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June 13, 2007

Football Scheduling Complexities

About two weeks ago the Lincoln Star Journal ran a pretty insightful article about the scheduling challenges that Athletic Directors are facing with the 12 game schedule.

(Image: great scheduling)

In booking a 12 game schedule a Big 10, Big 12, SEC or ACC athletic director starts with eight league games. The Pac-10 schools play nine league games and the Big East plays seven. Florida, Georgia, Texas and Oklahoma have greater complexity due to neutral site games, but let's leave that alone for now.

The first scheduling decision an AD makes...
Do I want 6, 7 or 8 home games?

If the AD is willing to work with seven home games in Year 1 and eight in Year 2, he can still fit a home/away series into his schedule. If he wants an 8 game home schedule most years (we're looking at you Auburn), he'll need to find four teams willing to sell their souls for a non-return visit.

Booking the first slot is relatively easy. Most schools are calling a Div I-AA team and booking them for a reasonable appearance fee. See UGA vs. GSU, GT vs. Samford, Michigan vs. Appy State, etc.

If you're willing to do a home/away series with another power conference school, the second slot seems easy to fill. For instance, Georgia quickly booked Colorado, Arizona State, Louisville, Clemson and Oregon almost immediately once the 12 game schedule became permanent.

Southern Miss has home games????

The problem is booking those final two slots. In the good old days, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and WAC teams would take $250,000-$400,000 and visit your school without a return trip. According to the Lincoln Star article above (and others I've recently seen), those schools' demands are escalating at an aggressive clip. Now, those same schools are demanding $750,000-$900,000 and they are starting to demand 2 for 1s and even 1 for 1 deals.

Check out these upcoming match-ups:
  • Texas 2 for 1 with Central Florida
  • Miami (FLA) 2 for 1 with Marshall
  • Tennessee 2 for 1 with Marshall
  • Clemson 2 for 1 with Louisiana Tech
  • Georgia Tech 2 for 1 with MTSU (seriously)
  • Maryland 2 for 1 with MTSU
  • Wisconsin 2 for 1 with Fresno State
  • Virginia Tech 5 for 4 with ECU
  • NC State 1 for 1 with UCF
  • Arizona 2 for 1 with Toledo
  • Nebraska 2 for 1 with Southern Miss (completed already)
  • Kansas State 2 for 1 with North Texas
  • Michigan State 2 for 1 with Florida Atlantic
  • Oklahoma State 2 for 1 with Florida Atlantic
  • Minnesota 2 for 1 with Florida Atlantic
  • Boise State 1 for 2 with Oregon State and Oregon
It's to the point that the Big 10 considered a proposal to move to nine conference games just as the Pac-10 did. However, the league voted the plan down because they felt that it would hurt the league's ability to fill all its bowl slots.

You have 65 BCS teams (not including Notre Dame) scrambling to fill 2 to 4 non-conference home game slots per season. There are only 53 non-BCS, non-Notre Dame schools in Div I-A. Even if half of the BCS schools turn to a Div I-AA opponent, there still still a massive shortage of "beat down games" that you can book.

Thus, the supply and demand problems. That's why Oregon State and Cincy can afford to walk away from 2 for 1 deals with Georgia. And it's why so many teams are waiting til the last minute to book the final slot on their 2008 schedules. The low level non-BCS teams are pulling 2 for 1s on occassion and the upper non-BCS teams like BYU and Colorado State are pulling 1 for 1s routinely. A BCS school like Oregon State or Cincy (although they are marginal BCS) would be nuts in this day and age to give out 2 for 1s when a 1 for 1 is very doable.

Regardless, it's a trend to keep an eye on.

BTW -- Georgia hasn't had an eight game home schedule that I can ever remember, and we've only played seven home games three times since 1990.

See Also:
-- Big 10 Coaches say 8 is enough - BoilerStation
-- Wisconsin's Schedule Proposal Shot Down - Bucky's Tour
-- Notre Dame's Schedule Structure - BlueGraySky
-- Future National Schedules -
-- Future UGA Schedules -



Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

My guess is that one semi-immediate result of this trend is that we see a lot more top D-IAs scheduling D-IAAs, unfortunately. Case in point: Michigan is playing Appalachian State in 2007, and to the best of my knowledge, it's the first time in the history of their football program they've ever done that. Most of the Big Blue fans I know kind of took it as a point of pride that they'd never stooped to beating up on a D-IAA before, but I guess that's out the window now.

Personally, I think 7 home games is a defensible goal for a top D-IA program, but eight is just plain ridiculous. Anyone who demands eight home games in a 12-game season deserves whatever frustration they run into when trying to put a sked together.

JasonC said...

It really sucks that the Big 10 couldn't cowboy up enough to play 9 conference games. "Oh no, we might not fill our bowl games!" Welcome to the SEC and the world of real football where a tough conference schedule and a championship game always drops someone out of a (good) bowl.

I think 2-for-1 series are a good thing and the smaller schools should be able to do that as long as they are flexible with the other school on when the 1 game is.

And if you (Auburn) have 8 home games, I think you better be playing some quality games.

Anonymous said...

Scheduling is only hard because schools are terrified to schedule games against teams that could potentially beat them. At its very core, college football is a game in which the best teams play about 80% of their games v. teams that have no business being on the field with them. Then the good teams beat their chest because they won 9 or 10 games, often without registering a single quality win in that group. Oh, and they register those wins by playing 65% of their games at home.

Dawg fans correct me if I am wrong, but in 2005 didn't Uga go 9-2 in the regular season without beating a single team that finished in the top 25? Allegedly toughest conference in the nation, and it's champion won a total of one big game (LSU)? That indicates a massive problem with college football scheduling. We unfortunately reward the timid, and punish the teams that go play real teams.

Unknown said...

2005 was weak. To be fair, Boise State was a rising program at the time and UGA often gives up-and-coming teams a shot at them. Wasn't Tennessee ranked by the end of the year?

I do generally agree with Anon's comments though. My first thought when I heard about a 12 game schedule is "Why don't we play 11 real games before worrying about adding a 12th?" I do realize that some lesser opponents like Ga Southern help both of us with recruiting but there's far too much fluff in any college football schedule.

Anonymous said...

Obviously "Anonymous" must have a grudge against UGA, because to make an example of a team who played two out of conference TOP 20 RANKED opponents in Georgia Tech & Boise State. Too bad we knocked both of them out of the top 25 poll, Tech being the last game of the regular season. We played a total of 7 (at gametime) ranked opponents and not BEAT but DOMINATED the #3 team in the country by the same ranking system. So what are you trying to prove. We only played ONE count it ONE of our out-of -conference games against an unranked opponent. If this isnt just a personal vendetta against a quality team (not saying we deserved a championship, but it was a BCS BOWL TEAM), It should be more of a critique of the RANKING SYSTEM! How many ranked teams did your team beat, Anonymous? Come on... You can find a better example.

Anonymous said...

btw... its obvious... a 12-game season was put into affect to generate more revenue. Plain and Simple. If your team decidees to put teams on their schedule that in 4-5 years MIGHT be a quality team. More power to them, if not, who cares... the BCS formula takes care of all that stuff... right... lol.

anonymous said...

I do agree with anonymous on one thing -- "Scheduling is only hard because schools are terrified to schedule games against teams that could potentially beat them." Under the current BCS system, where even one loss can be enough to knock you out of the running for the MNC, that's probably true.

Still, there's a difference between playing, say, Southern Miss and playing fricking Western Carolina. USM is a team that Georgia should be able to beat under most circumstances, yet it wouldn't be an easy win by any stretch and might actually provide a decent gauge of Georgia's competitiveness. There's absolutely nothing to be gained by playing WCU -- other than a couple million for the athletic department, I guess. Yet it seems to me like the department would make even more money if they scheduled an actually competitive opponent that would generate more ticket-buying interest (then again, they can probably safely assume a Georgia sellout no matter who the opponent is).

dsoule said...

I love college football and having 12 games just gives me one more weekend in sports heaven. And i have no problem filling that 12th came with a cupcake, d2 school, or directional lousiana. My only gripe is teams who play NOBODY. they have 4-5 games to fill with atleast 1 good non-conference opponant from a BCS conference and they can't do it. Alabama, and West Virginia are two that pop up in my head as having just an aweful non-conference schedule last year. I mean, every other year Alabama's schedule makes me want to vomit. This year they have FSU, but if you want the joke of the day, look at 08's schedule for the tide. We play GT everyear, and we also play one other big name BCS conference team. what we do with the other two games doesn't bother me. bring on GSU or Troy, atleast we measure ourself twice a year against another big conference.

Unknown said...

Alabama's non-conference football Schedule from '08-04 (5 years)


Robert said...

Ouch for the schedule or ouch for Mike Price's girl of choice? I say both.

Anonymous said...

Masivatack - First, I picked out Uga b/c this is a UGa blog and the readers would obviously have some insight and superior knowledge than if a I discussed (for example) Oregon State's 2005 schedule.

Second, I don't care if teams were ranked when you played them. That doesn't mean they were good. Wasn't Tennessee ranked like #4 in 2005 before losing 6 games? So is beating a 6-loss team a quality win just because they were fraudulently ranked when you played them? Conversely, are you saying that a win over an unranked (at the time) Okie State team isn't quality if they finish 11-1 and ranked in the top 10? I'm guessing my statement was correct since no one disputed it, but in 2005 Uga won the SECC, went 10-3, and beat all of 1 of the final top 25 teams the entire season. That's mind-boggling, and is just one of numerous examples of the flaws in college scheduling.

I think the perfect world for CFB coaches would be to play twelve 1-AA teams and then all claim they deserve a piece of the national title. Deep down, Tuberville didn't want to play USC in 2004...much easier to sit and snipe than lay it on the line.

Anonymous said...

"I think the perfect world for CFB coaches would be to play twelve 1-AA teams and then all claim they deserve a piece of the national title."

Nah. In a perfect world there would be a playoff system and the PAC-10 would never, ever win a National Championship in college football.

Unknown said...

Anon -- Not to point out the painfully obvious but:

1. Schedules are made in advance.

2. There are ONLY 25 teams in the Top 25. Yet there are 119 teams in Div I-A.

So are you saying that all of us should only schedule non-conference games against teams that finished in last year's Top 25?

If so, that puts a pretty heavy burden on those 25 teams to play a 19 game schedule (assuming they abandon their conference schedule) in order to accomodate all 119 teams who have 4 open slots each for non-conference games.

OR...are you suggesting that UGA and other schools should have a psychic on staff who can tell them which teams will finish in next year's Top 25 and only schedule those teams?

I'm confused. Please give us keen insight into how to book more Top 25 squads. When schedules are made 3 to 10 years in advance.

In 2005, UGA played WVU, LSU, UF, AU, SC, UT, GT and Boise. Pre-season all of those teams were *strong* candidates to finish in the Top 25. We beat 5 of those 8.

Your complaint is pointed in the wrong direction.

dsoule said...

anon 2:30.
even as a dawg fan i have to admit you do make a good point about the 2005 UGA team, and you also illistrate why UGA got beat by an underated WVU team in the sugar bowl that year. We came in overconfident and out of shape, and got our beat. However I do disagree with you when you say Tuberville didn't want USC in 04'. I am not sure who would have won that match up, but Auburn had a good enough squad that anyone would feel pretty good about their chances, atleast good enough not to duck them. Do you seriously think Coach Tubs would pass on a chance to play for the National Championship?? Plus, if you look at commmon opponents that year Auburn looked better against Vatech then USC did when it took a blown pass interference call to help them to victory.

LD said...

There is merit in considering both the ranking of a team at the time the game is played and the eventual, end of season ranking.

Anonymous is right when he says that sometimes teams are overrated at the time, and one shouldn't get credit for beating a team that didn't deserve the rating.

But there are often significant changes that may affect a team over the course of a season.

For example (hypothetically), Georgia plays an undefeated, top-5 ranked Tennessee team early in the year in Knoxville, and during that game (or in the first quarter of the very next game) Tennessee's quarterback and two of their best defensive players are injured and out for the season, leading to a free-fall for the Volunteers. Georgia played a team with top-ranked talent on it, in a game with all of the emotions and national attention of a top-ranked opponent. What happened subsequent to that game shouldn't matter insofar as whether Georgia's win was objectively strong. Tennessee was as good as a ranked team when they played, but because of subsequent results, they became a worse team. The same has happened in a number of ways.

Or, look at it another way: a hypothetical team (call them Georgia) starts a true freshman in its first game of the year against hypothetically, Oklahoma State. Georgia is unranked and gets summarily blown out by their opponent because said true freshman throws 5 interceptions. Also, because of off-season incidents, 4 All-SEC defensive players were suspended for this game. However, after three straight losses to start the season, the freshman figures it out, and the team rattles off 9 straight wins and the team gets ranked. Should Oklahoma State get credit for beating a ranked team? Of course not. The team they beat, though they wore G's on their helmets, was significantly different from the team that won those games to get ranked.

The point is that both temporal and end-of-season rankings are useful in analyzing strengths of performances. Stating that only one matters removes what may be useful information from the analysis.

Unknown said...

Would you say that 2006's Georgia team that beat 3 ranked opponents at the end of the season is superior to the 2005 squad? I don't think so. I guess your opinions may vary, but at the very least opinion would be very split on the issue.

Rankings or not, you tend to know who the good teams are. You might end up playing an otherwise good team on a weak year but that doesn't mean you should schedule crap just because you never know when a good team will take a wrong turn. When Texas scheduled with Ohio State, they knew the implications of what they were getting into. They didn't necessarily know a national title shot would be on the line each time but they did know it would be big.

Anonymous said...

Well put LD. I was going to post the same points. The only thing I'd like to add is that the "how many final top 25 teams did you beat" logic is also slightly flawed by the inherent fact that when you beat a team it adversly affects their tendency to remain in the top 25.

For example, Georgia Tech was ranked in the top 25 most of last year, including up until Georgia played them (when they were ranked 15th). Georgia beat them, and they went on to lose the last two games after that, finishing the season barely outside the top-25 (at 29). However, they did not drop from the top 25 until after they lost their last game and finished 9-5. Thus, it is safe to say that they would have stayed in the top 25 at 10-4 if they'd have beaten Georgia.

Likewise, I don't think South Carolina was ranked all year, but they made a run at the final poll and finished barely outside the top-25 (#30 at 8-5). It's likely that they'd have finished as a top-25 program if Georgia hadn't beaten them and their record would have been 9-4.

So is it fair to ask a team "How many final top-25 teams did you beat" when the fact that you beat a team is the reason that they weren't in the top-25? Those teams aren't any better or worse if Georgia would have beaten them or not.

Georgia didn't have quality top-25 wins against SCU and GT, but if they'd have lost to them, they would have had quality top-25 losses?

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can blame the 2005 UGA team for its schedule. Boise ran into an aroused UGA team that grew tired of hearing the "experts" say were going to lose to the Broncos. BSU finished 8-3, including a last second loss by a FG in Corvallis against Oregon State, a team they previously beat. Their other loss was to Fresno who played USC off its feet that year. The Broncos didn't finish in the top 25, but could have. However, that wasn't a problem for Boise in 2006.

Georgia Tech beat Auburn and Miami on the road in 2005 while both were ranked in the top 10. Considering Miami was a top 10 team as late as the week before Tech played UGA, those are two snappy wins. Had a disinterested Jackets team not rolled over for Utah in the San Francisco bowl, they would've been top 25.

South Carolina would've been ranked had it not blew a big lead against Missouri in their bowl game.

Tennessee was the SEC preseason favorite and popular national champ pick, but basically tanked after a close loss to Alabama. That team should not have finished 5-6 and out of the top 25. The fact that they did certainly isn't UGA's fault.

2005 was not a great year for the SEC, every year can't be for anyone. But no one can deny that the LSU blowout validated the SEC title for UGA. And 3 SEC teams did end the year ranked in the top 10: LSU, Alabama, and UGA.

Anonymous said...

PWD - schools generally know if they are scheduling quality out-of-conference opponents. It doesn't take psychic powers to know that if you schedule a mix of Michigan, Texas, Miami, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, etc. that you are going to play some quality teams.

If you schedule a mix of 1-AA teams, directional schools, Sun Belt bottom-feeders, and 7th place BCS conference teams, you generally won't play quality teams. I'm not a psychic, but I feel confident on those 2 predictions.

I remember your post when the UGa-Ok State game was announced and you addressed whether Uga was "overscheduling." When a program with the clout of Georgia is worried if playing a home game against Oklahoma freaking State is "overscheduling," it illustrates my point. With their talent and coaching, Uga should be saying "anyone, anytime, anywhere." However, that attitude risks losses, and CFB is all about padding the schedule as much as possible to get to 10 wins and proclaim it a successful season even if it ends with no championships and only 1 or 2 decent wins.

Anonymous said...

While there have certainly been years where UGA's OOC schedule was a bit lacking (particularly the latter 90's), the Dawgs don't need to apologize about for their OOC scheduling. Everyone makes a big deal about UGA not leaving the southeast (the old Confederacy plus border states) since 1965, so I did a little research. See, Paul, you're not the only one that does meaningless stats. ;-)

I'm not picking on Tennessee here. As far as I'm concerned, they have set the standard for good OOC scheduling. So it only makes sense to do a comparison with them. Anyone can double check me using College football Data Warhouse (please do in case I miscounted) and the final AP polls from 1966 through 2006. Since AP only ranked the top 10 until the late 60's, I used the UPI's 11-20 for those particular years. **All rankings are year end rankings only. No bowl games were counted, but I did include UT's appearances in the Kickoff and Pigskin Classics. UGA's games vs. South Carolina prior to 1992 were the only ones counted.

**SINCE 1966:

UGA vs. ranked OOC opponents: 13-16-1, 30 games total

UT vs. ranked OOC opponents: 16-14-2, 32 games total

UGA vs. OOC teams that went to a bowl: 31-14-1, 46 games total

UT vs. OOC teams that went to a bowl: 23-13-2, 38 games total

UGA vs. OOC teams finished in top 10: 3-5, 8 games

UT vs. OOC teams finished in top 10: 3-7-1, 11 games

UGA vs. OOC teams on the road: 29-16-2, 47 games

UT vs. OOC teams on the road: 25-11, 36 games

UGA vs. OOC teams finished ranked on the road: 4-8-1, 13 games

UT vs. OOC teams finished ranked on the road: 4-6-1, 11 games

UGA vs. OOC teams that went on to win the national championship: 0-2 (1981 Clemson, 1990 Tech)

UT vs. OOC teams that went on to win the national championship: 0-0-1 (1990 Colorado)

UGA's top 5 most played OOC rivals:

Tech - 41 times
Clemson - 24 times
South Carolina - 22 times
Tulane - 5 times
Houston, Baylor, and Southern Miss - 4 times

UT's top 5 most played OOC rivals:

Memphis - 21 times
Tech - 19 times
UCLA - 12 times
Notre Dame and Duke - 8 times
Army and Washington St. - 5 times

** UP UNTIL 1965:

UGA games played outside the southeast: 31

UT games played outside the southeast: 5

Those stats surprised me. Because what is says is that UGA's OOC scheduling has been better than it's given credit for, at least compared to Tennessee, who is universally acknowledged as a great scheduler. UGA may not play as many intersectional games, but their rivalries with Tech, Clemson, and South Carolina (prior to 1992) have served them well in terms of competition.

As far as where games are played, UGA and UT have exchanged roles. The only difference is that when UGA was playing games in the northeast, midwest, and west, we weren't getting return games in Athens. I think this has a lot to do with College Football Data Warehouse's ranking of UGA's all-time schedule as 2nd toughest in history.

Some will look at the stats and say that most of UGA's OOC road games came against nearby Tech and Clemson and somehow call them not true road games. But Tennessee played Tech a lot too and often had 50% of the crowd with them in the 70's and 80's. And Clemson through most of this time period has always been known as one of the toughest places to play. It was no easier for us than it was for FSU, Texas A&M, or anyone else that played there.

Again, nothing against Tennessee. They don't have anything to apologize for either. But UGA's OOC scheduling is very comparable in terms of quality.

Unknown said...

Anon - I still say...if you have 3 non-conference games and two of them are Georgia Tech and Boise State (who finished undefeated in 2006 and was WIDELY picked to beat UGA) have nothing to apologize for.

Anon who did the UT comparison. Awesome work. I'll repost that this afternoon as a standalone post.

Anonymous said...

i certainly understand why the major universities need these additional home games to create the revenue necessary to support these enormous sports programs and budgets ... BUT

Lets look at the SEC OOC sked this year ...

48 games ... 12 X 4

12 games with 1-AA teams

35 games at HOME out of 48

ONLY ONE GAME .. ONE GAME ... west of Fayetteville or north of the Mason-Dixon line ...

Tennessee @ Cal ...

What this means is a team can go 2-6 in the SEC and STILL be bowl eligible ...



Ohio State this year played Youngstown State, Akron, & Kent State AT HOME ... and a 3-6 Washington team on the road ...

Penn State played a down Notre Dame, Tempe (the team that got KICKED OUT of the Big East becasue they couldnt compete in football), Buffalo, & Florida Atlantic ..

Homefield advantage is generally figured at 3-4 points in the NFL .. but in college ... it could be 10-14 points depending on the atmosphere ...

I am a Boise State fan ... YOU kicked our butts two years ago ... BUT had that game been in Boise ... instead of a 30 pt win ... you probably would have won by 10-14 points ... home field is THAT valuable to EVERY SCHOOL !!!

I know these schedule are NOT because schools dont want to play at Boise or at BYU or at Fresno State or at Hawaii ... it is because your athletic dept is at such a level YOU NEED THE $$$$$ to pay the bills for the minor sports ...

But as the blogger pointed out ... the mid-majors are getting smarter ... if you want a school as a body bagger the 250K crap is now laughable ...

Look at Dooley's kid at La Tech ... 3 SEC schools on the road and the lowest they took is about 600K I believe ... he aint no fool ..

We have played on the road at Georgia, at South Carolina, and at Arkansas ... if one of those games were played in Boise our fans would gladly pay a seat premium to produce a payout over a million ... but that is not enough for a major school like UGA ...

And the REAL rub of this who mess is the home team wins in college football between 65-70 percent of the time ...

So it truly is a stacked deck against the smaller schools ... many of them have to whore themselves out for money to support their athetic budgets ...

But the real impact of the 85/25 rule is starting to show with teams like Louisville, USF, Rutgers, Boise State, etc. coming from oblivion to compete ...

and BTW ... we are knocking on the door of the BCS once again ... should be get in the result might be Georgia in the Sugar Bowl ... we would certainly look forward to playing you guys again and seeing if maybe we have improved in the two years since that debacle in Athens...

Good luck to ya !!!

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