Missouri aims to schedule more Power Five teams

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 | 8:38 p.m. CDT; updated 6:44 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 4, 2014

COLUMBIA — You may not see a contest like Missouri football's game Saturday against Toledo in the future.

In fact, according to athletics director Mike Alden, you'll likely see the Tigers scheduling larger programs, whether they take place in Columbia, on the road or at a neutral site.

During a media roundtable discussion Wednesday morning, Alden answered questions about the future of Missouri athletics, which included talks of phasing out non-Power Five conferences in the team's football schedules as the team adjusts to life in the Southeastern Conference.

"When we made the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2011 and 2012, at that period of time, what happened was our nonconference schedules blew up," Alden said. "For the next four or five years, it really changed the dynamics for us to get games and come in here. ... The plan going forward would be to lessen those types of road games, if you can, and really focus in on road games being against one of the five conferences."

The landscape of college sports is changing. The gap between the Power Five conferences (the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten Conference, Pacific-12 Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference) and mid-majors is growing even wider. And as larger teams turn their shoulder to the rest of college teams, the smaller teams could struggle to keep afloat.

Revenue is a large factor in Power Five teams' desires to schedule more games against football programs in the same realm. For example, Missouri would likely make more money playing at a neutral site against a Big Ten opponent as opposed to traveling to Toledo, a team that lies outside of the Power Five pool.

As a result, smaller Division I teams are being forced to adapt. In August, University of Hawaii athletics director Ben Jay said his school may have to cut program sports, including football.

"If they feel like they need to pay it, they’ll cut some non-revenue sports," said Jon Solomon, a college football columnist with "Other people out there say there’s a whole lot of money out there that the schools and athletic departments could spend and provide to players from the new College Football Playoff revenue that is coming in. The NCAA basketball tournament contract, which is huge, and the TV deals have been significant in recent years."

"Our 20-sport programs are important to us, and we will continue to develop all of those," Alden said. "But I will tell you with the shift going on in governance, that's a real threat to college athletics. I think there's a chance that you're going to see schools again take a look at some Olympic sport opportunities and take them away."

Alden said he'd heard rumors that Missouri would have to drop sports in the past, but that has never been his intention.

Programs in the Football Championship Subdivision conferences (formerly Division I-AA) face the largest possibility of being cut. Teams in the FCS must adapt to the growing gap in order to avoid losing out financially.

Big Ten officials no longer want to schedule FCS games, which could leave the wallets of some of these schools emptier. For example, South Dakota State, Missouri's lone FCS opponent for the 2014 season, received $350,000 for agreeing to play the Tigers in Columbia.

Alden said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is encouraging conference teams to schedule Power Five opponents because of the possibilities of competing in the College Football Playoff, which relies heavily on strength of schedule, but there has been no discussion about not playing FCS schools.

"For us, we see those games (FCS) as important," Alden said. "They're important for us, and they're important games for college football."

Missouri State University athletics director Kyle Moats said via email that though his program doesn't have the resources the Power Five schools have, those resources aren't even equal within some of those larger conferences.

"Our constituents can help us by continuing to be supportive philanthropically, increasing season tickets and increase corporate sales," Moats said. "That said, there are a number of FBS schools that do not generate a profit either, and that often gets lost in the discussion."

Whether or not they're scheduling FCS or non-Power Five Division I squads, Missouri would like to retain at least six home games in Columbia, Alden said.

But the opportunities to play a neutral-site game are looming, with interests at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City or at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. But those games wouldn't be against mid-majors such as Toledo, Wyoming or Arkansas State.

The possibility of a neutral site game at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis raised questions about rekindling the rivalry between Missouri and Illinois, which drew an average crowd of 62,753 over the course of six contests between the teams until 2010. Alden said while he and Illinois athletics director Mike Thomas still talk on occasion, he doesn't see the game taking place immediately.

"I think, in the future is that a game we could take a look at playing? Absolutely," Alden said.

As the athletics department tries to fill its schedule for 2015, Alden said it needs to make sure there's at least one Power Five team slated. Missouri and Purdue, a Big Ten team, will host each other in 2017 and 2018, and road contests against non-Power Five teams such as Memphis and Wyoming are set for 2019 and 2020, respectively.

"The plan going forward is to lessen those types of road games if you can and really focus on road games being against the Power Five conferences," Alden said.

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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