It was a pick your poison decision for the West Chester University football program: risk $190,000 in lost revenues and financial penalties for cancelling a game against a Division I-AA opponent or anger a fellow member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and risk running into problems with the home office at Lock Haven.
At a time when most of the PSAC member schools, as members of the state-governed Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, are struggling with the prospects of reduced financing from Harrisburg, West Chester opted to maintain its long standing rivalry with the University of Delaware. In doing so, West Chester not only is at risk of potential sanctions from the PSAC, but left its scheduled opponent, Edinboro University, with an open date and the risk of a lost home date.
The Golden Rams’ scheduled game with the University of Delaware on September 10 conflicts with a mandated Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference interdivisional “cross-over” game with Edinboro University which had been slated for the same date according to the PSAC’s master schedule which was released in October.
According to West Chester University Athletic Director Ed Matejkovic, West Chester had signed a contract with the University of Delaware in 2007 to continue the long-running rivalry through 2012, which will be the final time the two teams face off on the gridiron.
The dates for the games between West Chester and Delaware, including this season’s scheduled date, starting with the 2007 schedule and running through the 2012 season were set as part of the contract between the two schools which was signed in 2007.
The following year, with the addition of Gannon University and Mercyhurst College as full-time members and Long Island University-C.W. Post as an associate member, the PSAC introduced the current schedule format which as at the center of what appears to be a developing controversy.
That schedule, which will be in effect through the 2011 season, calls for an open date in the first week of the season (September 3) against a non-conference opponent either with a team from another Division II conference (such as the Northeast 10 or West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) or a Division I-AA opponent.
The next two weeks have teams from the Eastern division playing schools from the Western division as part of a home-and-home structure; last season, Edinboro played at West Chester’s Farrell Stadium as part of the crossover schedule in Week 2; the Fighting Scots defeated the Golden Rams 16-14.
The next seven weeks consist of divisional play, with the final week of the season being another cross-over week, with the matchups depending upon the State Game conference championship.
In 2008 and 2009, West Chester’s scheduled PSAC cross-over dates conflicted with their contests with Delaware. In 2008, West Chester switched its season opener date with Lock Haven to accommodate the Delaware game played during Week 2; in 2009, the Golden Rams switched their scheduled Week 3 contest with California (Pa.) to the opening week due to a scheduling conflict with Delaware.
Last season, however, the West Chester-Delaware game was played on the opening week, thus avoiding any scheduling conflicts. The Golden Rams were defeated by the Blue Hens 31-0 at Newark.
This season, however, the Blue Hens will face Navy on September 3. Delaware couldn’t reschedule the game with Navy for much of the same reasons that the West Chester game couldn’t be moved to the opening week.
West Chester will open the 2011 season at the University of New Haven, a Division II program which reinstated its football program three years ago and had long been a power in what is now the Northeast 10 conference.
“It’s not that we didn’t want to play Edinboro,” Matejkovic said in an interview Wednesday. “I’d hope that Edinboro understands our situation.”
It appears that the biggest reason for the Golden Rams honoring its contract with Delaware is financial. Delaware pays West Chester $40,000 towards the Golden Rams’ football scholarship program. Breaching the contract, however, would cost West Chester a $150,000 penalty.
“It’s a $190,000 swing,” Matejkovic said. “We’re dependent on it, and so is [Delaware].”
Edinboro Athletic Director Bruce Baumgartner issued the following statement regarding the scheduling issues:
“We have been informed by West Chester that they will not be able to honor the contract due to a commitment with Delaware. The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference is aware of the matter and will discuss the mandated schedule issue with West Chester. Obviously it leaves us looking for a game, and we continue to do so at this time.”
Matejkovic indicated that West Chester would address the issue with administrators from the PSAC board, which consists of the presidents of the league’s 16 institutions.
The PSAC league office would only say that “… the conference is aware of the potential scheduling conflict. At this time, the PSAC is working with all of the affected institutions to come up with a solution that is agreeable to all parties” and that a “specific solution that is able to be worked out … will be announced and reflected in our composite schedule when it is posted later in the spring once all of our institutions finalize their football schedules.”
Creighton Rabs covers West Chester University athletics for glowbass.com. He is neither employed by nor affiliated with West Chester University. Feedback can be emailed to [email protected].