Circle Oct. 17 on your calendar. Michigan football will lose on that day.
The Athletic Department announced Friday that Delaware State, a Football Championship Subdivision team, would be the Wolverines’ opponent on that open date.
“I am happy that we are able to announce the completed football schedule for this year,” Athletic Director Bill Martin said in a statement. “We discussed the open date with multiple schools and were able to reach an agreement with Delaware State. It’s very difficult to line up an opponent this late in the process and we appreciate the efforts made by each institution that we spoke with.”
No matter what happens at Michigan Stadium against the Hornets, can only come out on the short end of the equation.
Martin makes a good point about the difficulty of scheduling an opponent this late in the game. But really the only person he has to blame is himself. Martin has control of football scheduling, and perhaps with a little bit more prior planning, Michigan would have a chance to win on Oct. 17.
Here’s why Michigan is destined to lose that Saturday:
First, Michigan is expected to win, and even even a 50-point victory won’t impress everyone.
Second, Michigan is expected to win. And if it loses, it will be the Apocalypse all over again.
Third, a win over a second-tier opponent could prevent Michigan from a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Big Ten’s third tiebreaker for the conference title reads as follows: “If there is still a tie for the championship, or if the tied teams did not play each other, the team that played more games against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams shall be eliminated.”
The Wolverines are going to lose on Oct. 17, even though the scoreboard will probably show them ahead of Delaware State at the end of the game. There’s no time to fix this problem for this coming season, but it can certainly be avoided in the future.
Martin needs to start looking for top-notch home-and-home agreements with other BCS schools.
The Notre Dame series is excellent, and maybe both programs will be good again someday. But there will always be tradition in that matchup which should continue.
Beyond the Fighting Irish, Martin should be looking for another big non-conference opponent.
Oregon hosted Michigan in 2003 and won. The Ducks came to Ann Arbor in 2007 and won. It was a 0-2 series for the Wolverines, but those games generated a lot more excitement than the Delaware States of the world ever will. In addition, the chance to play against top opponents like Oregon will better prepare Michigan for the Big Ten schedule and a potential bowl game.
Of course, money is a significant issue when it comes to crafting the non-conference football schedule. Home football games aren’t just good for the Athletic Department coffers, they’re more like winning the lottery seven or eight times a year.
It’s a significant loss in revenue when the football team has to give away a future home game to bring in a big-name opponent to the Big House. Martin deserves credit for arranging home games against Vanderbilt and Utah in recent years without having to return the favor at their place.
Michigan doesn’t need a big home-and-home setup every year, but every few years would be a good idea. Think about the hype Ohio State has gotten for its recent home-and-home with Texas and its current series with Southern California.
Scheduling a quality home-and-home might actually bring money to the Athletic Department in the long run.
If Martin can schedule a game against a school in a city with a big alumni base (think Michigan versus Rutgers at Giants Stadium), there could be big donations to help soften the blow of losing a home game.
Michigan can continue scheduling two MAC teams, an FCS team and Notre Dame each year, and it will still sell out every home game and be one of the most popular programs in the country.
But doing so is a disservice to both the fans and the team, both of which deserve better.
— Sandals can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.