Yesterday, the New York Times’ Marc Tracy wrote an article about the trend of college football teams scheduling nonconference matchups over a decade in advance. Most notably, Arizona and Nebraska recently set up a game for 2031.
The article goes in to some of the reasons why teams schedule so far in advance, including the various conference and rivalry commitments that take up most of the schedule; it means that if you want desirable opponents, especially if you’re not one of the Alabamas or USCs of the world, you need to move way in advance to get it done. Because the very top teams usually only schedule 1 or at most 2 power-5 games out of conference, and generally aim to play 7 games at home, there just aren’t many options.
One of the athletic directors profiled prominently in the article is BC’s Brad Bates, who talks about the Eagles’ series with Stanford, set for 2028-29.
“We’re looking to compete against similar institutions, like-minded universities,” Athletic Director Brad Bates said, referring to other academically respected private universities with competitive football teams — the colleges against which the Golden Eagles* [*AGGGGGGGGGGGH] are often competing for prospects.
“First, you’ve got to find an institution interested in playing you,” Bates continued. “Then it has to align: You have so few nonconference weekends. Then you look at things that are important to the program — recruiting, for example, and we recruit heavily in California. And then, our fans: What will excite our fans?”
A good Boston College opponent — an exciting, competitive program from a private university in California — was Stanford. But because of the Cardinal’s nine-game Pacific-12 Conference commitment and their annual game against Notre Dame, they have only two intersectional slots a year in which to schedule a potential matchup.
The solution? This summer, Boston College and Stanford announced a home-and-home series — in 2028 and 2029.
“It wasn’t the soonest that the dates make sense, but the soonest we could make it work,” Bates said.
I think this article does a good job touching on why marquee nonconference games are simply difficult to schedule if you’re not one of the dozen or so truly blue chip teams, who can call any program in the country and get a game set up.
One thing this article does not touch on - and something that I think is likely the biggest source of BC frustration regarding scheduling - is the difference between scheduling middling or bowl-contending teams, and really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Even looking past the FCS games, there’s obviously a difference between the UMasses of the world and a program like a UConn or Temple that has a little bit more juice.
Of course, all those programs are dealing with the same basic math problems as well. And if you are one of the lower tier teams, you benefit from being a team schools want to bring in for a “guarantee” game.
BC is probably in the worst possible position regarding scheduling, being too potentially dangerous to be a patsy team on the schedule, but not good enough or famous enough to generate much excitement as a “big game” to opposing fans (with a few notable exceptions - UMass and UConn).
The Times piece does a good job of touching on why scheduling can be a challenge, though says little about how the landscape may continue to shift depending on how conferences change scheduling requirements. Depending on what happens in the next few years, some of these series scheduled for a decade out could become moot.