If you’ve been closely following college football this season, you’ve probably noticed the attention being paid to nonconference schedules.
In just one weekend of ball, the talk has already started to resemble that of college basketball. What teams are on the schedule? What conferences are being played?
It stems from this new era of college playoffs. Debates over the worthiness of teams has already started. Florida State and Alabama struggled in their openers, but, hey, they beat Big 12 teams. Oklahoma State and WVU lost, but, hey, barely did they do so to the top ACC and SEC teams, respectively.
None of this is lost on West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck or Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick. As Luck, a member of the College Playoff committee, has said before, future power conference schedules will look more like NFL schedules — loaded with stiff challenges almost every week.
He’s working on fulfilling that prophecy.
So far, WVU’s future schedules have the Big Ten’s Maryland (home) next season; independent Brigham Young (neutral site) in 2016; the ACC’s Virginia Tech (neutral) in 2017; the SEC’s Tennessee (neutral) and ACC’s North Carolina State (away) in 2018; N.C. State (home) in 2019; Maryland (home) in 2020; Maryland (away) and Virginia Tech (home) in 2021; Virginia Tech (away) in 2022; and the Big Ten’s Penn State away and home in 2023 and ’24, respectively.
If you check the future Mountaineer schedules, you’ll also see schools like Liberty, Georgia Southern and Youngstown. You’ll see the return of East Carolina. But you’ll also see this on those future schedules: TBA.
Luck is working on filling many of those “to be announced” slots with more marquee names.
“We are looking at two of our three nonconference games being against power conference member schools,” Luck said Tuesday. “This may not be the case every year, but certainly the lion’s share of the time.”
Next season will be one of those exceptions. Maryland is the lone WVU nonconference opponent from a power conference. The other two slots are already filled by Liberty and Georgia Southern. After that, though, Luck has TBAs with which to work. He has an opening in 2016 to go with Youngstown and BYU. He has one in ’17 to go with Virginia Tech and ECU. He certainly won’t add one to ’18’s lineup with Tennessee and N.C. State on board. But there are two TBAs in 2019 to go with N.C. State.
“We’re working on an SEC home-and-home [contract],” Luck said, “but it’s not final.”
Luck said a strong nonconference schedule has more than one benefit.
“A big-time nonconference opponent early in the season is a great off-season motivator for the student-athletes,” Luck said.
Hamrick, meanwhile, is also, well, hammering away on strengthening his school’s future schedules. As Marshall fans know, this season’s schedule is being labeled as very weak. Not much of that can be placed at Hamrick’s feet though. Conference USA had defections.
Also, a game against Louisville scheduled for Huntington was pushed back to 2016. (When Notre Dame cemented its association contract with the ACC, it agreed to play a certain number of football games against that league’s teams. This year, U of L will visit South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 22. In a move of good faith, however, Louisville officials placed Marshall on their basketball schedule, which will provide the Herd a nice hoops payday.) Thus, this Saturday’s MU home game against Rhode Island.
Hamrick has fared well strengthening the Herd’s football schedule. Next season, Purdue visits the Joan. In ’16, Louisville finally shows in Huntington. In 2017 and ’18, MU visits and hosts North Carolina State. In 2020 and ’21, it visits and hosts East Carolina. Also, Navy appears on the Herd schedule in 2021 (Baltimore) and 2022 (Huntington).
“Excellent future schedules,” Hamrick said. “Plus, the Miami, Ohio, series continues in 2017.”
Hamrick is trying to secure games from power conferences — on one condition.
“The first priority is to play as many ‘power five’ conference games as possible on a home-and-home basis,” said the AD. “We need to stay away from 2-for-1s.”
“I’d like to have two [power conference opponents] a year,” Hamrick said. “The problem is, schools don’t want to play us.”
It’s an understandable problem. Representatives of power conference schools haven’t been shy saying they are scheduling each other more and more.
Whatever the case, it’s certain that WVU and Marshall officials are looking to bulk up their football schedules.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.