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The New Normal

Last week's formal announcement of the final Big East schedule kind of passed with a whimper, at least in part because there wasn't much in the way of surprises. The OOC teams on RU's schedule had been known for months in advance. And since Rutgers wasn't holding things up this time, the Big East was able to announce its conference slate at a reasonable date. Oddly enough, Syracuse still has an open OOC date. It'd be ironic if the Orange end up playing two FCS opponents after all the (well-deserved, in that instance) vitriol their fans and even media directed towards Rutgers for doing that last year.

At the risk of being redundant, and with all necessary caveats conceded about the difficult of setting up a good schedule on short notice, the 2010 football schedule still isn't exactly up to snuff. It's certainly a lot better than what we saw in 2009, but will still be lacking overall unless an opponent like FIU, Army, or Tulane overachieves.

That's not to beat up on Rutgers too much. Unfortunately, weak OOC scheduling is becoming the norm in college football. Wasn't the 12th game originally sold a few years back as an opportunity to improve that sort of thing? Instead, it's merely become another revenue generator, as programs around the country cite excuse after excuse.

Financial pressures around the country are indeed a concern. Then there are the cases where traditional powers, who easily sell out their giant stadiums, are content to play an eighth home game against a pushover opponent, and bank the resulting profit. The problem there is twofold. Playing that extra game means that they're not going on the road in a quality OOC matchup. These teams are probably buying games with mid major schools, offering enough of a financial incentive to warrant those cupcake programs buying out of their previously-scheduled games and still come out ahead. The ensuing chaos wrecks havoc on schedules around the country, with other major conference opponents scrambling to even find six or seven home games on short notice.

If only there was an easy solution to this quandary. Fat chance getting the NCAA to eliminate the 12 game schedule, limiting programs to playing seven home games (never mind a Notre Dame playing neutral site games across the country), or capping payouts. Any type of contractual remedy is likely a non-starter.

If there's any recourse, it'd be from customer discontent and pressure. Penn State will probably survive fans boycotting another home game against Eastern Illinois, but what about the little guy? The Rutgers Stadium expansion math only works with the revenue from scheduling seven home games (barring additional circumstances and conditions). With the future of the program at stake, it's much harder for a Rutgers supporter to stay home. All indications are that RU exhausted all options to find a better home opponent last year, but it's still uncomfortable to think that fans don't have a choice in that matter, and must subsidize bad games no matter what, out of fear of the alternative being even worse.