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Sun Belt commish wants fewer ‘contract games’

Troy Arkansas St Football AP

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┬ábecome 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.

Good luck.

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.

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7 Responses to “Sun Belt commish wants fewer ‘contract games’”
  1. xtremesportsmaniac says: Aug 28, 2012 10:20 AM

    I would love to see these games go away. It’s ridiculous that these games actually count as wins on their record.

  2. lottsmissingfinger says: Aug 28, 2012 10:45 AM

    I understand how a major program might want the first game to be with a “lower” echelon program just to work any bugs out. But schools padding their W-L with 3-4 games against sub-par non-AQ and FCS programs are ridiculous.

    Not all of the blame can be put onto the majors – takes two to tango and $$$ get these teams onto the dance floor.

  3. tubaplayingprof says: Aug 28, 2012 10:54 AM

    As I commented before, these contract games are unfortunately necessary for both types of programs. I would prefer that at least more in-state games: FIU vs FSU, Troy vs Bama, ULM vs LSU, etc. Arkansas State at Nebraska? Meh. Arkansas State vs Arkansas? I would say yes.

  4. wvuandsteelers says: Aug 28, 2012 11:04 AM

    I would rather see the bigger schools play these schools than the I-AA (FCS) schools. I mean, Tennessee vs Georgia State? Who cares. Let Tennessee play Troy or FIU instead.

  5. sportsinhd says: Aug 28, 2012 11:30 AM

    Hopefully, as more sports channels pop up and the need for programming increases, these schools will end up getting a national TV contract and a bump in money. I wouldn’t mind seeing an “NBC Sportschannel Wednesday Night Sun Belt Football” package every week of the season.

    Football is football, I’ll watch as much of it as I’m able to.

  6. barbeaux says: Aug 28, 2012 12:08 PM

    How about have teams mostly just play within their conferences and expand the postseason into a broader playoff format…kind of like March Madness?

  7. fcmlefty1 says: Aug 28, 2012 3:45 PM

    Yet more proof that Division 1 football should be split into 3 divisions instead of 2. A division that consisted of the MAC, Conf USA, SunBelt and the two WAC leftovers, and some combination of the better schools from the current FCS would be a pretty decent brand of football. 74 scholarship players per roster, the mid point between the current FBS and FCS would be about right. And full playoffs like the current FCS. People will watch it, and would be pleasently surprised.

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