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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.