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Anatomy of a non-conference game: The original cast likely didn’t last

Take USF-Illinois: By the time the game is played this season, at least five ADs and five head coaches have passed through.
USF's D'Ernest Johnson scores a third-quarter touchdown against Illinois last season at Raymond James Stadium. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
USF's D'Ernest Johnson scores a third-quarter touchdown against Illinois last season at Raymond James Stadium. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Aug. 31, 2018
Updated Sep. 1, 2018

Contrary to popular presumption, scheduling a non-conference game involves more than finding a willing opponent and a workable date. In most cases, the process requires negotiations and flexibility — all done years in advance.

The two-game series involving USF and Illinois, which concludes Sept. 15 at Soldier Field, is a prime example. Here's how the programs looked when the original game contract was signed Aug. 1, 2013:

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Doug Woolard and Mike Thomas were the athletic directors at USF and Illinois, respectively. Both schools have had at least two ADs since

Willie Taggart (USF) and Tim Beckman (Illinois) were the coaches. Taggart hadn't yet coached a game for the Bulls.

• Current Illini coach Lovie Smith still was more than four months from being hired as coach of the Buccaneers

Quinton Flowers was entering his senior year at Miami Jackson High

• The Bulls were 4-0 all-time against UCF

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Contract details

• For both games, the visiting team receives $200,000 (and 400 complimentary tickets).

• The buyout (for either team) is $500,000. The contract, however, could be terminated without penalty if either school's conference adopted new scheduling requirements, provided that school gave 18 months' written notice.

• The visiting team for each game receives a minimum of 3,000 tickets for "consignment sale." All unsold tickets must be returned to the home team by the Thursday of game week.

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• The second game (Sept. 15, 2018) initially was set to be played at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

• Officials for each game are paid for by the home team. Three Big Ten officials were assigned for last year's game in Tampa. An American Athletic Conference crew is assigned for this year's contest.

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