Troy Dannen remains undaunted despite a new Big Ten scheduling policy that could deliver a financial blow to smaller NCAA football programs.
The Northern Iowa athletic director sees playing Iowa as a way to gain statewide attention and a much-needed payout. The Big Ten Conference, however, no longer will schedule FCS schools.
“Schools like Northern Iowa can go sulk in a corner and cry,” Dannen said, “but the fact of the matter is, that’s not going to put us any place.
“We have to accept what’s happened, and move forward, spend the rest of our time finding alternatives.”
The Big Ten’s scheduling upgrade is partly the result of college football’s new playoff, which also contributed to the conference’s decision to expand to a nine-game league schedule from eight starting in 2016.
“Having nine Big Ten games is one step toward making sure our conference is strong and competitive in scheduling,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said. “Having home-and-home games against BCS-level schools is another thing that was talked about.”
Barta added he was undecided about how to handle games already scheduled against Northern Iowa, in 2014 and 2018. The Hawkeyes also host Illinois State in 2015 and North Dakota State in 2016. They play Missouri State this season.
“In Northern Iowa’s case, they are an in-state school,” Barta said. “And so, it is something where we’re working toward the possibility of keeping them. But at his point, we don’t know.”
Dannen expects the 2014 game with Iowa to take place, but the matchup set for four years later might be in jeopardy.
“I think there is a chance we may still be able to play that game, simply because we are an in-state rival, and it’s an existing contract,” Dannen said. “There is a potential, but nothing certain and absolute that the ’18 game will go on.”
For Northern Iowa, facing teams from power conferences — such as the Big Ten and Big 12 — provide an economic boost.
The Panthers received a $500,000 payout for playing Iowa last season and $450,000 for traveling to Wisconsin.
“The impact will be minimized if the Big Ten is the only league that does this,” Dannen said. “If it spreads to other leagues, in particular the Big 12, it would compromise our Iowa State series.”
That would lead to Northern Iowa traveling farther for financially beneficial games, or playing schools from smaller conferences such as the Mid-American or Sun Belt — which offer smaller payouts.
“There are still opportunities,” Dannen said, “but certainly not of the notoriety or the revenues of playing a Big Ten school.”
For Iowa, ending its in-state rivalry could bring mixed reactions.
“I understand every time we make a decision at Iowa there is a group of people who love it and there is a group of people who think we shouldn’t do it,” Barta said. “This would fall into that category.
“There’s people who believe we shouldn’t play UNI. There’s people who believe shouldn’t play Iowa State. But I do value those in-state games. I always have.”
Barta said the Hawkeyes have talked with Northern Illinois about playing at Kinnick Stadium in 2018 and ’20.
Huskies athletic director Christian Spears told CBS Sports a deal was close, and the teams also could play in 2019.
“We’re probably in talks with about 15 or 20 schools about future scheduling,” Barta said. “We’ve had some very good discussions with Northern Illinois, but we’ve also had discussions with several other schools, as well.”
Dannen, meanwhile, spent Friday attending administrative and coaches meetings in Minneapolis, where he talked with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
“The thing I respect about Delany is that he’s doing what he feels is in the best interest of their league,” Dannen said. “You can’t have any qualms with it. You don’t like the outcome but respect the fact they have to look out for the Big Ten institutions.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football