Congratulations, Syracuse football, you somehow won over my wife. And let me tell you something, that's nothing short of a miracle. Not only because she is a shrewd judge of everything, but also because when it comes to the Orange, basketball is undoubtedly more embedded in her heart than football.
But they we were, the wife and I bringing my 3-year old son Brady to the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago for, of all things, the spring football game. Why would she agree to such a thing? An April Saturday indoors in Syracuse not at the mall? For a football game that wasn't really even a football game? Why would she, or anyone for that matter, sign up for that?
Well, two reasons really. First, she will do anything for Brady, and a trip to Syracuse and a chance to see Otto was a pretty easy selling point. Secondly, but just as important, free parking, free admission and free food vouchers -- I had her at free, throwing in food was just running up the score.
And then it happened. Something got to her that fairly random Saturday strolling around the Dome and taking pictures and telling stories of my time with my dad at the Dome to Brady. My wife, who is to frivolous what Eskimos are to ice, said, "Let's get season tickets."
*picks up jaw from floor* WHAAAA?
"Yeah, I love the Dome and Brady will love the crowds and the food. Let's get them! We've been to how many football games over the years? I always have fun and it will be memories for us all."
Somehow, without much prodding from me, my wife was sucked into the atmosphere that was roughly 4,000 people watching the lamest attempt at football you can watch outside of touch-league flag football kids just learning the game.
You're...in? Let's go sign up.
"So, Florida State and Louisville are coming here, but what other teams? What about the first game?"
That's when I think I almost lost her and lost the five weekends of the fall spent in the Sauna. Because, the opener, of course, is freaking Villanova. FCS at its most FCS-y.
Now before I go further on this, let me also complain that the season starts on a Friday night. I understand there are conference considerations to consider and television execs to appease, but who's idea was it to start the season on the Friday of Labor Day weekend with the State Fair wrapping up? Personally, Friday games are a direct slap in the face of any Orange fan not living in or directly around the city of Syracuse. For myself, that likely requires leaving work early on top of the hour drive. For other fans even further scattered about, a Friday game is all but impossible to make.
So a Friday start against Villa-freakin'-nova isn't exactly the best selling point in the world. Sure, SU is throwing fans a bone by giving them a buy-one-get-one, which I applaud, but that still doesn't erase the fact getting there won't be easy for a lot of people and the fact that's a lesser-tiered opponent in house.
Which brings me back to my wife and season tickets and our now tentative plans for the fall. Which isn't Syracuse's fault, mind you. It's essentially a mandate that's been in existence now for eight years: 12-game schedules. It's all about revenue and the more the more better when it comes to televised games and butts in seats. And when the NCAA granted school's that extra game, it was supposedly giving everyone what they want: fans get football and administrators get more money.
But then games against the likes of Maine started popping up and we all realized very quickly the twelfth game wasn't exactly the definition of win-win. No one tests themselves against "big boys" twelve times, instead they look for an occasional cupcake by reaching into the FCS pantry. And that hurts Syracuse, and a lot of other program's potential take from the gate. Yup, Alabama will get 70,000 for an intersquad scrimmage, but the lower-levels of the college football world struggle to sell tickets, to get anyone to notice when they're playing FCS competition.
Even for fans who don't care about that weeks opponent, is there anything more deflating than the week's build up to playing an FCS opponent? Knowing the team coming to town probably doesn't have one-third the money and has somewhere around 20 to 30 less players can make you feel kind of sad for it, right? Is your favorite team getting better by railroading competition that literally isn't on the same competitive level? No, it's not. And worse, what if your team...loses to an FCS team?!
That's bad, right, Minnesota? (Random trolling alert sounded!)
Seriously, this whole thing has run its course. Schools at both the collegiate and scholastic level are cutting programs; people are living on shrinking budgets; and sitting at home drinking good-but-cheaper beer and better-tasting food beats out aluminum seats, Dome Dogs and blowing through money. There's less and less reason to leave your home, football or not.
In other words, it's time for 11-game schedules to become the standard again, less is more.
Of course, that doesn't guarantee you won't see an FCS opponent on schedules across the country, that'll still happen. But given Syracuse's history prior to 2006, I would be willing to bet we'll see more FBS teams than ones of the other, lesser, variety. Which matters to me. I'll take Directional School University over Villanova any Saturday -- SATURDAY -- of the fall. There's just something about playing teams that have similar advantages, no asterisks needed.
Would a 9-game conference schedule help? Would BCS conference members agreeing to long-term schedules help? I certainly don't know, but if the answer is yes, then let's do that, all of that, to rid ourselves of wasted weekends.
It all seems like the very definition of addition by subtraction. The NCAA, or more accurately, school presidents decide to cutback to 11 games and I bet you'll see more fans in attendance for more meaningful games. Hell, maybe the McClusky family will even be there on a regular basis! Maybe. College football and I both have work to do on that one.