Thursday, May 29, 2014 | 12:41 p.m.
UNLV football has added a game to the schedule and also learned it will open the season on ESPN, the school announced today.
First, the new game. The Rebels will play at Houston on Saturday, Sept. 20. It was an open date for both programs and it came about in part because the NCAA allows teams that play at Hawaii to play a 13th game that same season.
It’s a rule commonly referred to as the Hawaii exemption, and it’s designed to give programs a chance to gain extra revenue from an additional game to help offset the travel costs to Hawaii. Usually, this is done with an extra home game, but UNLV announced it will receive $400,000 for the single-game trip to Houston.
“We saw nothing but positives in adding a trip to Houston to the schedule,” UNLV Athletics Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said in a statement. “Taking the team to play in a high-profile city and their brand-new stadium, while also helping our budget, is something that was certainly appealing.”
Even though the Rebels always had the option of a 13th game, they likely wouldn’t have added it if they were eligible for postseason play this season. Teams must finish with at least a .500 record to be bowl eligible — they are a few unique exceptions — so the extra game carries the risk of finishing 6-7 when 6-6 could have led to a bowl game.
Because of its low APR score, UNLV can’t play in a bowl no matter its record this year. Taking the payday to play in Texas, and specifically in the hometown of senior receiver Devante Davis, makes sense given the circumstances.
“We have a big group from Texas, including four seniors, so getting to play in front of friends and family will be memorable,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said in a statement. “Texas is also one of our biggest recruiting areas after Nevada and California so we look forward to playing down there this fall against a bowl team in Houston.”
Kickoff time and TV information for that game will be available at a later date. The Rebels, however, received that info earlier today for their 2014 season opener at Arizona as the Pac-12 announced much of its TV package.
On Friday, Aug. 29, UNLV will kick off against Arizona at 7:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN. It’s the Rebels first appearance on ESPN since 2012.
The game does not include a national TV bonus for UNLV under the Mountain West’s structure because it’s not a league-controlled game.