Aug. 18, 2005
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - This time next year, college football fans everywhere will be planning an extra trip to campus.
For Florida-Miami? Maybe Pitt-Penn State? How about Texas-Arkansas?
Even though the NCAA made the 12th game an annual event beginning in 2006, marquee matchups will be rare because schools are unwilling to trade a lucrative home game for a home-and-away series. They also don't want to fill what would have been an open week with a tough opponent.
"Everybody thinks automatically that now Florida is playing USC, and Oklahoma is playing Michigan and that kind of stuff," Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. "I don't see that happening. The 12th game is a significant source of revenue for every program in America. I think that's going to be a driving force in the way a lot of these schedules come down."
Before the NCAA passed the rule in April, Division I-A programs were allowed to schedule a 12th regular-season game in 2002 and 2003, when the calendar provided 14 Saturdays between the first weekend in September and the last weekend in November. The next time that's going to happen is 2008, then again in 2013.
With that in mind, Florida and Miami already agreed to play in '08 and '13. In other years, Florida has Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Hawaii on tap.
It's about the same everywhere else, with the 12th game providing only a few enticing matchups so far. LSU and Tulane signed a 10-year contract. Georgia and Colorado have a series set. Marshall and West Virginia have a seven-game agreement, starting next year.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier wants to play North Carolina, but the Tar Heels have been cool on the idea.
A blockbuster deal hasn't happened - and might not.
The additional game will undoubtedly bring a financial windfall to athletic departments from coast to coast, but it also has sparked controversy. Some view it as abusive to student-athletes and merely another step toward mirroring the NFL.
Naturally, coaches have mixed opinions on the issue.
"Twelve games is too many, especially in the short period of time that they are jamming all those into," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "Next year, we'll be playing 12 games in a row. That means I'm not going to play a Michigan or a Michigan State. You just can't do it. It's not feasible right before I play Georgia and Alabama.
"It would be a little bit foolish for us to put our kids in that sort of situation. If they want us to play premier games somebody should start lobbying for another date during the season. They're not giving us a lot of opportunities to make this a good situation. They're really forcing us into playing teams that are Division I-AA or looking for a money game."
Tuberville suggested cutting fall practices from 29 to 22, start the season a week earlier and allow teams to play 12 games over 14 weekends. That would leave teams with two bye weeks, which would help players recover from the mental and physical drain they go through by practicing, studying tape, playing games, traveling, going to school and doing homework.
But the NCAA isn't likely to change the setup, leaving Tuberville and others with an obvious solution to their perceived problem: schedule patsies.
Conceding that would happen, the NCAA also changed its rule regarding games against Division I-AA opponents.
Previously, Division I-A schools could count only one win against a Division I-AA program during a four-year span toward bowl eligibility. Now, Division I-A schools can count one victory a year against a Division I-AA school.
"Anything we can do to get another home game here at Iowa State, help our situation financially and budget-wise, get another opportunity to play in front of our fans, we're all for it," Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said. "We have been in some 12-game seasons, even 13-game seasons. ... I think if you handle it right, it can be a real positive."
A 12th regular-season game means 14 games for at least six schools in 2006.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 have moneymaking championship games that determine their representative in the Bowl Championship Series. That means a 13th game for teams reaching the conference title game, and presumably all of them would be bound for bowl games.
"In the BCS formula, not everyone is on equal playing field," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "I'd be all for (the 12th game) if we were able to drop the Big 12 championship game."
The Pac-10, meanwhile, may have found the best way to sell the 12th game. Instead of adding cupcakes, Pac-10 schools will play nine conference games rather than eight. That means the Pac-10 will play a true round-robin schedule, with every team playing every other team in the league.
"We just thought it was important to have a true champion where everybody played everybody else," Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said. "Plus, for our teams, it is difficult to get quality non-conference games unless our schools really pay for them. Our schools can't just schedule anybody and draw a big crowd. We have to have attractive games. Playing another conference game solves that problem."
Another concern for coaches is that the extra game increases the chance of injuries.
Colorado coach Gary Barnett said the NCAA should help programs better deal with the longer schedule by adding a fifth year of eligibility for football players.
Athletes would then be able to compete for five years, giving coaches access to all 85 scholarship players every season. Currently, players who redshirt must sit out a year, which often can reduce a roster by a dozen or so players.
Until 1970, schools played a 10-game regular-season schedule. But since then, stadiums have expanded, facilities have improved, the cost of paying coaches has multiplied considerably and schools have the added expense of fielding a full complement of women's programs.
The changing landscape of college athletics has caused schools to search for additional revenue sources. An extra game was the perfect solution, providing millions of dollars for premier programs and more bargaining power for major conferences in the profitable and expansive television market.
Small schools should make out, too.
While an extra home game means $3 million to $4 million in revenue for major Division I-A schools such as Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio State and Oklahoma, it could bring in as much as $500,000 for mid-major opponents and Division I-AA schools willing to travel for "guaranteed money" - and probably a guaranteed loss.
When asked to explain the reason for adding a 12th game despite pleas from the Knight Commission, The American Football Coaches Association, the ACC and an NCAA task force seeking ways to decrease an athlete's time on the field, NCAA Board of Directors chairman Robert Hemenway said, "It was not just about money."
Most coaches and athletic directors disagree.
"I am absolutely against it. It's not fair for the kids," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "We are playing a 12th game for strictly one reason - to create revenue so we can support the other programs. That's fine, but let's say it."