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Scheduling and Guarantees

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Thomas O'Toole has an interesting article in today's USA Today that takes a look at how the price of hosting non-conference home games has gone the way of coaches salaries: way, way up.

Major powers often are eager to pay guarantees because they take in several million dollars at a home game, not to mention the ripple effects in their towns from a crowd of 90,000 or 100,000. It also gives them a competitive advantage that could have implications for Bowl Championship Series spots. Less successful teams or those with smaller athletic budgets see guarantee games as a way to build their coffers and give players the experience of facing a major power in a huge stadium.

The 12th game gave impetus to the increase and created a bidding war among bigger schools, say some ADs.

The cost of landing a team for a game has reached as high as $1 Million per game for some foes, which is a bit rediculous. It was less than a decade ago teams were guaranteed somewhere in the neighborhood of $350-400,000.

Obviously some schools have the financial means to pay the big bucks to bring whoever they want in to play. However, as LSU has learned -- and I noted  recently -- even if you agree to a contract, some teams will still break the deal for a few extra bucks.

There are two possible end games for this scenario because the payments can't continue to go up much more or else bringing in an opponent isn't financially worth it. One, there will become a lot more home-and-home series scheduled. It might be a big, intersectional match like LSU-Washington or USC-Texas. Or it might be a two-for-one or three-for-one where the big name team gets two home games for returning one.

The other is what I would do if I were an AD, and I'm surprised more people haven't done already. A couple years back, LSU struck a brilliant deal with Tulane for a home-and-home series.

The agreement calls for LSU to retain and sell an allotment of tickets for those games that are played in the Louisiana Superdome, giving LSU revenue that substantially offsets the loss of a home playing date in the years the Tigers visit Tulane. Tulane will receive a financial guarantee and the option to purchase tickets.

Basically, LSU gets a game in the Superdome, spreads its recruiting wings a little and still gets at least as much revenue as it would if Tulane had played in Tiger Stadium every year.

I don't understand why nobody else does this, particularly the smaller schools. They get a "home game" against a big team, sell more tickets, make more money and get more exposure.

For example, Texas or Oklahoma should be playing SMU in Dallas at the Cowboys Stadium. Or if you're the Longhorns, go play Houston at Reliant Stadium. Tennessee or Arkansas ought to go to Memphis and face the Tigers in the Liberty Bowl. Florida, Florida State or Miami going to Orlando to play UCF. Any California school at San Diego State. You get the idea.

Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference are full of big-market colleges that are mid-majors when it comes to football. I would imagine it would be a great way to expand your "market" when it comes to recruiting without sacrificing a boatload of money to schedule MAC team -- one that may or may not back out of its contract with no penalty because of a bigger, better deal.