It takes more than a willingness to play and a matching of open dates to schedule premier college football programs against one another.
The University of Alabama has been among the most aggressive in scheduling opponents from Power 5 conferences to home-and-home series: from August 6, 2019, to April 8, 2020, UA scheduled six such series, resulting in at least one Power 5 non-conference game for every season between now and 2035, with two such games in four of those seasons. But the dates are far from the only details that get worked out before those games are finalized.
The Tuscaloosa News, through an open records request, acquired the contracts for every home-and-home series UA currently has scheduled: Texas in 2022-23, Wisconsin in 2024-25, Florida State in 2025-26, West Virginia in 2026-27, Notre Dame in 2028-29, Georgia Tech in 2030-31, Arizona and Oklahoma in 2032-33 and Virginia Tech in 2034-35.
All of the contracts — in some cases UA’s paperwork, in some cases that of the other school and in the Texas series, both — specify that player eligibility and rules are to be set by the NCAA and the host school’s conference. Each contract also specifies that the host school’s conference’s officials will referee the games, with one exception: the same clause in Notre Dame’s contract simply states, “an athletic conference designated by Notre Dame.” The Fighting Irish currently use ACC officials for their games.
All of the contracts include the home team paying the road team a sizable sum for the trip, in most cases within 90 or fewer days of the game being played. The Arizona series is the exception with a $400,000 payout, while the rest are either $500,000 (Wisconsin, Florida State, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech) or $1 million (Texas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma).
The ticketing process has one primary similarity — the home team sets all ticket prices — with some differences from school to school. Texas and West Virginia, for instance, will grant UA 500 and 300 complementary tickets, respectively, with the opportunity to purchase 4,500 and 5,900, respectively; the agreement with Florida State, on the other hand, had no mention of comp tickets, simply the chance to buy 5,000 tickets that includes seats used by the band.
The contracts are also similar in how they can be voided — with one exemption.
All of them have a similar clause that keeps either party from paying a breach of contract penalty for backing out of the game for things out of their control. The clause in UA’s contract with Texas reads, “In the event of fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, war, invasion, hostilities, rebellion, insurrection, confiscation by order of the government, military or public authority or prohibitory or governmental authority, including that of the Southeastern Conference or the National Collegiate Athletic Association, making it impossible or impractical to play the game, both parties shall be relieved of any and all obligations of this agreement.” Wisconsin’s clause mentions, “Acts of a Common Enemy,” and the West Virginia clause protects both parties against, “epidemic, quarantine restriction, strike, riot, war or terrorism,” among other things.
Conference realignment or scheduling changes could impact some of these series. Some, but not all, of the contracts have a clause similar to this one from the Florida State contract: “The teams acknowledge the long-term nature of football schedule planning and that conference rules, including the requirement to play a minimum number of games each season within their respective conferences, as well as the prospect that conference alignments could change, dictating that a game cannot be played during the 2025 or 2026 seasons. Accordingly, should this occur, the teams agree to discuss in good faith a future date(s) for the game(s) to be played.”
The exception is the Notre Dame series, which has a more direct clause. That series can be abandoned with no money due from either team if either the SEC moves its members to play more than eight conference games or if Notre Dame’s current deal with the ACC is expanded to more then five games against its teams.
If any of these series are voided without acts of God or likewise, it will prove expensive.
If either party is to break the Texas or Wisconsin series, the damages to be paid are $1 million; the damages are $1.5 million for the Virginia Tech and Arizona series and $2 million for the Oklahoma and West Virginia series. The Florida State series is also $2 million unless either the SEC or ACC requires an 11-game league schedule, in which case it goes down to $500,000.
The Georgia Tech and Notre Dame agreements have their damages structured by proximity to the games. The damages for the breaking the Georgia Tech agreement are $1 million if broken more than two years before the game, but $1.5 million if done closer than that. The Notre Dame series damages are $750,000 if broken two years or more before the game, $1.5 million if in between a year and two years and $3 million if less than a year away from the game.