ATHENS — Louisiana-Lafayette head football coach Ricky Bustle bristled Monday when he was asked if his players would be ready to play at Georgia on Saturday.
“We’ve played enough of those that we’re not awed by the crowd or awed by the atmosphere,” he said. “We’re there to play.”
They’re also there to get paid. Or at least the school is. It’s just part of the new reality in college football scheduling.
Louisiana-Lafayette is getting $875,000 from Georgia to visit, in a deal signed three years ago. And in today’s world that’s a bargain.
Georgia just signed a deal to give Buffalo $975,000 to open the 2012 season in Athens. Similar deals were given to North Texas ($975,000 to come in 2013) and New Mexico State ($925,000 for 2011.)
On the flip side, Louisiana-Lafayette hasn’t signed a deal for under $900,000 since it scheduled Georgia. It’s getting $950,000 from Florida for a 2012 game.
That matchup with the Gators was negotiated with Greg McGarity, then at Florida, now the Georgia athletics director.
“The key thing is getting teams in here for one game,” McGarity said. “And you’re gonna have to pay a million dollars. It’s not gonna go down.”
How did it get to this point? It traces back to the NCAA allowing all teams to play a 12th regular season game, starting with the 2006 season.
Teams in BCS conferences have generally established a formula for scheduling their four nonconference games:
n Two against other BCS conference teams, one of them normally a close rival. (Georgia and Georgia Tech, for instance)
n One game against an FCS or Division II opponent, often an in-state one. (Georgia plays Idaho State this year and will play Coastal Carolina in 2011 and Appalachian State in 2013.)
n One game against an FBS team from outside one of the six BCS conferences.
Georgia broke against that last year, scheduling three BCS-league teams (Oklahoma state, Arizona State and Georgia Tech). Georgia head coach Mark Richt made clear it wasn’t his preference.
McGarity, whose first official day on the job was Monday, said he had some ideas for scheduling but wanted to wait to discuss them with Richt when the coach had some free time.
The perception has been that big-time schools (like Georgia) are afraid to visit the smaller schools for fear of a bad loss.
In fact, the current trend works for everybody.
Scott Farmer, the associate athletics director at Louisiana-Lafayette, said his school would probably make more money by visiting Georgia than when it hosts Oklahoma State in October.
That’s thanks to the larger guarantees. Since there’s a smaller pool of the non-BCS league teams (five conferences, versus six in the BCS), the smaller schools know they can charge more.
“Supply and demand is part of it,” said Farmer, who worked at Georgia Southern from 1982-99. “Right now there’s more of a demand than there is a supply. I know that’s an awful lot of money to pay out to play a football game. But I think the other story would be how much does a Georgia or a Sooth Carolina make at a home football game. ... If it wasn’t economically feasible for them, they wouldn’t pay it.”
That’s obviously the case for a school like Georgia, with a 92,746-seat stadium that’s been sold out 10 straight years.
But finding teams to play can be a problem. That’s why McGarity, when he was consulted on the Buffalo game, quickly assented.
“Every school probably in the BCS is after that same pool of schools: Your Buffalos, your Louisiana-Lafayettes, probably your teams out of Texas,” McGarity said. “They know the amount of money that’s generated by (BCS conference teams). So those schools depend on those guarantees. That’s the only way they can make their budget work and tennis and golf. That’s their lifeblood.”