Frogs, Lions soon may be thing of past in college football scheduling

Posted Saturday, Sep. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton No one should be chiding the TCU Horned Frogs for their choice of guests this football weekend.

The Southeastern Louisiana Lions hail from Hammond, La., the self-professed “Strawberry Capital of America,” and will bring to town just what TCU was looking for in this second weekend of the season:

A needy budget and a willingness to travel.

LSU, the Frogs’ opening-week foe, and Southeastern Louisiana are 47 miles apart via Interstate 12 — and about a million miles from each other on the college football map.

The reported $3 million payday for playing LSU at AT&T Stadium last week both paid the light bill and gave TCU a free pass in the annual media tsk-tsking over nonconference scheduling. The same pass goes to Oklahoma State and Mississippi State for their game in Houston, and Cal and Northwestern for their Battle of the SATs in Berkeley.

Coach Gary Patterson’s nonconference scheduling philosophy, he used to say, has been to play traditional foe SMU and another “reach” game to measure his program’s climb up the college football ladder. That’s how the Frogs came to play at Clemson in 2009 and leaped at the chance to play Oregon State in then-Cowboys Stadium a year later.

But the Frogs’ template has changed. They are in the Big 12 Conference now and don’t need to be scheduling like a David with a bag of stones. Nine games in a league that includes Oklahoma and Texas will always get somebody’s attention.

It’s the fate of the three future annual nonconference games TCU that remains an issue. The Frogs have home-and-away agreements over the next six years with Minnesota, Arkansas and Ohio State. That leaves one annual weekend like this one against Southeastern.

SLU and TCU. The Lions and Christians.

It packed the house two thousand years ago, but guarantee games against needy opponents are already undergoing scrutiny. Just last spring Big Ten athletic directors agreed to stop scheduling Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) schools beginning in 2016.

Big Ten teams will play 10 games this season against FCS opponents and pay them nearly $5 million. The average $494,500 guarantee will pay a lot of bills at a Florida A&M and a Youngstown State.

Ditto for Southeastern Louisiana, which plays in a 7,408-seat stadium.

The Big Ten cited its proposed nine-game conference schedule as one of the factors behind the FCS decision. Implicit in that, however, is the yet-undefined mandate to strengthen schedules when college football goes to its four-team playoff next season.

Would the selection committee look with disfavor, for example, on a nonconference schedule that consists of Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe? It certainly should, regardless of what league a school belongs to.

That’s why the mighty, 14-team Southeastern Conference likely will eventually go to a nine-game league schedule. The Big 12, Big Ten and Pac 12 will all already be playing nine league games.

The Big Ten needs to be applauded, for once, for ignoring its pocketbooks. Nonconference mismatch games make financial sense for the schools involved, but they make for less-than-compelling television.

This week’s lineup seems just as weak:

Oklahoma State and UT San Antonio, Wisconsin and Tennessee Tech, Buffalo and Baylor, Sacramento State and Arizona State, among others.

What was the old BCS motto — “Every Game Counts”?

No, it doesn’t.

But there could be scheduling adjustments on the way, thankfully. Tough early season games, as the NFL shows us each year, capture the fans’ attention.

In the meantime, please welcome the Lions, heavily favored Saturday to be devoured by the Christians.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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