With the very real possibility that Boston College football could be left with just five home games in 2014, it's time to lay down the ground rules for Eagles football scheduling in the future. Consider this a sort of manifesto as to how Boston College (and the rest of the ACC) will be required to schedule college football games in an expanded conference.
NOTE: The following assumes a nine-game ACC schedule starting as early as 2013, as well as no fundamental shifts in the current college football incentive structure (i.e. rewarding SOS for seeding a college football playoff or removing the annual F.C.S. game).
The goal is to ensure a home schedule that consists of at least seven home games every season.
Rule 1 -- Schedule at least one F.C.S. game a year
Few fans actually circle the annual F.C.S. game on the yearly schedule and in general, there seems to be little interest in these games. That said, until college football changes the incentive structure to reward strength of schedule, the annual F.C.S. game has become a necessary evil on the yearly schedule.
The problem is the number of local F.C.S. programs available for accepting BC's paycheck continues to dwindle. Both Northeastern and Hofstra recently shuttered the doors on its football programs. UMass is moving up (to the MAC). Rhode Island is moving down (to the NEC). The only New England opponents left to schedule are Maine and New Hampshire.
Luckily the Patriot League is here to solve BC's F.C.S. scheduling dilemma. As early as the 2017 season, Boston College can count a win over Bucknell, Colgate, Fordham, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh or Georgetown towards bowl eligibility. That's well and good for 2017 and beyond, but what about between now and then?
In 2012, BC hosts Maine and Stony Brook in 2013. The Eagles did have Rhode Island scheduled in 2014 but given the Rams move down to the NEC, I very much doubt that game will stay on the schedule (as it won't count towards bowl eligibility). Further, the 2014 sched is already filled up with UMass, Army and USC. So is 2015, with Army, Buffalo and Notre Dame on the sched. And 2016 with UMass, Buffalo and Notre Dame.
I don't think BC will be able to get out of any of its existing non-conference obligations in 2014 to make way for an F.C.S. game, but the solution in 2015-16 is simple: drop the Buffalo series. The Buffalo series has already been pushed out once to cater for BC's series with Notre Dame. Now with a three-game series inked with UMass, including one at Gillette Stadium, the Buffalo series is really no longer needed.
That leaves 2015 and 2016 open before BC can start reaching out to Patriot League programs such as Fordham, Holy Cross and Georgetown. For those games, I'd propose scheduling a game with New Hampshire (2015) and Maine again (2016) before throwing some Patriot League programs in heavy rotation.
Proposed schedule: Stony Brook (2013), New Hampshire (2015), Maine (2016), Holy Cross (2017), Fordham (2018), Georgetown (2019), then repeat with a four-year cycle of Maine/New Hampshire and three Patriot League programs.
Rule 2 -- Schedule at least one marquee B.C.S. non-conference opponent a year, and sometimes two
Boston College has done a good job of this in past years and is poised to continue this trend with the back end of the home-and-home with Northwestern (2012), USC (2013 and 2014) and Notre Dame (2012, 2015-16 and 2018-19). The Eagles need the Irish much more than the Irish need BC, but hopefully the series is extended past 2019 with roughly the same frequency as this decade (roughly 5-6 times over a ten year span).
Currently BC needs one B.C.S. non-conference opponent to come to Chestnut Hill in 2018 and can make the return trip a year earlier in 2017. Unfortunately a lot of programs that fans want to see visit the Heights are more or less untouchable going forward. Michigan's AD has stated it won't schedule any road games against teams not named Notre Dame though Dave Brandon will have to go back on that a little with the new Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling deal which will take the Wolverines away from the Big House every other year.
The new Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling deal as well as other pre-existing non-conference obligations make it highly unlikely that a program like BC will be able to schedule a traditional Big Ten opponent such as Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State or Ohio State. Similarly, the Pac-12's nine-game conference schedule plus the Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling arrangement seems to preclude scheduling Pac-12 programs like Stanford or USC given all but one game on the annual schedule is spoken for -- 9-conference games + Big Ten-Pac-12 + Notre Dame + I-AA (in Stanford's case ... USC is still one of the few programs to have never scheduled a team from the lower division).
The Big 12 has similar scheduling constraints with a nine-game schedule, and good luck coaxing an SEC program from leaving the state for a home-and-home in the New England tundra.
Believe it or not, the one BCS conference that makes sense for the Eagles to turn to is the one it left in 2004. There are slim pickings in the new, new Big East in terms of desirable opponents or locations, but it might benefit the program if the Eagles can get to the Midwest in years when they don't play Notre Dame (Cincinnati?) or Texas (SMU? Houston?) or the Mid-Atlantic (Temple? Navy?). Of that group, Navy makes the most sense from a traditional standpoint, but the Middies' future non-conference schedule will likely be tied up with Air Force, Army and Notre Dame once the program joins the Big East in 2015.
Since I think going forward the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 are more or less untouchable when it comes to scheduling non-conference home-and-homes and an SEC program isn't playing on the Heights any time soon, that leaves either the Big East or another independent like BYU or Army. Personally, I'd love to see another BC-BYU home-and-home played, if only for the hilarity that ensues when Catholics face Mormons.
Proposed schedule: @ USC (2013), USC (2014), Notre Dame (2015), @ Notre Dame (2016), @ BYU (2017), BYU (2018), @ Notre Dame (2018), Notre Dame (2019)
Rule 3 - Fill remaining spots with non-BCS conference opponents. All games at Alumni Stadium
Very simple. In order to maximize the number of home games on the schedule, any non-BCS conference opponent must come to Chestnut Hill for a game. Outside of Gillette Stadium and a few other venues (UAB. No thanks.) you aren't going to find a larger venue to play games and trading home games for road games against non-BCS conference opponents is simply bad business.
Ideally BC would get out of the Yankee Stadium game with Army and put that game back on campus as I feel the novelty of playing at the Stadium will have greatly worn off by 2014 with several regular season Army games played there and the annual Pinstripe Bowl. But Yankee Stadium does hold more than Alumni Stadium, Army always draws well and the game will be played in a city with one of the largest populations of alum outside of Boston. Plus, it would be unpatriotic to cancel at this point so it stays.
Proposed schedule: Army (2013), @ UMass, Army @ Yankee Stadium (2014), Army (2015), UMass (2016), MAC (2017), MAC (2019)
|Year||ACC Home Games*||FCS / non-BCS||BCS||BCS / non-BCS||Total Home Games|
|2013||5||Stony Brook||@ USC||Army||7|
|2014||4||@ UMass||USC||vs. Army||5|
|2015||5||New Hampshire||Notre Dame||Army||8|
|2016||4||Maine||@ Notre Dame||UMass||6|
|2017||5||Holy Cross||@ BYU||MAC||7|
|2018||4||Fordham||@ Notre Dame||BYU||6|
* assumed based on Syracuse/Pitt joining in 2013 and the ACC catering towards FSU, Clemson and Georgia Tech's non-conference scheduling obligations outlined here.