Iowa Faces Little Wiggle Room In Non-Conference Scheduling

By Marc Morehouse, Reporter

CHICAGO, Ill. - You see Wisconsin and Alabama. You see Minnesota and TCU. You see Michigan State and Oregon.

And you wonder why you see Iowa and Northern Illinois.

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta discussed the parameters for future football schedules during Tuesday's Big Ten Conference meetings. The Big Ten will release football schedules for the 2014-15 season this week. These will include the additions of Rutgers and Maryland and also will split the league into the East-West Divisions.

The league won't go to the nine-game conference schedule, approved last month, until 2016. The whole idea with nine B1G games is to beef up strength of schedule with the College Football Playoff coming in 2014. That will extend to non-conference. Big Ten schools are being discouraged from scheduling schools from the Football Championship Series after 2016.

But it might not be that easy.

"We have to strengthen our non-conference schedule, I don't think there's any question about that," Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said. "I just hope there's enough inventory that fits, so we're able to do that."

Every B1G school wants seven home games. But the conference wants its schools to play a tougher non-conference and cut out FCS. Is that feasible? Alvarez would rather schedule an FCS than pay an available FBS school $1.5 million or a home game.

"You might have to schedule an FCS to fill your schedule," he said. "You have a three- or four-week window to schedule it and they're just not that many out there and the ones that are out there know they're pretty valuable."

So, here's the non-conference deal for Iowa:

– Except for 2017, the Hawkeyes have FCS schools on the schedule every season through 2018.

– Iowa plays Missouri State this season, Northern Iowa in 2014 and Illinois State in '15. All those games will be played.

– When the nine-game B1G schedule kicks in for 2016, Iowa has North Dakota State. In '18, the Hawkeyes have a contract with Northern Iowa. Those are in limbo, Barta said.

"At this point, I haven't told those schools I won't be playing them," Barta said. "We're just having conversations about whether it makes sense or not or whether they would find a replacement game. We have those two contracts and at this point, we haven't told them we're not playing the games."

– Iowa State is will be Iowa's premier non-conference game for the foreseeable future.

"It's a good rivalry, it's good for college football, but the unique challenge is they're [Iowa State] not in our conference," Barta said Tuesday. "Our No. 1 goal is to win the Big Ten Conference and whatever beyond that. But because our in-state rival is there, it's great for the game, it's great for for the state, it just doesn't apply toward that No. 1 goal of winning the Big Ten Conference, which is unique."

So, in 2016 with nine B1G games, Iowa's non-conference schedules of the future will be Iowa State and two games that won't be home-and-home, Barta said. Iowa's budget dictates seven home football games. No bend there.

The inventory beyond Iowa State and no FCS schools remains to be seen. Last week, CBSsports.com revealed that Iowa and Northern Illinois will meet in 2018 and 2020.

The parameters are narrow for Iowa non-conference scheduling.

"We'll have two games to fill every year and they won't be home-and-homes, because I have to have seven home games," Barta said.

Also in 2017, the West Division will get five B1G conference home games (West gets five home games on odd-numbered years). So, Iowa's non-conference in those years will be at Iowa State and two home games with no reciprocation on Iowa's part. In even years, with just four conference home games, it'll be Iowa State at Kinnick and two home games with teams that Iowa won't have to return a home game to.

Iowa State, Big Ten nine-game schedule and Iowa's need for seven home games every year are the parameters. That leaves no room for a game against a BCS foe with a return game in the deal.

This leaves no flexibility. That's why no Iowa and fill-in your dream BCS matchup here. So, enjoy Pitt in 2014-15. Those games seem to be the last of their kind for Iowa.
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