I was going to wait until Wednesday’s GBU to talk about this, but I think there’s enough rattling around in my brain on the subject for me to give it a post of its own. Navy will be playing at South Carolina in 2011. Initial reaction:
OK, I know I’m usually the one leading the charge with the whole “reasonable schedule” thing, and my initial response to scheduling Ohio State was, shall we say, tepid. Scheduling SEC teams, even of the middle-of-the-pack variety, doesn’t seem like the greatest idea when the next 6 games (for now, at least) are TCU, Air Force, at Rutgers, East Carolina, at Notre Dame, and at SMU. That said, as someone who finds the best part of football to be the coaching duel, Navy-South Carolina is a dream game. The thought of a Niumatalolo-Spurrier showdown makes me all tingly. I mean, this is what makes college football so much fun, right? You’d never see a matchup of contrasting styles like this in the NFL, mainly because the most “contrast” you’ll see in the NFL is between teams who pass 50% of the time and those who pass 55% of the time. Yes, I know that his South Carolina stint hasn’t exactly been the second coming of Spurrier’s fun & gun Florida heyday. And yes, Spurrier might not even be coaching by then. But the possibility is too good to pass up. Getting almost a million dollars out of the deal isn’t so bad, either. At least on the surface.
I’m not about to complain about NAAA being handed a $950,000 check, but having just agreed to a home-and-home series with Ohio State that paid even more, it’s hard not to wonder if NAAA is scheduling these money games because they need to. Consider:
- The economy is in the crapper. Athletic departments are adjusting however they can, whether it’s by taking the bus instead of flying, or no longer printing media guides, or whatever else they can think of. Cuts might be avoided if you can find new ways to raise money.
- Without a big-name neutral-site game in Baltimore to drive season ticket sales (Maryland, Notre Dame), and with bad weather pretty much every week, football attendance was down in 2009.
- NAAA has two new mouths to feed.
- CBS extended its contract to broadcast the Army-Navy game, but the game had to be moved back a week to make it palatable to them. There really isn’t anywhere else for the game to go now. NAAA will need to find other revenue streams if the Army-Navy golden goose dies.
So are there cashflow problems in Ricketts Hall? No, according to SID Scott Strasemeier:
Strasemeier said the nearly $1 million payout had nothing to do with athletics director Chet Gladchuk’s decision to schedule South Carolina. Rather, recruiting was the primary consideration as the program will receive significant exposure in the south as a result.
“This is a great game against a quality opponent in an area in which we recruit heavily,” Strasemeier said. “We have 13 players from South Carolina and North Carolina on the current roster so clearly those two states are very important in terms of recruiting. This game will pay huge dividends down the road by exposing Navy football to a region of the country that has great high school football.”
The last time I saw Coach Johnson speak in Jacksonville, he stressed how important it was for Navy to schedule games against Florida schools for recruiting purposes. Since then, Navy has scheduled two games with Florida Atlantic. The Carolinas are another important recruiting area for Navy, and while Duke and Wake Forest are regulars on the Midshipmen’s schedules, South Carolina reaches a whole different audience– one that reaches beyond the Carolinas and into Georgia and Florida as well by virtue of the Gamecocks’ SEC membership. I doubt that getting paid for a regular road game like it was the Las Vegas Bowl had nothing to do with the decision, but I do believe that recruiting was the primary motivator. Besides, even in this economy, some athletic departments are raising more money than ever. Conventional wisdom doesn’t always apply.
The addition of South Carolina makes 2011 a pretty challenging schedule, but hopefully it’ll be worth it.