Hours after OU had to pencil in two more 11 a.m. football kickoffs for its coming season, athletic director Joe Castiglione spoke about his frustrations with the situation and the financial ramifications for the program.
Despite having 23 total morning kickoffs since the 2016 season, the Sooners’ matchup against Tulane on Sept. 4 and former storied rival Nebraska on Sept. 18 will also be at 11 a.m.
“We are just concerned with the disproportionate number of home games that have occurred at 11,” Castiglione said to reporters at the OU regents meeting in Oklahoma City on Thursday. “We’ve had two seasons in recent times where half of our games we had on our home schedule kick off at 11. For a university that depends greatly on fans that travel from all over the country, if not beyond the continental United States to come to the games, but especially those driving in from areas around the state, that just changes the experience.
“Once in a while it’s fine, everybody adjusts and embraces it, but when it starts happening so many times, it’s not something we were ever considering would occur. … Let’s be honest, Oklahoma has been really, really good over the last five or six years, and the games we’re in draw a lot of viewers.”
Castiglione said he fought hard for the Nebraska game to receive a primetime slot but now aims to “make the best of it” since it’s scheduled.
In 2019, OU played five consecutive 11 a.m. games, despite winning the Big 12 and earning its third straight College Football Playoff appearance later in the season. The Sooners’ 11 a.m. kicks have been competitive as well, with at least one loss during the time slot since the 2013 season.
Just before the 2020 season started, Castiglione still wasn’t sure if there would be a football season. Although the Sooners cut their non-conference games against Tennessee and Army due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OU avoided a disaster in terms of money, according to Castiglione, although it's still recovering. Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium was capped at 25 percent capacity during the season, but plans for a full stadium in 2021.
Castiglione added that the Tennessee and Army games are being rescheduled, and the team’s have agreed on dates with OU. He added “it could be a little while” before the teams actually play each other, as schedules are typically made up to 10 years in advance.
“It’s still a significant financial setback,” Castiglione said. “No matter which way we slice or dice it, very significant. But we have been very creative in trying to mitigate some of the losses. Obviously there’s been lots of reductions and changes in our world, we obviously weren’t able to play as many games. The seating capacities had relatable impact on those revenues. … We were able to find ways to lessen the financial impact that we forecasted a year ago.”
On May 21, the state senate voted to allow college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses. Although the bill is awaiting confirmation from Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state House of Representatives, Castiglione also spoke on the topic.
“It was a very important move for the state of Oklahoma for the universities within our state,” Castiglione said. “And it gives us now the chance to do what other states are doing. And most importantly, creating the opportunity for student athletes to capitalize on opportunities to monetize their name, images and likeness. … Not having a law would’ve put us at a serious disadvantage.”
Castiglione said OU has prepared for educating its students on building their brand going forward, along with developing business concepts and enhancing their opportunities to make well-informed decisions.
“We’re always trying to do what’s right for our student athletes,” Castiglione said. “And this allows us to move forward, from an institutional standpoint, we’re preparing and we’ll be ready for our role in all of that.”