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Football: New scheduling strategy could boost wins, sales

Ohio is scheduling to gain wins by playing more mid-major opponents, but other Mid-American Conference teams are carrying out a different modus operandi.

The Bobcats have arranged to play only one Bowl Championship Series team each season through 2015. The strategy creates more space in the schedule for home games and the associated revenue from ticket sales. It also might increase the team’s chances of winning more games each season at the expense of sacrificing the paycheck and prominence associated with visiting BCS opponents.

But not all MAC schools have implemented the same scheduling mindset. Of the 13 teams that will play a MAC schedule in 2011, all but Akron will play more games against BCS teams than the Bobcats through 2015.

“Not everybody in our conference has the same philosophy,” said Jim Schaus, director of Athletics. “Based on our history, we need to find a competitive balance.”

That balance includes the same mix of teams every year for the next five seasons. Ohio plays one BCS team, two “mid-major” conference members and a Football Championship Subdivision squad. Ohio will continue its ongoing home-and-home series against Conference USA and former MAC rival Marshall through 2015. Schaus said Ohio has not scheduled any games for 2016 or beyond.

“I get calls to schedule 2016, ’17, ’18, ’19,” he said, noting that securing home-and-home match-ups is part of the reason for the advanced planning.

“If you don’t schedule far enough out, you might not meet your needs financially.”

The Bobcats’ five contests against FCS (formerly Division I-AA) teams are the most that any MAC school has announced through 2015. All five of those games will be played at Peden Stadium, and the five against BCS schools are on the road. Schaus said he has tried to arrange home-and-home series with big-name schools, but the interest is not necessarily mutual.

“Indiana would be a great game to play home and home, but they won’t play us at home,” he said, adding West Virginia among the teams that are “not interested.”

But Indiana will play two other MAC schools on the road. The Hoosiers will visit Ball State this year for the front end of a home-and-home series. They also will travel to play Bowling Green in 2014 as part of a three-game agreement. The Falcons also will visit West Virginia in 2011.

“Bowling Green football has been one of the winningest programs in the Mid-American Conference since 2001, both in non-conference victories and overall wins,” said Jason Knavel, assistant athletic director for Athletic Communications, in a statement. The Falcons have won eight games against FBS teams in the past nine years.

“We’ve had legendary coaches like Doyt Perry, Don Nehlen and Urban Meyer lead our program. We are proud of the tradition of BG football and excited about the direction our program is headed under Dave Clawson.”

The Big Ten has traditionally been a source for non-conference games among MAC teams. Through 2015, MAC schools will play 45 games against members from the storied conference. The Bobcats will take part in only two of those match-ups.

Ohio also has two games against Big East schools and none against the Atlantic Coast Conference. The other 12 MAC members have scheduled a combined 39 games against programs from these conferences.

The University of Massachusetts will join the MAC as a football-only member in 2012. UMass has not yet released its post-transition, non-conference schedules.

“Scheduling is very challenging because you have a lot of objectives to meet,” Schaus said. “It’s more of an art than a science.”


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