Sunday, September 02, 2007

Is That the End of Lower Division Scheduling?

It appears the “IMPOSSIBLE” did actually occur yesterday. And now it seems that everyone is spending this Sunday either marveling at, basking in, or near suicidal because of it. But shouldn't we be asking – Did yesterday see the end of Division I powerhouses scheduling lower division “patsies”?

If anyone needs to be fired at Michigan, it is probably Athletic Director William Martin (or whoever scheduled Appalachian State). Think about it – had Michigan merely beaten the Mountaineers, the result would have been the collective yawn heard nationwide by other "big" school victories over similarly presumed overmatched opponents. If they had won 60 to 0, the reaction would have been – “Of course”.

The problem here is Michigan essentially had no “upside” to playing Appalachian State. They were expected to win. And, since lower division school victories don’t count in many of the computer polls (and just started to count this year towards bowl eligibility), it wasn’t a win that could ever have meant very much.

However, as a loss, it means everything.

These "assumed victory" games have always harbored the potentially devastating downside of a loss. If a school is to schedule such a team, they might want to do so with a little more insight than Michigan evidently did here. As the two time defending champion of the division “formerly known” as I-AA, Appalachian State is no patsy (LSU only beat them 24-0 in 2005 at LSU). I virtually guarantee Appalachian State would beat many of the Division I-A schools, and likely compete with the rest. They are clearly superior to the Mississippi State team that beat Florida in 2004, costing Zook his job. (That MSU team lost to Division I-AA Maine).

This is not to excuse Michigan at all – they should have won the game easily. After the loss, Michigan doesn’t deserve to be ranked.

However, the relative skill of Appalachian State will be lost on all but the most astute national observers. All anyone will remember of this game is a 5th ranked powerhouse losing to a school that cannot even be ranked.

Quite a few Division I-A schools have Appalachian State scheduled over the next few years (Florida included) – what are those athletic directors thinking now? And, going forward, what rational athletic director schedules a game like this? AD’s the nation over will be never look at these games the same. For the first time, they might be forced to actually weigh the season ending downside verses the miniscule upside of playing such an opponent.

It might cost you your job.

Because Appalachian State showed it can happen. They showed it so well, in fact, it might not get the chance to happen again.


Henry Gomez said...

Of course the reason they schedule these teams is money. They bring an opponent in that doesn't require a return game and who is willing to take a paycheck for the human sacrifice that usually ensues. I don't think that's going to change until there is a governing body that makes the schedules. What will change is that the ADs will be more selective about which patsies they schedule.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that ... Henry, you guys should check out my column at, too ...