At the behest of Mark Emmert, Penn State football will miss the postseason, including the B1G Championship Game, for the next four seasons. This should mean that the Nittany Lions finish their season with only twelve games. However, the benevolent NCAA provides a way Penn State can play a thirteenth game — one that would be a bonus for the players.
Meet the clause of the NCAA handbook that sports media refers to as “the Hawaii Exemption.” According to this rule, 1) teams that play in Hawaii are allowed to schedule one additional game to this season (17.27.2), and 2) the NCAA permits Hawaii to play one additional home game (220.127.116.11.j). Thanks to this exemption, numerous teams from BCS conferences have been able to play thirteen games.
Penn State could use the Hawaii Exemption to play their final game during their four-year bowl ban. While the detractors will criticize the move as the Athletic Department exploiting a loophole, this measure (unlike the NCAA sanctions) is not unprecedented. Kevin McGuire notes that the Crimson Tide played their final game against the (Rainbow) Warriors in 2002, when the program was hit with a postseason ban. This essential allows a team to experience the extravagances of a “bowl game environment” and pick up an additional game, without being an official bowl game.
So we know the Nittany Lions could schedule a game against the Hawaii Warriors. The question now remains if it is actually possible. College football schedules are drawn up years in advance. It is already too late to have the team meets in 2012, as neither shares an open weekend. The following season, the teams both have September 28 and October 19 still available. However, the Mountain West Conference still needs to draft its intra-conference schedule, so these dates may evaporate. (Yes, the University of Hawaii is in the Mountain West. Why?)
In 2014, the teams share three off weekends: October 4, November 8 and December 6. The Saturday in December is also the same weekend as the Big Ten Championship Game, and is typically when teams from BCS conferences without conference championship games would schedule against Hawaii. During the last year of the bowl ban, the programs once again share three off weekends, including the one of the Big Ten Championship.
Undoubtedly, Penn State’s detractors will criticize the team for exploiting a loophole, but forget them. Our players have been unfairly punished without trial of crimes that existed when they were not part of the university. Since they are not going to attend a bowl game, the Athletic Department would be nice to give them a trip to Hawaii to thank them for staying with the program for one of its darkest periods.