Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post A moment of clarity from Big 10 coaches

Monday May 21, 2007

It’s a paradox of college football that because so much emphasis is placed on the regular season we end up with a regular season that doesn’t reach its full potential. It’s not a big revelation that most schools approach their scheduling asking "how much can we get away with?" The first priority is wins, and strength of schedule is a secondary priority for most teams in major conferences. No one likes the games against cupcakes, but the all-or-nothing nature of the regular season rewards those wins provided they are balanced against a sufficiently strong conference schedule. Even where national titles aren’t at stake, an impressive win total still plays into bowl bids and their valuable paydays.

It’s to the point now that Big 10 coaches are willing to acknowledge (HT: Get the Picture) that playing an additional conference game is not in their best interests. The sure win over a cupcake is worth more to teams because it’s a guaranteed notch in the win column, and that means more bowl bids (and money) for the conference. Though the really compelling out-of-conference game isn’t rare, it is still the exception and noteworthy enough to be the subject of press releases.

I don’t blame them in the least. It’s rational behavior considering the incentives. The consequences of a single loss often far outweigh any benefit of playing a tougher-than-necessary opponent. Why play nine conference games when eight will do and get you to the Rose Bowl? You might get the luck of the draw and not have to face Ohio State or Wisconsin along the way – all the better. I’d love to see more conference games – I find it ridiculous and contrary to the point of a conference as anything other than a revenue-sharing entity that teams in these super-conferences don’t play more often. But as the sport’s popularity soars and fans continue to fill the stands, what is the incentive to make things more difficult?

What I don’t get is those who bemoan these weak schedules and not ask "why?" Why are teams not doing more with this 12th game? Why are fans glad to see an additional home game if it means a glorified scrimmage? Why don’t people take a closer look at the incentives driving this scheduling?

Comments are closed.