As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in the United States, sports at all levels are rushing to adapt. Schedule changes, season truncation, and attendance adjustments all appear to be in the offing. But today, a major scheduling change for DU Hockey – an opening weekend matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison is now a road trip to Tempe to play the Arizona State Sun Devils – has absolutely nothing to do with the spread of the virus. In fact, it has to do with another college sport whose immediate future is in question: football.
Earlier today, Todd Milewski of the Wisconsin State Journal reported that due to what could be described as an amicable disagreement over when the two-game opening weekend series between the Pioneers and Badgers – originally scheduled for October 9th and 10th – could be played, it has been canceled. The major issue at stake was scheduling around the Wisconsin football team’s scheduled matchup with the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall on the 10th. After Minnesota’s incredible 2019 campaign that saw the Gophers beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl on New Years Day after a strong Big 10 season, the Wisconsin-Minnesota matchup will almost certainly be the focus of much of the sports world that weekend.
How exactly does this affect the DU-UW series, though? Due to the uncertainty surrounding when kickoff will be, both programs sought to find a way to avoid playing hockey that Saturday. According to Milewski, the Badgers wanted to play a Friday-Sunday series while the Pioneers preferred a Thursday-Friday series due to their scheduled trip to Boston the next weekend to play Boston College & Providence.
In this series’ place, however, the Pioneers have added two more games against Arizona State – owners of approximately 5,378 uniform combinations. Denver is already scheduled to host the Sun Devils the first weekend of December which means Denver will now play ASU four times in the first two months of the season – twice in Tempe and twice in Denver.
They have contracts crossing over. The canceled 2020-21 games in Madison were part of a different contract than the 2021-22 series in Denver, which was a return for the 2018-19 games in Madison.
— Todd Milewski (@ToddMilewski) July 3, 2020
The cancellation with Wisconsin, though, has no bearing on future matchups between the two storied programs. As Milewski reported, there was already a scheduled trip for the Badgers to travel to Denver in 2021-22 as part of a separate agreement related to Denver’s 2018-19 trip to Madison and that series remains unaffected. According to sources close to DU Hockey, Wisconsin is scheduled to travel to Denver in 2023-24 in its return trip related to this year’s originally-scheduled series in Madison. It is unclear right now what the fate of that series is, though there’s plenty of time to renegotiate that agreement and keep both series on the books in the future.
All plans for the 2020-21 season remain very much in question, though, due to the pandemic. Even the best-laid plans and contingencies may end up falling apart if conditions are not good enough to play college sports this Fall and Winter. As it stands now, Denver will open its season in Arizona rather than in Wisconsin.
Photo of Denver playing ASU in the newest of the Sun Devils’ nearly eight million uniform combinations courtesy of DU Athletics