Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson on Wednesday took a few shots at Notre Dame over a football scheduling flap that began last week when a report surfaced that the Fighting Irish would drop the Sun Devils from their 2014 schedule.
Nothing has been made official, so the game in Tempe on Oct. 25, 2014, remains on the books, but it’s clear Notre Dame has at least expressed its desire to drop the game.
Patterson isn’t happy about how it was done and expressed as much in an interview Wednesday afternoon on Phoenix radio station XTRA Sports 910 AM.
“The school didn’t have the courtesy to have the athletic director (Jack Swarbrick) call the athletic director at ASU to discuss it,” Patterson said. “They had their PR guy call (ASU’s media relations office) to give us a message Friday afternoon while everybody was out of town at the Final Four.
“At least in the little Catholic town I grew up in — Beaver Dam, Wis. — the good nuns wouldn’t have thought that was a very appropriate way to honor your word.”
Thus far, ASU has not received anything in writing from Notre Dame about the potential scheduling change. That’s a required action for any change in the contract, which was signed in 2008, that also includes a game between the teams in South Bend in 2017. So as Patterson sees it, nothing has changed.
“Our position is ‘Hey, we’ve got a contract,’ and we expect Notre Dame to live up to it,” Patterson said.
ASU and Notre Dame are set to play this season at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Oct. 5 as part of Notre Dame’s “Shamrock Series.” That game is not in question, but the possibility of losing the 2014 game could put ASU in a tough spot with its schedule for next year, which also includes nonconference games with Weber State (home) and New Mexico (road).
“What people don’t understand is you do this 18 months before a game,” Patterson said. “Virtually every other university in the country’s got their teams scheduled until 2014. So who do you get as a replacement even if you wanted to do it?
“If you act in a professional way and you want to talk about three years down the line or four years down the line where somebody’s got a chance to make an adjustment in their schedule, that’s a different thing, but when it’s 18 months out, everybody’s got their season booked.”
In addition to the scheduling mess — ASU would likely have a hard time finding a quality opponent at this late stage without promising a return game — the athletic department would suffer financially from the lost game, which almost certainly would have sold out Sun Devil Stadium and generated additional revenue from merchandise. In fact, Patterson said ASU has already incurred financial costs related to marketing and planning for the 2014 game.
The probable cause of Notre Dame’s desire to back out of the 2014 game is its new connection to the Atlantic Coast Conference. The school is a conference member in every sport except football but will play five ACC teams in football each season as part of an agreement reached last year. Notre Dame currently has just Syracuse and Pittsburgh on its 2014 schedule, which includes 11 games out of a possible 12, so it seems that at least two opponents need to be dropped to clear room for three more ACC teams.
Until further notice, Patterson doesn’t consider ASU among those opponents.
“Look, our position is we’re playing the game,” Patterson said. “On Oct. 25, Notre Dame is going to be here and we’re going to play football.”
Patterson also touched on the reports that surfaced last week that Pittsburgh blocked top running back Rushel Shell from transferring to ASU, presumably because coach Todd Graham recruited Shell at Pitt before leaving after just one season.
Shell was not mentioned specifically in the conversation.
“When Todd came here, we agreed not to talk to any of the players or staff (at Pitt) for a period of 120 days, and we honored that,” Patterson said. “As far as student-athletes wanting to transfer more than a year later … there’s an appeal going on, and I don’t want to be in the position of endangering that appeal or trying to appear to be influencing that. That’s really something that’s out of our hands.”
A diplomatic answer, but Patterson’s statement that an appeal is “going on” means there remains a chance Shell will wind up at ASU, which has a scholarship available. Patterson might also have meant that an appeal could happen.
Shell was also blocked from transferring to all ACC schools and Arizona, which has former Pitt coaches on staff.