Every September, there’s a certain indignation that runs around college football when major college programs play their non-conference filler games against the lesser programs. When I was growing up, this used to be WAC or MAC teams, and usually regional games (Colorado State at Nebraska, for example). But more recently, the rankings between the teams who make the one-stop games and the teams who write the big checks for those games has grown as Nebraska annually reaches down to the FCS ranks to bring opponents to Lincoln. With Savannah State’s embarrassed against Oklahoma State’s third time, the chorus is coming harder against these patsy September game, notably from Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald to take a stand and not schedule FCS teams, period.
Let me say this, Husker fans: I hate September patsy as vigorously as any of you. Even more so, I hate that Nebraska is spending $600,000 to play a team that has won eight games since 2007, more than two thirds of which they paid South Dakota State back in 2010. But if you don’t want these games, don’t buy the tickets. Let the sellout streak end.
Nebraska has to have seven home games, and the reason they have is you, the fan. Well that, and they need the $7 million in ticket revenue from each home game to pay for their non-revenue sports. Four non-conference games to schedule means you can only play one road game per year, and the number FBS teams willing to come in for a single home game without a return game is low. UNLV hosted Minnesota this year and has hosted Wisconsin. Umass, in their first year in FBS competition, got a home game out of Indiana. Louisiana Tech is hosting Texas A&M, and Sun Belt-cellar dweller Louisiana-Lafayette pried a home game out of Oklahoma State a few years ago. Even Nebraska had to sell out last year and play a road game at Wyoming in front of a mere 32,000. That Nebraska had to play a road game against a mid-major who had been to one bowl game in ten years is a heck of a lot worse than inviting South Dakota State or Tennessee-Chattanooga into Memorial Stadium.
Really, it’s remarkable that ESPN is as involved as it is in college football and were still getting these game and seeing them on major networks. It’s a dead horse. The vast majority of FBS teams (mid-majors included) have scheduled one or more FCS teams past five or six years, and the FCS schools used to the big paychecks. I’m just saying that if your program is making an effort to schedule big, which Nebraska appears to be (one BCS-level team a year, plus good 2-for-1’s sprinkled in), don’t complain that hard. This year, Nebraska got a great single-game opponent in Arkansas State, and has one lined up for 2015 in BYU. That’s the best you can hope for.
There could be a solution: once the 16-team super-conferences arise, add two games to the season and play fourteen conference games. Programs would get their seven home games, and we won’t have cupcake games. But even that scenario’s a bit fanciful