"Ball State contacted us two or three weeks ago and asked us about the possibility of helping them with some schedule adjustments," Housel says. "They had a chance to get a two-for-one with Boston College, which means they would go to Boston College twice and for them to have Boston College at their place was a big deal for them.
"We tried to work it out with them. We had a three-game schedule with Georgia Tech, but we dropped the (Georgia) Dome game so we could have a home-and-home and have seven home games. Western Kentucky was going to play here in 2004. Ball State asked if we would swap with Western Kentucky. We said we would play either of them this season if they would play us next season. It has been agreed to in principle. Ball State is having all the necessary paperwork filled out by them and us to contractually do the swap. We were going to play Western Kentucky anyway so we're just going to swap years."
The Ball State game was scheduled for Sept. 27 following an off-week after the Tigers open the season against Southern California (Aug. 30), at Georgia Tech (Sept. 6) and at Vanderbilt (Sept. 13) in successive weeks. Auburn tried to get Western Kentucky to move the game to Sept. 20, which would have given Auburn the off-week before Tennessee comes to town on Oct. 4, but the Hilltoppers couldn't make that date work.
Despite the schedule change the Tigers will still have seven home games this season, next season, and it appears for the future seasons to come. The 12-game schedule began last season and continues this year. While it's not official and could change, things look to be favorable for having it become an every year occurrence. Housel says that having seven home games each season is important for the athletic department as well as the football program.
"Seven home games in this day and time is important from a competitive standpoint," Housel notes. "It's also very important from a financial standpoint." Revenues from the football program are essential to funding the overall athletic program.
Demarco McNeil is shown in Auburn's 2001 season-opening victory over Ball State.
Following the Tennessee game on Oct. 4, the Tigers travel to Arkansas before playing host to Mississippi State the next weekend. A trip to LSU is up next for Auburn with homecoming the next weekend against Louisiana-Monroe. The schedule continues to bounce between home and the road for the remainder of the year as Ole Miss comes to town on Nov. 8 before the Tigers travel to Georgia the next weekend. The regular season comes to a close as Alabama comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 22.