Building a successful college football program requires several key ingredients. Now that the 2008 campaign has concluded for some truly awful programs, the work to build losers into winners has begun. It is appropriate now, to look at some of the significant elements required for building a winning football program. Included on this list are:
Finding enough Murray State and Western Kentucky football programs to build a schedule around, Identifying enough alumni who really believe in the institution’s academic focus to give thousands of hard-earned dollars so they can be entertained on autumn Saturdays, and Figuring out a way to attract some decent athletes that are capable of constructing enough complete sentences to pass Freshman English.
Early pioneers of creative scheduling used to rely on sportswriters to simply pick their team as a contender for the National Championship. In years past, the Cornish Game Huskers of Nebraska routinely scheduled unbelievably weak opponents to open their season. They would fill Memorial Stadium in Lincoln with throngs of beer basted, red nosed (and clad) fans to watch the Huskers thrash teams that could hardly assemble eleven people for the kick off.
The advent of the BCS scoring system changed all that. Instead of arranging weekly massacres of poor opponents in September, the Big and Red administration had to try and bring in some quality opponents such as Southern Cal and Virginia Tech. It is bad enough that Nebraska has to face serious competition in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas during their conference schedule. Now, that danged BCS has made the Big and Red Fans (BaRFs), actually see some real games during the harvest season.
The University of Michigan – another of the hallowed monster football programs – used to try the weak-sister scheduling method to gather steam for a national championship run. Unfortunately for them (and a blessedly for the rest of us), over the past two seasons, they scheduled in Appalachian State and the University of Utah as part of their September Patsy Parade. The really bad news for the Wolverines is that both AppState and the Utes actually showed up. In 2008, an early loss to Utah set the stage for a remarkable skid into the grey land of bowl ineligibility. Now, all the snow choked Wolverine fans have to make up a reason to go drink beer in Florida while other teams continue to play football.
The Indiana Hoosier football team didn’t harbor any realistic thoughts of attending a bowl game this year, but they followed the scheduling methodology perfectly. They then hit the tank after a 2-0 start. In taking a closer look, those two early season wins against Western Kentucky and Murray State didn’t actually qualify as genuine games. Still, the Hoosiers actually played the games and managed to defeat both. It just didn’t prepare them for the rest of the Big Ten schedule, which quickly relegated Indiana to their usual place sweeping up the stalls at the bottom of the heap.
It has been said that to be successful as a college administrator, one must provide three things to three different constituencies. Students want sex, the faculty wants parking and alumni want winning sports. While the student interest generally takes care of itself and a modest effort can pacify the faculty demand for parking places and hook ups for electric cars, the Alumni demand is quite a bit more challenging.
Some of the more creative administrators remember that alumni were once students themselves and therefore might be more closely attuned to the student demand. That is why cheerleaders are instructed to perform in front of the alumni section as much as in front of the student cheap seats.