Big Ten leaders are trying to be proactive when it comes to scheduling in the soon-to-dawn age of a college football playoff. The league has already decided to use a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016. In addition, the Big Ten has decided to put down some new guidelines for its schools when it comes to their non-conference scheduling options: no games against FCS opponents and at least one game each year against a team from one of the other major conferences.
Readers of this site know that we are in favor of the SEC doing the exact same thing.
With the Big Ten holding its annual meeting this week, a number of Big Ten personalities opened up about their league’s push to toughen up its scheduling:
“We want to get out of the business of scheduling games that feel like scrimmages to our fans… Football can be pretty boring in September if you don’t create great contests. We don’t want to be boring. We want to strengthen the schedule to create more excitement early in the season…. Yes, you’re going to take a few losses, but, ultimately, you’ll become more competitive.” — Michigan AD Dave Brandon
“It’s a little more difficult (to draw fans) with 60-inch TVs and the price of concessions and having to wait in line to go to the bathroom. We have to do our part for the in-game experience, but who we’re playing is also (important).” — Illinois AD Mike Thomas
“We collaborate a lot. If we’re looking for a game, does somebody know about one? Let’s say somebody had a team on their schedule, but for whatever reason, they needed to move the game. Maybe you call Purdue and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got X. You looking for a game?’ And maybe you trade-off. It’s kind of a co-op. We work together and try to help each other schedule.” – Penn State AD Dave Joyner
For those who missed it, Michigan coach Brady Hoke also got on Notre Dame’s case this week for “chickening out” of future games against his Wolverines.
The Big Ten’s moves to beef up its scheduling — and its loud talk of doing so — should aid Jim Delany’s league moving forward.
First, playing teams from the other major conferences guarantees — in most cases — home-and-home contracts. That will result in Big Ten football getting exposure in the West and in the South where the population is booming. Population growth has slowed or stalled in the Big Ten footprint, a point that Delany himself has made when explaining his conference’s decision to expand. Big Ten teams visiting the Southern or Western states should help on the recruiting front. With its own talent pool drying up, there couldn’t be a better time for the league to take its show on the road. And even when Big Ten teams host teams from the ACC, SEC, Big XII or Pac-12, they will still get attention from prospects in the ACC, SEC, Big XII and Pac-12 regions.
Second, going public with its scheduling plans — and doing so very loudly — will help create the perception that the Big Ten is a leader when it comes to non-conference scheduling. When a selection committee for the new College Football Playoff convenes in 2014, strength of schedule is supposed to be an A-1, top-shelf consideration. The Big Ten’s self-propelled image as a tough schedulin’ league coupled with a committee that will likely want to bring in teams from all over the country could help Delany’s schools gain invitations.
The old quote attributed to Muhammad Ali comes to mind: “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”
For SEC fans rolling their eyes at our thumbs-up to the Big Ten, keep in mind that the Big Ten currently makes more money than any other conference while also maintaining the best academic reputation. All while dealing with a growing talent gap produced by its location in an area of the country that’s being passed population-wise.
SEC fans might not like Delany, but he and Larry Scott of the Pac-12 are progressive, strategic-thinking conference commissioners who must be taken seriously. Each has made more money for their leagues than anyone thought possible without the benefit of seven BCS titles in a row. The SEC leaders should take note of what the Big Ten is doing now (as well as keeping an eye on the marketing-minded Scott to the West). You can be sure that Mike Slive is paying attention.
When the SEC first decided to add Texas A&M and then Missouri in 2011, talk of a nine-game schedule was scuppered by the league’s football coaches and ADs. With a playoff on the way, a new SEC Network to program, and more money to be made, the SEC suddenly is considering a nine-game slate (something we’ve predicted would eventually be adopted since way back in 2011).
Georgia AD Greg McGarity had this to say about the SEC’s scheduling plans this week:
“We’re still talking while we’re getting a model on the eight-game schedule, the nine-game idea is going to be tossed around as move forward. We’re not sure if that will ever happen and if it does, when would it happen? We’ve been so focused on the eight-game schedule for 2014 and maybe ’15, that we really haven’t focused on the nine-game schedule. I know interest is picking up on it. We have not discussed it as athletic directors. We will discuss it at a later time.”
For months, SEC officials have suggested that a new three- or four-year scheduling cycle would be released at some point this offseason (with the league meetings in Destin later this month being the earliest possible release date). Now McGarity is suggesting that an eight-game schedule isn’t even guaranteed for 2015.
If teams are in a conference, they should play one another as often as possible. And if the SEC is as good as everyone says it is — and as good as we at MrSEC.com believe to be — its teams should also follow the Big Ten’s lead and nix games against FCS foes while scheduling at least one team per year from a major conference. Instead of three or four cupcakes to feast on, that would mean some SEC squads would have to make due with just two. Tough break. Those programs frightened of playing tough competition can always join Conference USA or the Sun Belt.
The SEC has built-in advantages that should help give its schools the courage necessary to stop scheduling patsies and start scheduling more — if nothing else — decent teams each year.
Far more NFL prospects come out of high schools in the SEC footprint than from any other league’s region. SEC schools have the biggest, finest, newest facilities in America. Fan passion in the SEC is unmatched. And in case you haven’t been keeping up, the SEC is about to make more money than its ever made before… ensuring that its schools’ facilities never grow too old and that their recruiting budgets never dip.
The SEC has been a leader, not a coward in years past. That’s obviously served the conference well as its racked up more national titles than any other league since adding a first-of-its-kind conference championship game. But at the current time, the SEC is not a leader on the scheduling front. The Big Ten is leading the way.
The SEC should man up and follow suit.
Nine conference games per year. No games against FCS foes. At least one game per year against a team from a major conference.
That’s bold planning. Kudos to the Big Ten for leading the way.