The challenge of scheduling college football games

On the heels of the disappointing news that ASU was unable to replace one of its nonconference games next year with an FBS opponent (opting for FCS Portland State), Devils Digest posted some great discussion from the news conference.

Here’s a snippet of the original article, which is definitely worth the read.

Question: Can you explain the process behind scheduling non-conference opponents for ASU?

Answer: “The process has changed drastically over the past 3-5 years and three major things have contributed to that change in the landscape.

“One, the downturn in the economy coupled with the large guarantees that some schools are now paying — in excess of $1 million dollars.

“Two, the fact that more BCS schools are scheduling non-BCS school in home-and-home series. You didn’t see that five years ago. Now they’re getting Pac-10 schools to come to their stadiums which decreases our chances of getting those schools for guarantee games. So now when we call those schools to ask if they’ll come to Arizona State they say, “We will, but we want a return.”

“Third, more FBS schools are scheduling FCS schools for one of their annual non-conference games. I believe there are only three schools which have never played an FCS school. At least one of those schools is going to do that in the future and probably two of them. So 5-10 years ago where you had maybe 10-20 FBS schools playing a 1AA school per year, now almost everyone is doing it.

”So as a consequence, those opportunities for the FBS schools to play FBS opponents are gone. There are approximately 120 FBS schools now, but when 117 of them play a 1AA every year, that means 117 opportunities gone.

“So those three things have completely changed the scheduling landscape today and it’s basically happened over the last 3-5 years. So what we’ve had to do is adjust with that. We are no longer scheduling under the philosophy of A, B, and C (games). That just does not work anymore. It just does not apply to the new realm of scheduling.

It’s difficult to paint this as anything but a bad deal for ASU, but it seems like they did everything they could to try to replace the game. Jeff Metcalfe had a follow up today about Cincy’s role as ASU’s last chance—I agree that it’s going to be tough to get fans in the seats next year, which as pointed out by a commenter, could have some serious spiraling ramifications.

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