It’s officially game week, and everyone’s excited about the first round of college football. If you look over Saturday’s schedule, though, you’ll see a handful of meaningful nonconference matchups mixed in among dozens of other season-opening cupcake games.
The addition of the 12th regular season game beginning in 2006 didn’t help the cause. Major football programs want that seventh — or, in some instances, eighth — home game to bring in more revenue, not to mention what’s supposed to be a guaranteed win. More often than not, the only schools willing to agree to a one-time away game are the ones that need the money for athletic funding.
They’re the “contract games”, and they’ve become
somewhat of a folly. The Big Ten’s been known to “MACrifice” an opponent or two on Labor Day weekend while some poor Sun Belt school gets tossed around like a rag doll at the hands of a Big 12 or SEC powerhouse all in the name of money.
The commissioner of the Sun Belt, Karl Benson, wants to change that. In an interview with the Associated Press, Benson said the league is looking into a new scheduling philosophy to limit contract games and put more emphasis on scheduling with other “peer conferences.”
“We’ve talked about scheduling philosophy, scheduling strategy. Ideally we’d like to establish across the board some scheduling parameters that would limit those guarantee games to one a year,” Benson said.
The problem is that contract games help keep Sun Belt schools, like many other “below the line” programs (as Benson puts it), afloat. The SBC doesn’t have a flashy, high dollar TV deal to funnel money back into the conference, and that’s most important measure of a conference’s health nowadays. Part of it is because there’s no SBC championship game. Part of it is because the demand is only so high for the brand of Sun Belt football.
What it all boils down to is perception. The Sun Belt actually posted a winning record of 5-2 against Conference USA, the SBC’s biggest rival in recruiting and exposure, last year; overall, the SBC went 7-6 against all other mid-majors. There are decent programs in the Sun Belt — Arkansas State, FIU and Troy come to mind — because its members are located in the right part of the country for recruiting, but the perception of the league is one of a bottom-feeder because TV time is limited and what people do see is generally a blowout.
If that changes, then the conference can rely less on other programs’ paychecks.