In conjunction with ABC/ESPN, Kansas and Alabama have agreed to a doubleheader home-and-home in football and basketball, the schools announced early this morning. The series will begin next fall.
In an interesting twist, the football and basketball games will both be played in November, back-to-back, on the host school's campus.
Many SEC schools, including Alabama, have an FCS team on their football schedule in November. In an attempt to upgrade their football scheduling, Alabama bought out of their scheduled Nov. 21 game vs Charleston Southern and added the Jayhawks. The Crimson Tide also paid 50% of the cost for Kansas to buy out South Dakota State, which would have been KU's opener. Instead, Kansas will open with West Virginia on Sept 5, 2015. The Mountaineers were able to move their original Sept 5 opponent, Georgia State, to a mutual bye week on Oct 24 in return for a guaranteed slot on either ESPN or ESPN2 for both the KU and GSU games.
After the joint announcement, Alabama football coach Nick Saban released a statement. "We saw what happened to Baylor and TCU last year, and we are not about to have Alabama left out in the cold in the college football playoff due to a perceived weak schedule," said Saban. "To that vein, we have opted out of our FCS opponent and added a Power-5 member institution to our schedule. We feel that this is in the best interest of not just Alabama athletics, but Alabama football, and we will continue to look for inventive ways to increase our strength of schedule."
KU football coach David Beaty is excited for the opportunity to showcase KU against a national brand. "Alabama is one of the top programs in the country these days," Beaty said. "I am excited to test our coaches and our players against a program of this caliber. We will know almost immediately this fall just exactly how much farther we have to go."
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self was a fan of the move as well. Known for his aggressive scheduling, Self has been quoted in recent days as wanting to find ways to lighten up the basketball schedule, although this move seems to contradict that statement. The Tide have made the basketball postseason in three of the past four years (2012 NCAA Tournament, 2013, 2015 NIT).
"Alabama will be a solid early-season test for what I think will be an experienced, veteran group of guys that we have coming back next year." Added Self, "I'm intrigued by the idea of piggybacking football and basketball games on what is basically a national broadcast double-header. I think this is an incredible opportunity for our athletic department."
KU will play in Tuscaloosa in 2015 and Alabama will visit Lawrence in November of 2016. Game times have not yet been set. The start times of the basketball games will depend on the football games and what TV slot they end up in. However, it is anticipated that the football games will be slotted in the 2:30 PM (3:30 ET) time slot and that the basketball games will tip later in the evening.
The series against Alabama will give KU a Power-5 opponent to go with Rutgers and Illinois on upcoming football schedules. Athletic director Sheahon Zenger says he will continue to look for high profile non-conference matchups for both programs, and that he is always open to unique propositions such as this one.
And if you're still reading, you've been April Fooled.