The high price of maintaining a cupcake diet

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.

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13 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

13 responses to “The high price of maintaining a cupcake diet

  1. Schools like Purdue have to accept the fact a big-time program isn’t going to be willing to come to West Lafayette. They are going to have to try to use Indianapolis for neutral site games as a return to go to a big opponent.

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  2. Gaskilldawg

    Yeah, one conference team does not pay another conference team to play it. Increasing conference schedule provides a “free” home game.

    Also insures the conference teams aggregate more losses during the season, though.

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  3. The other Doug

    I couldn’t help but think the solution is to shake down the local businesses and citizens to keep the economic impact of the 7th game. Y’all know McGarrity has to be thinking he can get Athens to help with the burden of bringing in an OOC opponent.

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  4. Bulldog Joe

    Bobinski can still play his free hotdogs, cokes, and Alcorn State on a Thursday night card.

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  5. ATL Dawg

    Isn’t another option to play more home & homes with OOC power 5 teams?

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  6. DawgPhan

    Isn’t the end result that all the premium games get sucked into the closest new nfl stadium?

    If you want to schedule power 5 OOC then it neutral site makes sense. More money and you dont lock up 2 years worth of scheduling.

    UGA is doing a really terrific job of scheduling right now IMO(Auburn and tech schedule not included).

    Getting high profile home and homes seems pretty rare these days.

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  7. Tony Barnfart

    I know i’m in the minority, but i think it kind of stinks that P5 schools are so reluctant to provide a return trip to a decent G5 school. I get the economics of it for really deep pocketed schools (not purdue) but it used to not be this way. Alabama played @ Memphis 3 times between 1985-1991… a notion totally unthinkable today.

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    • David K

      It’s a different world. Every single game wasn’t on TV back then. If Bama wanted to recruit the Memphis market, then playing a game there was a great option.

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  8. Mikey

    I went to Georgia Tech spring game Friday night they actually looked pretty good. It was fun at Bobby Dodd but yeah the QB battle they going on is interesting

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