Iowa Schedules More Games With Northern Illinois

By Marc Morehouse, Reporter

Iowa's Damon Bullock (32) crosses into the end zone in front of Northern Illinois' Dechane Durante (21) during the fourth quarter of their college football game Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Iowa won the game 18-17. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)


By Grant Burkhardt

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Football scheduling will rule the Latitudes today.

First, broke this morning that Iowa and Northern Illinois will play at Kinnick Stadium in 2018 and 2020. CBS' Jeremy Fowler also reports the sides have discussed playing three straight games during that span. So far, NIU has elected to keep 2019 open.

So, for now, that leaves Iowa with Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa and Iowa State for non-conference opponents in 2018. Is this the model for Iowa's future schedules?

It's easy to take shots at Iowa for not hooking up a home-and-home with TCU (Minnesota), for not entertaining a home-and-home with Alabama and discuss a neutral site game with LSU (Wisconsin) or for ignoring the possibilities of a home-and-home with college football's '70s David Bowie Oregon (Michigan State).

None of those schools, however, has a rivalry with an in-state, non-conference rival as the Hawkeyes do with Iowa State. Throw in the math for Iowa to get to seven home games each season, and that hamstrings big thinking in the non-conference.

It's not impossible, but it's tricky to find a fit.

The Big Ten's nine-game schedule begins in 2016 and will leave West Division teams hosting five Big Ten home games on odd years. (So, that 2018 schedule -- if Northern Iowa is allowed, which I don't think it will be -- would give Iowa seven home games. That's $3 million per, so any thought that Iowa would pass on that just isn't reasonable. AD Gary Barta will do everything to get seven in the Barn, my nickname for Kinnick that I just made up.)

I've written it here before and here it is again: For all intents and purposes, Iowa State is Iowa's premier non-conference game. The contract runs through 2017 and has been hard-wired into the new Big Ten and Big 12 configurations. The path is cleared. The game will be played.

This is where someone writes or says "Iowa shouldn't play Iowa State. Everything to lose and nothing to gain."

This had some merit when the contract skewed financially toward ISU. It doesn't anymore. Iowa State is in the Big 12, a BCS or College Football Playoff conference. Kirk Ferentz is 6-8 against the Cyclones. Iowa is 2-5 at Jack Trice Stadium under Ferentz.

This is gaining less than nothing. If you ask Iowa's players, I'm sure they'd say they want to fix that. They're competitors. You can disdain the Cy-Hawk Trophy dancing across the field, but your team has to do something about it. This is not going away. (But no, there's no state legislation requiring the schools to play each other. That's a myth.)

Iowa's tentative non-conference in 2014 is UNI, Ball State, Iowa State and Pitt (at Heinz Field). That's pretty good. In '15, it's tentatively Illinois State, Iowa State, Pitt and North Texas State. That's good, too. Iowa has two of its three non-conference opponents on the schedule for 2016 -- North Dakota State and ISU. But, as you know, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is putting the pressure on B1Gs to drop FCS schools.

Hayden Fry adopted the Iowa State-BCS-cupcake model. Ferentz carried that through until the last couple of years. Iowa hasn't faced a BCS non-conference opponent since Pitt in 2011. After Pitt in '15, I'd hate to guess when the next one will be.

It's a different Big Ten. Iowa AD Gary Barta has said recently “having seven games is high on the list in terms of importance.” Iowa earns about $2.8 million from a home date.

“That’s a significant amount of money to each of our bottom lines, having a seventh home game,” Barta said. “It also has a big impact on the local economies.”

It's going to sting when you see Wisconsin go to the moon to face intergalactic all-stars while Iowa plays host to a MAC school.

You should feel that sting. The goal here was to show you what shapes Iowa's non-conference scheduling. How you interpret it is up to you.

Big Ten Linking

-- Of course, Alabama coach Nick Saban has thoughts on the Big Ten dropping FCS schools. When you win three of the last four crystal footballs, people listen to what you say and broadcast it.

So, FCS schools and the Big Ten have been in the news this week. Saban gave his thoughts to

“I’m for five conferences – everybody playing everybody in those five conferences,” Saban said on a Crimson Caravan stop Thursday night. “That’s what I’m for, so it might be 70 teams, and everybody’s got to play ’em. …”

That's a vote for super conferences. Yeah, I'd be good with that. Demanding, yes, but it would eliminate dead games and force great matchups we all want to see. Now that Saban is behind it, watch it gain traction.

National Thinking

-- Let's stay with Saban.

It's good to be Saban.

According to this Chattanooga Times Free Press story, Saban's $10.95 Georgia lake home will be auctioned off June 6. A real estate firm confirmed today that the 9,600-square-foot home northeast of Atlanta on Lake Burton will be sold privately in a June 6 auction.

Concierge Auctions says the home, on the shores of the mountain lake, was originally listed at $10.95 million, but will be auctioned to the highest bidder. A brochure says it has “jaw-dropping 270-degree cascading mountain, lake and sunset views.”

It's good to be the king.

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