Big 12 football: A solution to scheduling I-AA foes
In the Tuesday Oklahoman, our gal Jenni Carlson called for the end of major college football teams scheduling games against lesser-division foes. You can read it here. Anyone who saw OSU’s 84-0 thrashing of Savannah State on Saturday night would say hear-hear. Heck, anyone who didn’t see it but cares about college football would say the same thing.
But it’s not going to happen, for a variety of reasons. Most of them financial. Major programs now fund athletic departments with more home games than ever before. Most powers play seven home games a year. Some play eight. Those opponents have to come from somewhere, and I-AA teams sign on because they are willing to play for less than some of the I-A programs that are looking for a payday. If the I-AA teams are out of the mix, the price tag for the I-A opponents goes even higher.
Now, it would be nice if such a market forced powers just to play each other, with more home-and-home series. But I doubt that would happen.
Also, if you outlaw I-A teams from playing I-AA teams, where does the bottom of I-A go for games? Where does Troy — which is willing to go Stillwater and Lincoln and Gainesville — go for a break in the schedule. A Savannah State-Western Kentucky game is not an outrage. An OSU-Savannah State game is an outrage. Banning I-AA opponents would hurt the bottom teams in I-A.
The best solution is to try to create environments that make programs avoid mismatches on their own. Instead of legislation, try coaxing. Here a few ways:
1. Return to the previous rule which stated victories over I-AA opponents do not count toward bowl eligibility. That would sober up a bunch of schedule-makers. Now, OSU has joined OU in being past the point of worrying about getting to six victories, so that wouldn’t be a deterrent for the state schools. But it would be a deterrent for lots of programs.
2. Don’t count the game in statistical accounts. You want to run for 11 touchdowns? Want to pitch a shutout? Fine. But make the stats not count in the official NCAA rankings. Why should OSU rank No. 1 in America this week in scoring defense? Why should OU get credit for a shutout if it blanks Florida A&M this week? Play the games if you want, record them in your school charter however you want, but nothing will count in the official NCAA statistics. Team or individual.
3. When the four-team playoff system arrives, and a football committee is charged with selecting the participants, create a criteria by which teams are penalized for weak opponents. Don’t give credit for victories over I-AA opponents. Do count the game in strength of schedule. Make it clear, the way the NCAA basketball committee does, that playing Savannah State will weaken your strength of schedule in the eyes of the committee, and give strength of schedule lots of teeth.
I promise you, those changes alone will cause teams from Iowa State to Alabama to rethink their scheduling philosophy.
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