STILLWATER The question's been raised by more than a few Cowboys fans:
"Why would we ever go play in Lafayette, Louisiana?"
The answer: to get the Ragin' Cajuns back in Stillwater, twice.
Non-conference scheduling isn't easy. And it's about to get more difficult, with realignment spurring the Big 12's shift to nine-game league schedules.
So a 2-for-1 deal that offers 3-win appeal, even if the one return trip could get tricky, is a deal worth doing.
"A lot of it is you're just trying to find teams that will come here 2-for-1," said Dave Martin, Oklahoma State's associate athletic director who oversees scheduling. "Not that many schools will do it anymore."
OSU's philosophy on non-conference scheduling has, and will going forward, aim for an annual formula.
* Play enough non-league foes at home to give the Cowboys seven home games overall.
* Play one marquee team among the non-conference lineup.
* Keep it financially feasible.
And the latter is why making 2-for-1 arrangements with schools such as Louisiana-Lafayette, or Texas-San Antonio and South Alabama in the future, makes sense. Simply buying home games is expensive, with costs driven way up by schools that draw larger crowds than OSU.
"Not many will come in for single games, unless you pay a hefty guarantee," Martin said. "And it's hard to compete in that arena with schools who draw 80,000 to 100,000 fans.
"Sometimes if you can go 2-for-1, you can get a pretty reasonable price."
With Louisiana-Lafayette, the Cowboys get two home games, in 2011 and 2012, as well as a national television spot Friday night on ESPN2.
For that, they'll make a trip into Cajun country, even if most of the players might need a map.
"There's going to be games like that every year," said Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden. "I just leave the scheduling to whoever does that. Whoever we play, we play.
"It's a big game for us momentum wise. We've got to take care of business and what we can control."
This series actually represents an easy aspect of what has become a scheduling chore for Martin.
The shakeup of the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences over the summer created major scheduling headaches. For Big 12 schools, like OSU, that were solidly booked with four non-conference opponents into the future, adjustments are necessary to accommodate the move from eight to nine league games. Some opponents already signed to contracts must be shifted to other years. Some, like Purdue, couldn't make the years match, so the series was canceled.
With all that, there's a desire to maintain some schedule integrity, while sticking to the desired minimum of seven home games. Complicating that is a conference schedule that alternates between four and five home games every other year.
"This is an interesting time in scheduling," Martin said. "People that are going into nine league games, which could be the Big Ten, which could be the Pac-10, that instantly changes the landscape."
Next year, OSU's non-conference schedule is set with home dates against ULL and Arizona and a road game at Tulsa.
Because it's a year with four league home games, the Cowboys will only play at Boone Pickens Stadium six times, something Martin wants to avoid in the future.
"Next year, it doesn't hurt us so badly to only have six home games, because one of our road games is Tulsa," Martin said. "Fans can travel 45 minutes or an hour down the road."
Still, Martin finds himself massaging future schedules, a task that currently has him working to shift games against Rice and Central Arkansas into openings that fit the formula.
And there's the search to find quality opponents for certain seasons, including 2013, which now has only Texas-San Antonio and Lamar on the books. In 2014, only UTSA is locked in.
The Cowboys do have intriguing foes set for other years, with the trip to Arizona in 2012, and home-and-home series with Air Force in 2015 and 2016, and a new revelation for 2017 and 2018, games against Clemson, if both sides can make it fit.
OSU has also been approached by Jerry Jones about playing at least one game against Miami (Fla.) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, although no negotiations have taken place, according to Martin.
"We haven't agreed to anything like that. But I wouldn't say that the answer to that is never," Martin said. "When you lose a home game, there's a financial impact you have to make up someplace else.
"But what you try to do is give your fans a little something different all the time, something they would like. That's something in the future where we have to look at it and weigh it. Would there be a year where we had seven home games and would we look at taking one of those games and moving it to a neutral site? Possibly.
"Would our fans look forward to going to Cowboys Stadium? Is that something that would excite people? We'd have to weigh that and make a decision."
Future Foes A look at OSU's scheduled non-conference opponents in the future: 2011: Arizona; Louisiana-Lafayette; at Tulsa 2012: at Arizona; Louisiana-Lafayette 2013: at Texas-San Antonio; Lamar 2014: Texas-San Antonio 2015: at Air Force; Texas-San Antonio 2016: Tulsa; Air Force 2017: at South Alabama; Clemson* 2018: Clemson* 2019: South Alabama 2020: South Alabama * The years of the Clemson games are tentative, with the home-and-home sites still to be determined. Note: The Cowboys also have agreements with Rice and Central Arkansas, but the schools are working to place the games in specific years.