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Boston College Football: How Two FCS Opponents Landed On Eagles' 2015 Schedule

How the Howard-for-New Mexico State swap actually came about.

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When this upcoming season's Boston College football schedule was released, many fans were disappointed by the presence of two FCS opponents, Maine and Howard, on the 2015 sched. How this actually came about is an interesting tale that sheds some light on the balance that programs, conferences, athletic directors and television partners have to strike in annually setting up the college football schedule.

It starts, of course, with the ACC's decision to add Notre Dame as a member in all sports except football and ice hockey back in 2012. The Fighting Irish's football scheduling deal with the ACC—five games a year vs. ACC teams—caused the conference to go back on its previous decision to move to a nine-game scheduling model. For BC, specifically, this also eliminated the possibility of facing the Irish on a near-annual basis as they had in the past. The Eagles fell into the Irish's ACC rotation and, as such, the Holy War will now only be played once every three or so years.

As a result of the conference's about-face on the 9-game conference scheduling model (the eight-game conference scheduling model passed by a single vote and the narrowest of margins, 8-to-6), the ACC's 14 programs had to scramble to find another non-conference game for the following season on very short notice. Florida State would go on to buy a guarantee game against Idaho (FSU won 80-14). Duke landed a home-and-home with Troy (DU won both), Wake Forest a home-and-home with Louisiana-Monroe (WFU lost both) and BC, a home-and-home with New Mexico State.

Response To Eight-Game ACC Schedule For 2013 Season
Program Deal Opponent Years
Boston College Home-and-home New Mexico State 2013, 2015
Clemson Single game FCS South Carolina State 2013
Duke Home-and-home Troy 2013-14
Florida State Single game Idaho 2013
Georgia Tech Single game FCS Alabama A&M 2013
Maryland Single game FCS Old Dominion 2013
Miami Single game FCS Savannah State 2013
N.C. State Single game Louisiana Tech 2013
North Carolina Single game FCS Old Dominion 2013
Pittsburgh Single game New Mexico 2013
Syracuse Single game FCS Wagner 2013
Virginia Home-and-home BYU 2013-14
Virginia Tech Multi-game series East Carolina 2013-2020
Wake Forest Home-and-home Louisiana Monroe 2013-14

The original agreement, signed in November of 2012, stated that the two schools would play on November 9, 2013 and again on October 17, 2015. The catch, however, was that the 2013 game would be played in Las Cruces, with the 2015 game in Chestnut Hill. The Aggies were about to set out as an FBS Independent following the WAC's decision to drop football and needed home games to fill the 2013 schedule. Boston College obliged the Aggies, traveling to Las Cruces in early November. The Eagles would go on to win that first meeting between the two schools, 48-34, after pulling away late in the fourth quarter.

A few months after BC and New Mexico State agreed to the home-and-home, in March 2013, the Sun Belt announced that it would throw a lifeline to both New Mexico State and Idaho. As quickly as New Mexico State had to scramble to ink a full 12-game football schedule as an FBS independent, the program had to unwind a number of future non-conference scheduling obligations to make room for an eight-game Sun Belt schedule starting in 2014. One of those scheduling conflicts involved the 2015 season, where New Mexico State had previously inked non-conference games with Boston College, Florida, Ole Miss, New Mexico and UTEP, with only the UTEP game a home game for the Aggies.

The Boston College athletics department reached out to New Mexico State in May 2014 to ensure that the Aggies would be making the return trip to Chestnut Hill in 2015. The Aggies' then-athletic director, Dr. McKinley Boston, assured BC that the game was still on. However, a few months passed and the two schools were again talking about moving the return trip out in September 2014 due to the fact that the Aggies' 2015 over-scheduling. While New Mexico State hadn't sent a formal letter to BC asking for the game to be moved, the two schools were working on possible solutions to the Aggies' scheduling dilemma.

Early on, those possible solutions took the form of some rather unconventional scheduling solutions. One involved New Mexico State petitioning the Sun Belt to play a non-conference game and allow it to be counted as a conference game. Another possible solution included playing just seven conference games in 2015. After those solutions were exhausted and this issue dragged on into November, December* and then January, the focus shifted from BC-New Mexico State going off as scheduled in 2015 to finding another program to fill the scheduling slot left by the Aggies on BC's schedule.

With the other four Power 5 conferences having already set their 2015 schedules by December, BC simply couldn't find a last-minute solution that didn't involve going on the road or hosting a second FCS school at home. Both BC and New Mexico State had separate conversations with fellow Sun Belt member Georgia State on the possibility of heading up to Chestnut Hill as the Aggies' replacement. Georgia State had a last minute opening after UAB decided to drop football, but those discussions fell through.

If BC was going to replace New Mexico State with another non-conference opponent on another date, the ACC and the league's TV partners were pushing for a September 19 date; week 3 of the 2015 season. That's because there were only three ACC teams without existing non-conference obligations that weekend: Boston College, Clemson and Florida State. If BC could find a non-conference opponent for that weekend, Clemson and Florida State could have faced one another and all three programs could have avoided the early week 3 bye to the season (in 2015, there's only one bye week with 13 weeks for 12 games).

As it turns out, Louisville was able to push its game against FCS Samford back a week from September 19 to September 26, allowing the conference to stage a Thursday night Louisville-Clemson game on September 17 and a Boston College-Florida State game on September 19.

It sounds as though Georgia State officials actually explored the possibility of pushing out their September 19 road game at Oregon for a road game at BC. However, as you can imagine, that idea probably did not get very far off the ground.

In the end, and as we all know, Boston College was forced to replace New Mexico State with a second FCS team, Howard, to ensure a seven game home schedule. For their part, New Mexico State would still like to play the game at some point in the future, going so far as to suggest traveling to BC twice in the future to avoid paying the contract's high six-figure cancellation fee.

If I had to wager a guess as to how this will all play out, New Mexico State will make the return trip to the Heights not once, but twice in the near future, after syncing future schedules with BC. The two schools may also simply agree to a buyout amount and move on, though that's a lot of cash for an athletics department more heavily subsidized than one that just cut varsity football citing financial reasons.

One other interesting Boston College scheduling note. When discussing the possibility of working with the Sun Belt on a replacement team, New Mexico State officials cited the MAC's willingness to help BC find a replacement for their other cancelled game with Buffalo. The Buffalo home-and-home series, which has been on the books for what feels like forever, was to be played in 2015 and 2016 after being pushed back a few times. Northern Illinois will serve as BC's Buffalo replacement, with the Huskies traveling to the Heights next season with a flexible return date for the Eagles in either 2016 or 2017.

So, after all this, Boston College is left with a ton of work left to do to fill future years' non-conference football schedules. Frankly, no program lost more with the ACC's decision to stick with an eight-game conference schedule than Boston College. Combined with the impact that recent conference realignment has had on BC's annual non-conference football schedule—the loss of an annual-ish Notre Dame game and the cancelation of nine of the 10 non-conference games against Syracuse—and BC has no shortage of scheduling openings to fill over the new few seasons.

Since Bates took the helm in 2012, the non-conference scheduling "wins" for Boston College have been few and far between—a last minute home-and-home with New Mexico State, replacing the Army at Yankee Stadium game with a home game against Colorado State, adding a second FCS team to replace the New Mexico State home game, replacing the Buffalo series with Northern Illinois, back-to-back home games against the same FCS program and a pair of future games against FCS Holy Cross.

With the ACC's new strength of schedule component set to kick in beginning in 2017 and intra-Power 5 conference scheduling agreements becoming fewer and far between as conference schedules expand and programs attempt to maintain an annual seven-game home schedule, non-conference scheduling is going to become increasingly difficult for ACC programs, like BC, without a permanent non-conference rival from a Power 5 conference. BC could really use a solid non-conference scheduling "win" here to try to get back out in front of their future non-conference schedules.

* New Mexico State athletic director Dr. McKinley Boston announced on September 1, 2014 that he would step down from his post on December 31. Mario Moccia, previously the AD at Southern Illinois, was announced as Boston's successor on November 24, 2014.

Details enclosed in this post were obtained with a New Mexico state Inspection of Public Records request.