contract agreement to the Vandals. They ended up rescheduling, and then the Vandals pulled out because they got a better pay day from a different opponent. The Gators also were protected financially to mitigate the loss in revenue from the original game.
The University of Florida’s Athletic Department is scheduled to collect $1.8 million under a Lloyd’s of London insurance policy that covers the loss of ticket revenue in the event a home game is cancelled.
A situation like this, while unfortunate, will probably happen again. Sun Belt teams, which are already cash-strapped compared to their Power 5 counterparts, need to be protected.