Dooley: College football schedules with fans in mind

18
2004
(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

All around the country at Power Five schools, most athletic directors have been working the phones for the future.

The ADs have been trying to line up other Power Five schools rather than put colorful icing on the usual cupcakes.

The reasons are twofold — 1. attendance is down and the competition has never been more intense for the entertainment dollar, and, 2. The College Football Playoffs could one day expand to six or eight and they are trying to put themselves in position to have an edge in strength of schedule.

Mostly, though, it’s the former rather than the latter.

“Some years it could help, some years it could hurt,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “It’s a moving target. You don’t know how good the teams will be 10 years from now.”

For example, Florida just announced a home-and-home with Colorado in 2028 and 2029 earlier in the week, then Friday announced a two-game series against Texas the following two years.

Schools are reaching 10 years into the future and beyond trying to stack schedules to make their home season-ticket packages more seductive.

“More than anything, we’re looking to provide value to the season ticket holders,” Stricklin said.

For example, the Rocky Mountain High of bringing Colorado to Gainesville is made even more valuable because the trip to Boulder, Colo., can be seen as a destination trip for Gator fans.

Stricklin isn’t finished, but these two series are certainly a departure from the norm. Even with the annual game against FSU on the schedule, it’s not enough just to play the SEC schedule, especially in the years where there are only three conference home games because of the Florida-Georgia game.

Florida knows that it can’t stick with the old formula anymore — eight SEC games, FSU and three money games. Too many fans have too many options than to simply show up because the Gators are playing.

While UF continues to work to make the stadium better and sleeker with capacity expected to eventually drop by as much as 10,000 seats, all of the schools in America know they have to schedule better because of what has become an annual decline in ticket sales and an even sharper decline in the number of scanned tickets.

Florida has had a pair of money games — Michigan in 2017 and Miami coming up this year — and Stricklin is OK with more of those games. But he prefers home-and-home series with Power Five teams.

Up the road, Georgia has taken it even further.

The Bulldogs have scheduled three Power Five teams in addition to the eight conference games in 2028 and 2029 and have non-conference series on the books with Oregon, Clemson, Florida State, Texas and Oklahoma.

“It’s both,” said Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity. “We went to Notre Dame in 2017 and saw what that meant for our fans. They want to see big games and we get that. It’s important for the health of our game that we’re giving TV as many iconic opponents as we can.

“We’ve become very aggressive. Kirby Smart really wants to play at least two (Power Five) a year because of where the College Football Playoffs may be headed. Maybe eight teams by the next decade.”

This despite the insistence of the Power Five commissioners that there is no discussion about expanding the playoffs.

But we know where we’d like to see it go, right?

It’s not that the Power Five teams want to squeeze out everybody else.

It’s that they have no choice.

We live in a different world of transfer portals and Snapchat.

You either evolve or you get left behind. And in this case, the evolution benefits the fans.

That in itself is unusual.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

18 COMMENTS

    • When Texas gets here, that will be the most iconic team to arrive at florida field since USC (the real one, not the imposter in the carolinas) played here in the 1980s. this new AD thinks more like a gator about these kinds of things than Foley did, plus Foley never changed when he should have.

  1. The dynamics of college football are changing. It’s just that old paradigms die very slowly.

    Good riddance! Who wants to pay hundreds of $$$ to sweat in the Swamp at noon in September just to watch the Gators kick the snot out of some “directional” school, when we can watch those games at home, in air conditioning, on our 65” Ultra HD 4K TVs… FOR FREE???

    Once upon a time, in the “good ole days” before 30 games a week on ESPN HD, college football teams rarely made it on national TV and “fictional” NCs were crowned by coaches and AP sports columnists after bowl seasons ended. In those nostalgic, superficial days, a 2nd tier BYU team could “win” a NC by beating a mediocre 6-5 Michigan team in a 2nd tier Holiday Bowl because they were the only Div. I team to finish the 1984 season undefeated. What a joke!!!

    Back then, the only way for fans to see ALL Gator home games was to purchase season tickets and the only way to “win” a NC was to finish the season undefeated. For contenders, non-conference Div. I regular season opponents couldn’t improve attendance, since their stadiums were already packed every week, gate receipts had to be shared with visitors and losses were NC disqualifiers. Hence, the practice of scheduling “cup cakes” became all the rage.

    With the advent of unlimited access to TV for ALL contenders, the dawn of the CFP era and the possibility of expanding that playoff field to 6 or 8 teams, sexy matchups and strength of schedule is displacing the need for perfect seasons. Too bad, since perfection is so rare in this world.

    A day may come in the not-too-distant future, when going undefeated in Power 5 college football will be almost as rare as it is in the NFL. Not that there’s anything totally wrong with that. Then again, I’m from Miami and my 1972 Dolphins are STILL the ONLY NFL team to EVER go a full season undefeated!

    GO GATORS!!!

  2. I’d say that it’s about time. Not only do I NEVER go the the stadium to see the cupcake games, I don’t even watch them on TV. And I love college football and I love the Gators. There is always a more interesting game to watch the a noon Gator kickoff against Northwestern Southern Nobody.

    I’d rather have the Gators go 10-2 against real and interesting competition than go 12-0 with 3 of the wins against D-II teams.

  3. I go to the games because tv can’t capture the experience. Convenience of air conditioning and a refrigerator close by yes, but the noise, high fives, Albert shaking hands, the Gator video clip before the team takes the field, the Band, etc. TV can’t duplicate that and I hate listening to the commentators on tv. Any gator win is a good one and the uptick in competition will only make the games more enjoyable. Go Gators! Beat whoever you play!

    • OR there is nothing like being in the Swamp!! I took a friends to the game they were telling me how good the games they had seen at some other college were. Told me I ruined football for them after seeing a Gator game. They said the noise the fans and the whole event made their event look tiny. You are so right that being in the Swamp even at unbearably hot games is always a fun day. As for the commentators with the exception of Mick H. They are usually haters and annoying to listen too.

      • Noon kick-offs, after “breakfast club” of pancakes with Jim Beam syrup and Gator Cup screw drivers, followed by a fifth of whiskey in a ziplock bag smuggled into the game, followed by postgame keg party barbeques, followed by a nap, followed by frat party keggers until the wee hours, followed by an Asher Special (plus a slab of ham) at Skeeters.

        And the solemn promise (whenever I rose from the dead on Sunday) to never drink again…or at least until the next Gator game.

        Those were the days!

  4. Getting rid of the Boston BeanBrain continues to prove hugely beneficial for this program and department. The contempt BeanBrain had for the fans was reflected among other ways in his garbage schedules and Marie Antoinette “Let them watch garbage football” mindset. Sadly, we stuck with the incompetent boob too long and were saddled with terrible coaches and lousy schedules–

    But, the sun has risen, we have a competent AD and the reign of the mad BeanBrain is over!!!