What Is Future Of Tide Schedules?
Alabama already has one of the most unfortunate schedule situations imaginable. This year the Crimson Tide, the 2009 national champion, will play host to Georgia State, a first year football program. It is a match-up that invites national ridicule.
There are a number of reasons for a team to schedule down.
One is philosophical. There had been reports last summer that the ACC did not want its schools to play games against Southeastern Conference teams, except for those traditional rivalries such as Georgia Tech vs. Georgia, Clemson vs. South Carolina, and Florida State vs. Florida. This year Alabama concludes a series with Duke at Durham. Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore has said in the past that he thinks having four SEC games is enough of tough regular season games. He thinks the time to meet a tough out-of-conference opponent is in a bowl game.
There is also the financial consideration. Football pays the bills for other sports. Title IX is good for women's athletics, a nightmare for those who have to come up with the money to run an athletics department. Men's basketball at Alabama pays its own way (or comes close). Everything else is a money pit, filled by football revenue.
When Alabama plays a home-and-home series, such as with Penn State this year and next season, it is lost revenue of many dollars, perhaps millions, in the year when the game is on the road. Eight home games (four SEC and four non-conference) is considered essential to the budget. In 2011, Alabama goes to Penn State and has only seven home games.
Alabama can "buy" an opponent to come to Tuscaloosa much cheaper than it can play an away game.
There are schools (meaning coaches and athletics directors) who want to buy a home win, avoid the possibility of a loss against a quality opponent. Auburn still suffers form the image of a team that paid FSU rather than play the Seminoles.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban doesn't mind the tough games, as evidenced by contests against Clemson and Virginia Tech to open the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Those games were played in Atlanta, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games, and that made them financially equal to a home game. Wins in those games were important in Alabama success the past two years.
National perception is important. In 1966, Alabama was going for a third consecutive national championship. Bama went through the season as the nation's only undefeated, untied team. The Tide allowed only 37 points in regular season play, seven more in a 34-7 win over Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl. There were several factors at play that year, and Alabama finished third in the final polls. One of those factors was that Alabama had opened the season against Louisiana Tech, a team most people had never heard of in 1966. The 34-0 Bama win did not impress voters.
The loss of the Georgia Tech series seems to have put a big hole in Alabama future schedules. Although The University does not announce future schedules on any regular basis, it is believed there is the need to find a non-conference opponent in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. It will not be easy to find a quality opponent. Almost no school with major college credentials has an opening in its future scheduling.
From time-to-time there are reports that Alabama and Notre Dame are "in talks" about a future game, but don't hold your breath. If Alabama and Notre Dame wanted to play, that series would have been scheduled.
After this year, Alabama's ticket-buyers can probably expect to see four SEC teams and four punching bags on future schedules.
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