After sweeping Western Illinois in a doubleheader on April 25, Missouri had a record of 26-24 with five regular-season games remaining. With a strong résumé highlighted by an RPI of 23, the Tigers were likely to receive an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. However, that wouldn't happen with a losing record.
Instead of playing — and potentially losing — two games to Wichita State, an RPI-31 team in dire need of wins for their at-large argument, Missouri paid a $5,000 buyout to cancel the non-conference doubleheader and replace it with a doubleheader vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, an RPI-263 team with 15 wins.
"The fact that they didn't feel 100 percent comfortable playing two games against us tells our girls that we're a competitive team that even the big dogs in the Power 5 schools aren't confident they can come in and beat us," an understanding but clearly peeved Wichita State coach Kristi Bredbenner told the Wichita Eagle.
Missouri swept Pine Bluff by a combined score of 12-0, pushing their record to 28-24 and guaranteeing an above-.500 finish with three games remaining. It worked.
Could it also work for a college football team in need of a strength-of-schedule boost for the College Football Playoff? Or a sub-.500 team seeking bowl eligibility? It's unlikely the stars would align to allow such a bold move but yes, it's possible.
For example, Missouri hosts Memphis on Oct. 20 this year, their seventh game of the season, but let's pretend that game is the 11th game (on Nov. 17) and Missouri has a 4-6 record. They like their chances to beat a potentially struggling Arkansas team on Nov. 24. Instead of facing a top-25 Memphis team and risking a loss that would knock them from bowl eligibility, Missouri cancels the game, pays the buyout and finds a weaker opponent.
Again, it's unlikely the stars would align as such — especially finding an FBS team in need of a 12th regular-season game (or had they not played UT-Martin in Week 1, finding an FCS team to play on Nov. 17) — but it's possible. Missouri might believe it's financially beneficial to pay the six-figure buyout in hopes of reaching bowl eligibility.
Might a playoff-contending team attempt something similar if they need to avoid an opponent that would lower their strength of schedule?
For example, Alabama hosts The Citadel on Nov. 17. The Crimson Tide have one or two losses but are still in playoff contention if they win out. They'll throttle The Citadel but the Tide's non-conference foes have been terrible, as has the entire SEC. Alabama needs any strength-of-schedule help they can get and crushing an FCS foe won't help.
Alabama cancels the game, pays the buyout and finds a stronger opponent.
Unlikely in both cases? Extremely, though the Missouri softball situation suggests anything is possible.