Games Against FCS Schools Are ‘Wasted Saturdays’ For Fans, Players and Coaches
It is, without question, college football’s toughest league. No other conference can produce the week-to-weak beatings teams take in the SEC.
So it’s understandable that the schools would want to take a break every now and then. Have a week where they can catch their breath, pause to give the starters some rest and allow injuries of some players to heal before making that final dash to the BCS National Championship finish line. Or, in the case of some, ease into the season before facing the gauntlet of the conference schedule.
Plus, there are creampuffs and cupcakes in every team’s schedule. It’s part of the process. As traditional as tailgating. Heck, even the fans need a break every now and then so they can actually relax and enjoy the day without having to bite their fingernails to the core sweating out another outcome. Even NFL teams have breathers; just look at teams like the Rams and Jaguars.
But it’s gotten ridiculous, and SEC teams need to take a serious look at upgrading their non-conference schedule. In particular, they need to scrap games against the subdivision FCS schools. For the fans, players and coaches, these are “Wasted Saturdays.”
Look at this embarrassing lineup for 2012: Arkansas-Jacksonville State, Florida-Bowling Green, Georgia-Buffalo, Georgia-Florida Atlantic, LSU-Towson (Towson? Even the most die-hard Bengal Tigers have to look up that one), South Carolina-Wofford, Tennessee-Georgia State, Alabama-Western Carolina, Auburn-Alabama A&M.
And that’s just the side dish; teams are playing two and sometimes even three of these games. These are not just directional schools – SE this, NE that – but schools not even in the same tired division. SEC schools have no business playing these teams.
Athletic directors defend these games by saying they need the revenue from these lower-tiered games to pay for the facilities and coaches that attract the players who can win championships. These are so-called “money games.” But how long will fans put up with it, how long will they fill the stadiums to watch the likes of Auburn-Louisian Monroe. Particularly in light of the high prices for tickets and travel – tickets are $70 or more for the bigger games – and that all games are on TV and many people are getting comfortable cheering for their teams at home with a six-pack of Bud.
In fact, Auburn has even started to offer a Friday night dinner on the stadium’s field to lure in fans. Tennessee took the unprecedented move of offering special deals for the Alabama and Florida games because it can’t sell enough tickets to fill the 100,000 seats of Neyland Stadium (though you have to also buy a crappy game; how does UT-Troy sound to you!?)
Unless a team is in the National Championship picture, fans are not going to be spending hundreds of dollars to watch Louisana-Monroe; they are going to stay home. And beyond that, the best conference should be playing better teams. Instead of scheduling New Mexico State, has Auburn has done, make it a respectable team such as Southern Miss. Or a lower-tiered ACC team such as Wake Forest or Duke.
Some SEC teams – Alabama in particular – has added one national marquee game to start the season. The Crimson Tide opens 2012 against Michigan in “Jerry’s World.” Athletic Director Mal Moore likes these one-game neutral site contests because he doesn’t have to pay out a big sum to the team as he does for a home-and-home series. An SEC team also plays a name school, usually from the upper tier of the ACC, each year in Atlanta to start the season.
That’s good, and it’s exciting. But after Alabama plays Michigan, it hosts Western Kentucky. And after going to Arkansas it brings in Florida Atlantic. Arkansas tunes up for that Bama game by opening up against Jax State and Louisiana-Monroe.