There will be no trip to Happy Valley for the University of Rhode Island football.
On New Year’s Day, three URI football players tweeted the Rams would play Penn State in the fall of 2013. Rhode Island Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn wouldn’t confirm the rumor Monday and Tuesday Penn State football’s Director of Operations Kirk Diehl said he hadn’t heard anything about the two teams playing. Tuesday evening URI head football coach Joe Trainer said the game was possible, but it wasn’t a sure thing.
The Narragansett Times reported about the players’ tweets online Tuesday night. Some Penn State football media picked up on the story but by evening reported there were talks between the two schools that broke off Wednesday night.
The rumors of URI making playing Penn State for the first time in program history started on New Year’s Day when starting quarterback Bob Bentsen, defensive lineman Shomari Watts and defensive back Tim Wienclaw all tweeted about taking on the Nittany Lions in the 2013 season.
Bentsen’s tweet about the potential game was deleted from his account before the weekend hit. Watts, a redshirt junior, in a tweet dated Jan. 1 at 1:19 PM, said (sic) “Goin to happy valley next yr….penn state is on the schedule.” That tweet was retweeted by URI backup quarterback Danny Fenyak.
Later that night Wienclaw, a sophomore, tweeted (sic) “Playing Penn St next year and BC in 2014 #letsgooo.”
Tuesday Trainer had little to say about the social media gaffe.
“It’s hard to control,” he said, “but the information didn’t come from me.”
Late Wednesday night the York Daily Record’s Frank Bodani blogged about the story; Bodani said there were rumors about a schedule change one month earlier where Penn State would drop a home game with Virginia for an opponent to be determined.
A game at Penn State would have netted URI a significant payday. There were no numbers reported, but Bodani’s story said it would have been at least $300,000, if not more.
Playing games against FBS opponents to make money isn’t something new for URI, which has been reported to be on Boston College’s schedule for the 2014 season.
“[The 2012 season] we had Bowling Green, last year was Syracuse, the year before that was UConn,” Trainer said. “A team like BC, we’re looking to play a game at that level. It’s a pretty significant payday.”
URI is schedule to play a road game against Old Dominion, an old Colonial Athletic Association foe. The Monarchs will play in Conference USA in 2013 and according to a story by Harry Minium of The Virginia-Pilot, URI will make $150,000 for traveling to play ODU in Norfolk, Va. this fall. The Providence Journal reported the number was $180,000.
Trainer said Tuesday that even if things with Penn State didn’t work, he could still see there being a schedule change to play another FBS team.
“I would imagine if it’s not Penn State [in 2013],” he said, “it’s probably something along those lines.”
The Journal reported Wednesday that URI had signed contracts to play non-conference games with ODU and three FCS schools; in-state rival Brown, Central Connecticut State and Fordham. With eight conference games, that would have given the Rams a full scheduled.
Penn State was in a similar situation. Diehl said the schedule wasn’t finalized but as far as he knew, was set for 2013. Various online sites – unofficial – had PSU playing eight conference games and four non-conference games; Aug. 31 against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium at the new Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J., at home against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 7, home against Virginia Sept. 14 and home against Kent State on Sept. 21.
“There are a lot of variables there … The contracts at that level are more fluid than not,” Trainer said. “A lot of times coaches come in and say listen, we want to exchange an away game for a home game. Even though things can be firm, there’s opportunities to move games and always continue to shuffle.”