I’ve been wondering for a while how long the scheduling math holds up for certain athletic departments. It sounds like we’re getting closer to a reckoning.
Purdue has seven home games in 2019. It played seven at home last year, too. But the days of consistently having seven games in Ross-Ade Stadium appear to be finished. None of Purdue’s future schedules through 2025 has seven home games.
“We would like seven games from a pure economics, pure playing-in-front-of-your-home-crowd standpoint … all of that would make great sense,” said Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski. “But so does everyone else. The math doesn’t work. At some point, there has to be some give and take certain years.”
Playing seven games in Ross-Ade Stadium has been the norm. Since 2006–when the NCAA began to allow schools to have 12 scheduled games–Purdue has played seven home games each season except for one: 2017, when it had only six games in Ross-Ade Stadium. That year, Purdue played a neutral site non-league game in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium vs. Louisville to open the Jeff Brohm era. Before that, the last time Purdue played just six home games was in 2005.
“The problem with getting a seventh game a lot of years, the market to buy an opponent has gotten prohibitive,” said Bobinski. “It has gotten to the point where in the current economic reality, we would be upside down. We would be paying more than we take in.”
The seasons that present the most issues for Bobinski are even-numbered years, when Purdue plays just four of nine Big Ten games at home. In those seasons, it would be ideal to have all three non-conference games played in Ross-Ade Stadium. But getting non-league foes–who don’t want a return visit from Purdue–to come to West Lafayette is a pricey proposition.
Supply and demand, baby. The mids sound like they’ve figured that out.
Scheduling home games with MAC schools–in which Purdue wouldn’t have to make a return visit–has become very expensive. MAC schools sit in the heart of Big Ten country. And they are popular home fodder for Big Ten schools. That competition has driven up the price to lure visits from MAC opponents. Schools like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State–which have massive stadiums and fat checkbooks–are paying almost $2 million to MAC foes to visit their venues and not require a return visit, according to Bobinski.
“That just becomes math that doesn’t work for us,” he said. “We have stretched it up to $1.2 (million) or somewhere, and that’s a hold-your-breath deal for me to sign those.”
That leaves two options, play more FCS teams, something that carries its own cost, or increase the size of the conference schedule. At some point, the latter is going to become an attractive option from a cost-savings perspective — and with another round of playoff expansion coming sooner or later, arguably a less risky option, to boot.
Something’s gonna give.