Pac 10 commissioner Larry Scott attended the TCU/Oregon State game on Saturday night and he was asked about the direction of college sports, the impending expansion of the Pac 10, the imminent explosion of the Big 12, blah blah blah.
But he did hit on one area that is becoming of growing concern to college athletic directors, big time boosters, and TV execs, which is the need for a better product on the field, especially early in the season. College schedules are loaded with "guarantee games" which usually ensure a boring game, even at a high ticket price.
"I think there is an increase in sensitivity about that," Scott said. "I think you'll see a trend toward tougher, better scheduling and not so many lopsided games out of conference."
Sounds great, but it's an almost impossible equation.
If you are a Texas, there is no reason to schedule more than one "legit" non-conference game per season. If that.
If you are a North Texas, there is no way to operate a football team and athletic department without these games.
"That is the only way for these schools to keep up and try to keep up with the Jones's. I don't think you'll ever get away from it," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "My advice to them, and I said this five or six years ago to our conference, you shouldn't play anybody for anything less than $1 million. Don't give them the benefit of the doubt. If they are getting X amount of dollars from their stadium and what they are doing, come play you at your place."
A TCU administrator told me this week that the school will pay this week's opponent, Tennessee Tech, $400,000 to come to Fort Worth to most likely lose. That's a deal. San Jose State received more than $1 million to play at Alabama in Week 1. A large chunk of an athletic department's athletic budget is covered by these games.
Playing TCU apparently is a good deal for a team. Teams are treated well, and there is an unwritten rule that TCU won't try to embarass the opponent. So an opponent can come to Fort Worth, get a decent check, and know its team won't physically be derailed for the remainder of the season. It's almost a selling point to "buy" a team.
For fans, though, the game is usually a dog and over by halftime. Then there is the rare game when the little team comes in, gets the big check, and a massive win (see Jacksonville St. at Ole Miss and North Dakota State at Kansas last week). Last season, TCU received $1.1 million from Clemson for playing at Death Valley.
Boosters at TCU, and other schools, are leaning on the suits to quit scheduling these games. It sounds great in theory, but it's doubtful it will ever actually occur.
- Mac Engel