MORGANTOWN — West Virginia has two open spots on the 2016 football schedule, but is close to filling one with a Football Championship Subdivision school.
Separate sources told the Charleston Daily Mail on Monday the Mountaineers will play host to Ohio’s Youngstown State and are close to finalizing a home game against a Football Bowl Subdivision team from outside the five major conferences. That would give WVU seven home games in 2016, in addition to a lucrative neutral site game against BYU at FedEx Field.
The game against Youngstown State will be announced as soon as a deal is complete.
Youngstown State, which plays in the Missouri Valley Conference, has a rich history. Ron Jaworski, an MVP and Super Bowl quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, played for the Penguins. The school won four FCS national titles under Jim Tressel, who went on to coach Ohio State to a national title and takes over as the Youngstown State president July 1. The Penguins were 2-1 against Marshall in the Division I-AA championship game.
WVU plays host to 2013 FCS national runner-up Towson this season and Liberty in 2015. The Penguins would give the Mountaineers an FCS opponent for a ninth consecutive season. WVU last went without a FCS opponent in 2007 and beat Western Michigan, Marshall, Maryland and East Carolina in non-conference play by a combined score of 189-68.
That was the season WVU was on the cusp of a national championship game appearance before losing to Pitt in the regular-season finale. Part of WVU’s plan to position itself for favorable consideration in the College Football Playoff, which begins this season, is to build a strong non-conference schedule.
West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen told the Daily Mail last August he believes FBS teams will eventually stop scheduling FCS teams. He said in an ideal situation his three non-conference games every season would be against FBS opponents with at least one coming from the five major conferences. He said the Mountaineers intend to include games and series against regional opponents in addition to neutral-site games.
Last week, Holgorsen said he is a “huge proponent” of neutral-site games to start the season and that the Mountaineers were looking to feature them regularly in the future.
WVU opens the 2014 season against Alabama at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, plays host to Towson and plays at Maryland. Next season, the Mountaineers play host to six-time FCS national champion Georgia Southern, which is new to the FBS this season, as well as Maryland and Liberty to again reach seven home games.
The Mountaineers will make at least $2.25 million and possibly more if they reach certain ticket incentives for the BYU game in 2016. WVU has five Big 12 home games that season and will add the Penguins and an opponent from a conference like the Sun Belt, Mid-American Conference or Conference USA to reach seven dates at Mountaineer Field that season.
The longstanding series against East Carolina has been restructured and WVU will play host to the Pirates in 2017 and play at ECU in 2020, the same season WVU again hosts to Maryland. The Mountaineers have no official matchups for 2018 and 2019, though an agreement is close for a neutral-site game in Charlotte against Tennessee in 2018.
WVU will also revive series against Virginia Tech and Penn State. The Mountaineers and Hokies are set to play in 2021-22 and WVU and Penn State are scheduled to open the season against one another in 2023-24.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.