|Wave of the Future -- or Just a Bad Deal?
|Written by Dave Ruthenberg
|Wednesday, September 17 2008
Over the past several seasons we have seen a serious increase in MAC teams either giving up home games, or agreeing in advance to neutral-site games, in exchange for so-called one for one or two for one deals with teams from BCS Conferences.
Northern Illinios Hosted Iowa at Soldier Field in 2007
How it works is that a MAC team cuts a deal to make either one or two trips to a BCS school in exchange, sometimes, for one game in return at the MAC school's home stadium. At least that is how it supposed to work.
Typically, in the past, the MAC team would get a nice payday out of traveling to Big Ten or ACC or SEC territory, pocket the money and head home with a tough loss. With the advent of the twelve-game schedule, and the BCS schools needing to fill their schedule with games, the MAC and other non-automatic BCS qualifiers were able to exert a little leverage and negotiate at least one return game in exchange for traveling once or twice to the BCS school. These deals usually are struck over a 2-3 year period.
But something funny has happened to what was supposed to be MAC home games. They are disappearing.
The BCS schools are demanding, and in many cases receiving, favored status by having those games that were to be hosted by a MAC school moved to so-called neutral sites.
Over the past two years we have seen Northern Illinois "host" Iowa at Soldier Field, Eastern Michigan serve as "host" to Northwestern at Ford Field, and Bowling Green serving as "host" to Wisconsin at Cleveland Browns Stadium. This season Western Michigan will be "hosting" Illinois at Ford Field in Detroit while future matchups include Toledo "hosting" Ohio State at Cleveland Browns Stadium and the likely announcement that Northern Illinois will be moving its scheduled home game next season against Wisconsin to Soldier Field.
The common denominator in the games mention above that were moved and played at neutral sites? All resulted in losses for the MAC.
Now we are not saying that those games would have necessarily been wins for the MAC but past history tells us that MAC schools fare pretty well when hosting BCS schools at home. Toledo is a prime example, having defeated Kansas at home in 2006, Pittsburgh in 2003 and Minnesota in 2001 and let's not forget about Ohio's victory at home in 2005 on national TV over Pitt in Frank Solich's home debut as the Bobcats' head coach.
While the upside of the neutral site games is the potential for greater game-day revenue, a chance to impress some recruits, and maybe generate some increased media exposure, it would seem that schools in the MAC are more than willing to sacrifice a competitive edge, giving up a decided home field advantage that could provide a marquee-quality win in front of the home crowd --- a game that would be talked about for ages potentially by the schools' alumni and fans in exchange for a better payday.
But that doesn't always work out too well either, just ask Eastern Michigan which realized little or no revenue out of hosting Northwestern at Ford Field on a Friday night in 2006.
Worse, many of these "home" games wind up being attended by more fans from the opposing team. Meanwhile the fans of the "home" MAC squad get rewarded for their long-time support by typically having to pay an increased ticket rate since these games are rarely included in the home team's season-ticket package at the same face value as the rest of their "home" games. Not to mention increased costs for concessions and parking.
Is it worth it? Or is it simply a fate accompli - something that must simply be accepted. Well, don't tell that to Fresno State, a member of the Western Athletic Conference - and fellow non-automatic BCS qualifier.
The Bulldogs just announced that among their upcoming (real) home games will be contests against Illinois in 2010, Mississippi in 2011, Colorado in 2012, Rutgers in 2013 and Nebraska in 2014. So it can be done and the MAC should not have to automatically bend over and take it from the Big Ten or other such bullies.
If the Big Ten doesn't want to sign legitimate one-for-one or two-for-one deals, then the MAC schools need to look elsewhere to cut their deals, and most importantly, stop accepting second-class status in the world of college football scheduling.
Wed like to hear your thoughts on this trend. Do you think it is a good move for the MAC or should the MAC schools stand fast and not yield to moving its games to neutral sites?
Drop us an email at
and let us hear from you and we will share your thoughts in next week's update.