Give me Liberty? I may pass
Since the NCAA allowed college football teams to schedule 12 games, a disturbing trend has surfaced with the West Virginia University football schedule. The presence of 1AA schools on the schedule seems to have become a fixture. Last year it was Villanova. One time it was James Madison and another it was Tennessee Chattanooga. This year it is Liberty from Lynchburg, Virginia.
As a longtime season ticket holder, I am not happy about the annual opener against a lower tier program. The problem is, as a season ticket holder, my displeasure with this scheduling philosophy is a moot point. In order to get my season tickets I also had to purchase the ticket to the September 5 opener with Liberty. So, no matter how much I don't support this scheduling strategy, I am forced to buy into it. At least if I want to keep my season tickets, and I do.
Lot of good it will do, but I am actively seeking options for Labor Day weekend which preclude attending the game. A very modest form of protest since my ticket has been purchased. Don't tell anyone, but I really did not seriously consider such a protest until it was confirmed that the game would be televised. I have to at least be able to see it.
Former head football coach Don Nehlen wouldn't play 1AA teams and I liked his philosophy in that regard. Perhaps that is why I can't get my mind around the change in direction. I do, however, acknowledge the arguments made in support of scheduling 1AA programs.
A couple years ago Central Florida backed out of a game with WVU very late in the process. Seems they had scheduled a game with Auburn and the Mountaineers for the same date and decided to honor the contract with Auburn. In that instance West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong had to scramble to fill the slot. Not much choice there. Now, schools like Liberty, Norfolk State and Coastal Carolina are showing up on the schedule several years ahead.
It is important for WVU financially to have seven home games every year, and that is the major point used by the athletic department to justify scheduling teams from the subdivision. OK, I get that, but WVU used to be able to schedule games with teams from the Mid American Conference to fill out the slate. I am sure it would cost a few more dollars to bring a MAC team to Morgantown than a 1AA program and that would seem to be the bottom line.
Of course this is not just a WVU thing. Many, if not most, Division 1A schools are scheduling 1AA opponents. Doing so simplifies an athletic director's job since there is no chance a 1AA school will ask for a return game, and they can be signed for less money. Still, it would be nice to try going every other year without a 1AA team on the schedule.