Perhaps much to your surprise, I’m not the only one complaining about scheduling around here. In recent weeks, Kevin’s done a really nice job cosplaying as me, while looking at Syracuse Orange football’s previous non-conference issues — specifically, the 2012 game at Missouri and a breakown of recent slates relative to those of nearby programs like Boston College and Rutgers.
Those focus on schedule difficulty, however. And what I’m looking at today centers around scheduling a one-off home game when we could’ve just gotten a home-and-home and avoided laying out much/any cash. There are several examples, and we may get to more this summer. But this one may receive the most ire from the fan base...
Why was this game scheduled?: 2017 vs. Middle Tennessee
Back in 2016, we were just starting to get out of the disastrous scheduling practices that created unnecessarily tough non-conference games nearly every season. But while we were eliminating those games, we still hadn’t addressed Syracuse’s consistent issues with getting ahead of future slates by more than a year or so.
In January 2016, the opening on the 2017 football schedule was glaring, and had few potential opponents remaining. At the time, I saw six options left — Bowling Green, Coastal Carolina, FIU, Tulane, UL-Lafayette and UL-Monroe. What I didn’t see coming was a one-off paid home game to Middle Tennessee, who already had two P5 games on the books for 2017 (Minnesota, Vanderbilt).
Admittedly, the fact that it was just a one-off didn’t bother me at the time. SU got a home date out of it, added a winnable game and didn’t have to make good on a later road trip to middle-of-nowhere Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Of course, this was also processed through the lens of scheduling practices of the time. Syracuse’s most recent announced foe back then was (since cancelled) Wisconsin, and we were all used to the random press releases showcasing the Orange as another bodybag game for a top-25 opponent. So anything other than a likely drubbing against a more talented team sounded awesome. In hindsight, we probably should’ve been a bit more skeptical of this one because...
1. We lost
From 2016-18, there was probably one game where I thought Dino Babers’s team was not prepared, and it was this one — a 30-23 defeat at the Dome. MTSU had a veteran coach and team, a very good quarterback in Brent Stockstill and a pedigree for being both a feisty and respectable Group of Five squad. Even still, SU should’ve had an advantage here, albeit perhaps not as large of an advantage as one should assume when scheduling a game like this.
2. We paid them nearly $1 million
Typically, a home-and-home offsets costs and makes it easier to stomach being on the road, as it’s an inevitable aspect of scheduling. So ideally, you’re not scheduling home-and-homes with random schools like MTSU, and instead, look to pick opponents in geographic areas where you typically find more recruits. Since MTSU’s not in one of those areas, it makes sense we wouldn’t necessarily want the return trip, but it also doesn’t make sense that we PAID THEM NEARLY ONE MILLION DOLLARS for this game, win or lose.
3. We never should’ve waited this long to begin with
The big one, really, and the one that puts us in the situation to both schedule MTSU AND pay that sort of price tag for a one-off home game against a non-FCS school on relatively short notice. Syracuse basically paid a convenience charge for the fact that it was so late in the game. While I wouldn’t want a home and home with the Blue Raiders, at least scheduling one would’ve also helped lock up another future date (something we’ve constantly struggled with).
Look at future games against G5 teams now, and you’ll see home-and-homes without the same hefty price tags. We picked the foes (teams like Army, Ohio, Western Michigan) and aren’t handing over bags of cash to do it. Really, this is the ideal approach going forward and the one that hopefully informs future decisions with quite a few open dates in the second half of this decade.
Now you’re probably wondering whether we’d even be talking about this had Syracuse beaten Middle Tennessee, and I’d say yeah, we would be since the game itself was still unnecessary both from an opponent standpoint — no history vs. MTSU, no recruiting exposure — and a money standpoint. The loss just puts that all into a greater focus. We’ll be talking about what happens when you win one of these when we eventually get to the 2011 Toledo game.
But for now, trust that these sorts of matchups are unnecessary against just about any G5 team (save maybe the lesser independents, who aren’t even “technically” G5 schools since they’re not in one of those leagues anyway).
Agree? Disagree? Wish I’d let this game stay erased from your memory? Weigh in below.