Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said Thursday he is in negotiations with other FBS programs to upgrade the team’s oft-maligned nonconference football schedules through 2020.
McCaw did not name potential opponents but called it “possible” that adjustments could be made to existing schedules “between now and 2020” to provide upgrades that would enhance the Bears’ opportunity to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. McCaw mentioned the possibility of playing an FBS school at a neutral site, possibly at an out-of-state venue.
“We’re having some interesting discussions right now,” McCaw said during the second day of the Big 12 spring meetings. “We’re certainly open to playing a Power 5 team not every year, but a good number of years.”
Baylor’s nonconference schedule last season included games against SMU, Northwestern (La.) State and Buffalo. Despite posting three lopsided victories, the lack of an opponent from a Power 5 conference on Baylor’s schedule became a sticking point in deliberations by members of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
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Baylor, which shared last year’s Big 12 championship with TCU, finished fifth in the final CFP rankings, one spot shy of earning a spot in the inaugural playoff field. CFP officials made it clear that the team’s soft nonconference schedule was one factor during seeding discussions.
Although McCaw has added home-and-home series with two teams from Power 5 leagues in recent months, the contests against Duke (2017-18) and Utah (2023-24) remain on the horizon. Baylor last played a nonconference opponent from a Power 5 league in 2009 (Wake Forest) and the games against Duke and Utah are the only opponents from Power 5 leagues on future Baylor schedules for the next decade.
This year’s nonconference slate includes matchups against SMU (Sept. 4), Lamar (Sept. 12) and Rice (Sept. 26). Opponents on future schedules include Northwestern (La.) State (2016), Liberty (2017), UTSA (2017-19), Abilene Christian (2018), Incarnate Word (2019) and Louisiana Tech (2020-22).
McCaw acknowledged the current status of the football program as a national-title contender has led to change in scheduling philosophy.
“We’re in a different spot than we were when we scheduled the teams last year and this year,” McCaw said. “Obviously, as we’ve won back-to-back Big 12 championships and our program’s on the national stage and we’re recruiting at an extremely high level, we’re able to take on a higher level of competition.”
How soon Baylor can make that move and which opponent(s) might disappear from future schedules remains to be seen. But McCaw made it clear he is open to adjustments in the near future. Asked about playing a neutral-site game at an out-of-state venue, McCaw said: “We are having some discussions about that.”
McCaw stressed Baylor would not play a neutral-site game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington during the same season it plays Texas Tech at the venue. Nor did not rule out the possibility of a neutral-site contest in Houston or San Antonio.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby welcomed the news about Baylor’s plans but stressed he applied no pressure on the school to make it happen.
“I think the better schedules we can play in nonconference, the better off we are,” Bowlsby said. “Our top teams, we want to make sure that we’re matching up against the best in the country because that’s the way you demonstrate that you deserve to be in the playoff. I think every one of our institutions has a contribution to make. Those are local decisions. But we’re naïve if we don’t think they impact the rest of the people in our league.”
Future sites: Big 12 officials announced future championship sites for multiple events, most notably an extension of the men’s basketball tournament in Kansas City through 2020. In addition, the women’s basketball tournament will be played in Oklahoma City each season through 2019 and the Big 12 baseball tournament will be held in Oklahoma City each season from 2017 through 2020.
Dallas bid for both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, but Bowlsby said the other locations offered a better fit for the events, particularly the men’s tournament in Kansas City.
Neutral on satellite camps: Bowlsby said league schools have no official position about satellite football camps that allow college coaches to host a summer skills session in conjunction with an organization in another state. For instance, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will host a one-day camp at Cedar Hill High School on June 16.
Bowlsby said Big 12 schools are divided on the topic because Oklahoma State and Iowa State, in particular, like having one-day camps in Texas to raise their recruiting profiles.
“Our ADs, I have to say, are all over the place on that issue,” Bowlsby said.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760