When the NFL schedule was announced Tuesday night, the 2015 slates for most franchises were set. Except maybe for the Dallas Cowboys, who now find themselves in a scheduling conflict with the UIL state football championships.
The team said Wednesday that it’s “working with the UIL and the NFL to explore options for the 2015 games to be played in Arlington,” even though the Cowboys’ schedule includes a home game Dec. 19, the final day of the UIL championships.
State championships have been played at AT&T Stadium since 2010.
The Cowboys, whose 2015 slate was released Tuesday night, are scheduled to host the New York Jets at 7:25 p.m. Dec. 19, a Saturday. Since the UIL moved the state games to the same location in 2010, they’ve been played on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That was the plan this year, too, for Dec. 17-19.
UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt told Austin’s KVET/1300 AM “The Zone” on Wednesday that he was “very surprised” to learn of the scheduling conflict.
“All of us knew we had a one-year option remaining [on the contract with the Cowboys] that included the 2015 games,” Breithaupt told the station. “Somewhere along the line, there was some miscommunication, and the Cowboys thought we weren’t going to exercise that option.”
As Breithaupt pointed out, the UIL’s contract with the Cowboys this year was nonbinding, so the games weren’t locked into AT&T Stadium. Other options include the Alamodome in San Antonio and NRG Stadium in Houston. Both offer a dome and artificial turf, the UIL’s two main criteria for site selection, according to spokeswoman Kate Hector.
“We certainly want to be back at AT&T, but we have two other domes we can use,” Breithaupt told “The Zone.” “We’re hearing [the Cowboys] are working to get that date changed so we can come back in 2015. [Jerry Jones’] staff has really bent over backwards. They apologized to us this morning.”
Breithaupt said it’s not an option to accommodate the Cowboys schedule by playing games on Dec. 20, a Sunday, or starting a day early on Dec. 16, a Wednesday.
Holding the state championships at AT&T Stadium has been a record-breaking venture for the UIL.
Last season, attendance at the 12 championship games totaled 250,652, including 52,308 on Dec. 20 for Allen’s victory over Cypress Ranch in the 6A Division I final. The year before, a record 54,347 attended the 5A Division I championship between Allen and Pearland.
The Dec. 20 attendance alone last year was 138,878 for three title games.
AT&T Stadium has hosted the past five UIL championships for Class 1A through Class 6A. The six-man title games were moved to AT&T Stadium in 2013.
“Our organization has a long standing commitment to high school football, and we enjoy a great relationship with the UIL,” Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple said in a statement Wednesday. “Although there is no binding contract in place for this year’s championship games to be played in Arlington, AT&T Stadium is certainly a venue under consideration for the 2015 games.”
While the Cowboys are exploring options to keep the games at AT&T Stadium, that appears to be a long shot at best, considering the painstaking process the NFL undertook to create its 2015 schedule.
The league is unlikely to move the Cowboys game, especially since it’s being televised by the NFL Network.
The bigger problem is that a ball was apparently dropped between the Cowboys and the NFL in communicating the blackout dates for AT&T Stadium. Either that or the NFL simply didn’t care about Texas high school state championships, which has not been a problem in the past.
According to Sports Illustrated, league officials took into account 50 must-have conditions from teams and stadiums in using 136 computers to complete the complex 256-game schedule. The computers came up with roughly 5.4 million possible schedules before the NFL settled on version 37,793.
Officials are unlikely to revisit that process for one game, no matter how important state championships are in Texas, especially considering there are viable alternatives in Houston and San Antonio for one year.
Staff writer Clarence E. Hill Jr. contributed to this report.
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760
2014 UIL championship game attendance
1A (6-man) DI
Crowell vs. May
1A (6-man) DII
Groom vs. Throckmorton
Canadian vs. Mason
Albany vs. Bremond
Mineola vs. Cameron Yoe
Waskom vs. Newton
Gilmer vs. West Orange-Stark
Argyle vs. Navasota
Ennis vs. Cedar Park
Aledo vs. Temple
Cedar Hill vs. Katy
Allen vs. Cypress Ranch