As first reported by The Associated Press this week, the Ohio State Buckeyes will pay out more than $2 million in guaranteed money to bring in Virginia Tech, Kent State, and Cincinnati in 2014.
According to the AP:
Cincinnati, located a couple of hours away, will receive the most money — $888,246 — to play the Buckeyes on Sept. 27. Kent State, also located about two hours away, will get $850,000 to appear in Columbus on Sept. 13. Virginia Tech, which comes to Ohio Stadium on Sept. 20 as the first of a home-and-home series, will get a $350,000 guarantee.
This news continues to stir three major debates in college football: Should big-time BCS programs schedule these “money games” with teams in conferences such as the MAC, Sun Belt, and even schools that play at the FCS level; How much is too much in terms of money spent for home wins; Are these games a necessary evil to help smaller programs fund their athletic departments?
One of the biggest issues regarding money games scheduled by major programs is competitive balance. Yes, each year FCS teams and MAC squads jump up and pull upsets on the road, but for every Appalachian State triumph over Michigan (2007) there are dozens of 72-0 Louisville thrashings of Florida International (2013).
For their part, the Big Ten has informally agreed to no longer play FCS schools starting in 2015. Regarding these once-traditional early season matchups, Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez was quoted last year as saying, “The non-conference schedule in our league is ridiculous. It’s not very appealing.”
One has to wonder if conferences like the SEC will ever follow suit considering how difficult conference play is once the schedule hits October.
How Much is Too Much?
$2 million big ones might seem like a steep price for Ohio State to pay just to potentially snag a few home wines this season, but expect that price tag to rise substantially over the next decade. In 2012, the Florida Gators paid a record $2.75 million for home dates versus Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, and FCS foe Jacksonville State. Also in 2012, Nebraska paid Arkansas State $1 million to host the Red Wolves, a game the Huskers won fairly easily 42-13.
Could $2 million individual games or payouts totaling $5 million for three contests be that far in the future?
After San Jose State’s 34-13 loss at Stanford last year, I spoke with one of the athletic trainers. Upon asking how the team was holding up after a contest versus such a big, physical team like the Cardinal, the trainer said, “They’re hurting. Especially all of the lineman.”
Stanford paid SJSU approximately $250,000 for this contest. The series, played on a near-annual basis since the 1940’s, came to an end in 2013. In its place, the Spartans will now make $3.1 million over the next two years for games at Auburn.
Should the dozens of schools in San Jose State’s position continue to play these types of road contests? Is player safety, not to mention team morale after blowout losses, taken into full account for players and schools that are smaller in stature and don’t have the resources their big brothers have?
However, it’s the SJSU/Auburn-type matchups that fund non-revenue generating sports in the athletic department. If San Jose State were to schedule a Sun Belt squad at home instead of traveling to Auburn for two straight years, would the school truly be able to fund sports like women’s water polo and men’s soccer?
There are no easy answers to a debate that will only gain more steam in September when lopsided scores float across the crawl on the bottom of your TV set.