Talk of a football scheduling upgrade among Big Ten Conference schools could produce a “potentially devastating” domino effect for teams like Northern Iowa.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said Tuesday during his weekly radio show that Big Ten officials have agreed to stop scheduling opponents in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told the Register on Wednesday that league scheduling decisions had not been finalized but that “everything was fair game.”
Troy Dannen, Northern Iowa’s athletic director, spoke with Barta about it Wednesday.
“I would tell you it’s potentially devastating,” Dannen said. “And not just because we wouldn’t play Iowa anymore, but to FCS schools in general.”
The Hawkeyes are scheduled to play Northern Iowa in 2014 and 2018. The FCS Panthers received a $500,000 payout for playing Iowa last season and $450,000 for traveling to Wisconsin.
Those two Bowl Championship Series foes helped Dannen maintain an expected annual football budget of $2.7 million.
“I’m not surprised,” Dannen said of a possible shift in scheduling philosophy in advance of the four-team playoff format in the BCS that begins with the 2014-15 season.
“I anticipated top teams were going to avoid us from a strength of schedule (standpoint), once the playoffs started. I also think the Big Ten is next in line for their TV contracts, and there’s a lot more value when BCS plays BCS than there is when BCS plays MAC, Sun Belt and Missouri Valley.”
With Rutgers and Maryland joining the Big Ten in 2014, the conference has said it would go to a nine- or 10-game league schedule — a change from the current eight-game format.
“When we added Rutgers and Maryland, and with the vote to begin a football playoff in 2014,” Barta told the Register on Wednesday, “one of the things we talked about as a conference is (that) everything was now on the table.”
Alvarez provided a possible window into the Big Ten’s nonconference scheduling when he said, “The nonconference schedule in our league is ridiculous. … So we’ve made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools. It will not be FCS schools.”
Barta said he expected a decision on the FCS issue by summer. In addition to upcoming FCS games against UNI, the Hawkeyes are slated to open the 2016 season against North Dakota State.
“We all need to know where we’re headed with football scheduling soon, because it’s one of those things where contracts are set well in advance,” Barta said. “We’re all focused on making sure we know what the (two Big Ten) divisions are going to be, how many conference games we’re going to play and what our nonconference scheduling is going to be like, by this summer, so we can plan for the future.”
Should those future plans not include UNI, Dannen said it would raise bigger concerns.
“If (a scheduling mandate) does happen, there are going to be a lot of other questions that the owners of the institutions will have to answer,” Dannen said. “The University of Iowa is a member of a conference, but they’re owned by the state. They’re owned by the people.”
From Dannen’s perspective, spending $500,000 to play Iowa or Iowa State makes more sense.
“It’s been good for all the institutions,” he said. “Speaking selfishly, it keeps money within the state.
“Rather than playing Louisiana Blank and paying a guarantee that leaves Iowa, there is a lot of mutual benefit that is on the line here.”
But will such sentiment prevail in an era of constant conference realignment and bulging TV revenues?
“It’s been coming,” Dannen said. “I did not anticipate a conference-wide edict.”
Here is video of Troy Dannen talking about the series before the teams played on Sept. 15, 2012:
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football