Stuve: Laying out Iowa State’s options for the nonconference game


Grant Tetmeyer

Iowa State running back Kene Nwangwu runs the ball during Iowa State’s 29-26 victory over Northern Iowa on Aug. 31, 2019, at Jack Trice Stadium.

Sam Stuve

With the Big 12 Conference limiting its 10 schools to one nonconference game, Iowa State is now left with a decision on who it wants to play in a nonconference game.

Iowa State had three nonconference games scheduled, on Sept. 5 versus the South Dakota Coyotes, on Sept. 12 versus the Ball State Cardinals and on Sept. 19 versus the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels.

It will not be easy to cancel the two necessary contracted games.

According to the Des Moines Register, the Iowa State-Ball State game contains “force majeure” clauses in the contract while the South Dakota and UNLV games have “act of God” clauses. 

“Most often the phrase ‘act of God’ refers to natural disaster type events such as flood, hurricane,” Ryan Haaland, an attorney with the Davis Brown Law Firm in Ames, told the Des Moines Register. “A force majeure clause may include acts of God, but it will most likely also include additional occurrences such as riot, strike, or terrorist act.”

A force majeure clause would not allow a team to be penalized for having a game canceled if the cancellation is beyond the control of the institution. A health crisis or natural disaster would be an example of this.

COVID-19 is specifically mentioned as a thing that is completely out of control in Iowa State’s contract with Ball State, according to the Des Moines Register. 

If either team were to breach the contract, then it would cost the school $375,000, but the force majeure language would potentially protect either school from taking the penalty.

Canceling the Ball State game would be the cheapest for Iowa State to do, as it would have to pay the school $375,000 in liquidated damages if the cancellation isn’t deemed a force majeure event.  

Despite this, the Ball State game may be the best option to play in a nonconference game, in terms of a mix of geography and competition. 

Ball State, located in Muncie, Indiana, finished the 2019 season with a 5-7 record and are a member of the Mid-American Conference, which is one of the Group of 5 conferences (American, Conference-USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt) in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

Ball State has had its three other regular season games get canceled.

UNLV is a member of the Mountain West, who Iowa State is contracted to host in 2020 and to play in Las Vegas in 2021. If either program breaches this contract, then there is set to be a $500,000 in damages penalty. 

It should be noted UNLV is already missing out on two home games, one game against California and Arizona State.

This is important because UNLV was set to receive $250,000 from each school, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, plus the school is going to lose a significant amount of review from ticket sales.

Last season, UNLV earned $1.9 million in ticket sales and losing two nonconference games against Power 5 opponents in the Western United States for the 2020 season and the potential of no fans being allowed at games, UNLV will make significantly less in ticket sales.

This could then make UNLV want to avoid playing a road game against Iowa State and make it find a team it can play at home. 

Since this is a home and home series (both teams play each other at home once), neither school is paying the other to host. 

This means UNLV isn’t making money on this game this year in addition to losing $500,000.

With Iowa State not having to pay UNLV to travel to Ames, UNLV would be the cheapest opponent for Iowa State to host.

In regards to Iowa State’s game against South Dakota, the penalty for breaching the contract would be $475,000. There is a act of God clause in the contract.

South Dakota is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), which is in the NCAA Football Championship Series (FCS) with teams such as the Northern Iowa Panthers.

According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard, “confirmed to the Ames Tribune last week that South Dakota had agreed to implement the same standard of testing Iowa State will employ — conducting team-wide tests 72 hours before competition.”

The Des Moines Register also wrote, “Pollard mentioned last week investigating a backup opponent if FCS schools were unable to play.”

With a month left before the 2020 football season is set to begin, Iowa State’s nonconference is still seeing changes and its decision on who it’s going to play for its one nonconference game has not yet been made.