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With Kentucky game nixed by SEC decision, Louisville faces non-conference scheduling dilemma

By Russ Brown
Kentucky Today

The Southeastern Conference’s decision Thursday to play only conference football games this season leaves Louisville with a major hole in its schedule and athletics director Vince Tyra with another massive headache.

Louisville was scheduled to host Kentucky in the annual Governor’s Cup game in the regular-season finale on Nov. 28. Now that game won’t happen for the first time since the modern series began in 1994.

On Wednesday the Atlantic Coast Conference adopted a 10-plus-one schedule model, meaning its schools will play 10 league games instead of the usual eight, and one non-conference contest. Notre Dame was originally one of Louisville’s four non-conference opponents, but the Irish will play in the ACC this season for one year only. UofL’s other two non-conference games were to be against Murray State on Sept. 19 and Western Kentucky on Sept. 26.

Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield is in search of a non-conference game for this fall. (UofL photo)

Tyra and Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield would probably prefer to keep either Murray or WKU on the schedule as a welcome breather from the weekly rigors of the ACC, but that remains to be seen since it would take some juggling on the part of all three.

UofL’s flexibility will be hamstrung by its ACC revised schedule, with games to begin the week of Sept. 7-12 and include two bye weeks. The ACC hasn’t revealed a timetable in which to expect the 2020 schedules of the conference’s 15 teams.

Murray and Western both have open dates on their schedule, on Oct. 24, with both ending their season on Nov. 21. Murray, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, plays eight league games and three non-conference opponents. WKU plays eight Conference USA games and four non-league contests.

Tyra said on Thursday that if Murray or Western can work out a date and meet the ACC’s medical guidelines, one of those would be a logical opponent for the non-conference slot. If not, Tyra’s options are limited, especially when it comes to high-major teams, since the only Power 5 conference that so far hasn’t limited its schedule is the Big 12.

“I think we’re hoping Bellarmine starts a program by the fall,” Tyra joked.

“No, honestly, (a Power 5 foe) would be ideal,” he added. “Coach Satterfield has the similar mentality Coach (Chris) Mack does, that they love to play great competition. Those opportunities become less as the Big Ten made their decision and the Pac-12. If the SEC goes conference only, you’re talking about the Big 12 in terms of a team out of the Power 5. So it becomes tricky to figure out how to get that done, but we’re certainly open to it.”

UofL athletics department spokesman Kenny Klein said finding a non-conference opponent will be a “process” as the school works in concert with the ACC.

“We will need to provide the ACC possible non-conference opponents that have assured us they can meet the necessary health safety protocols, as well as the dates in which they are available to play,” Klein said. “Those possibilities will be considered when the league generates the new schedule.”

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