When NC State built Carter Stadium, which opened in 1966 and was later named Carter-Finley Stadium, it cost just over $3 million to construct. With interest, the bill came to around $5 million. The deal was simple: all income from the use of the facility, after game-day expenses, was to go to retire the debt. With big crowds at home and no more than six homes games a year, that debt was paid off early, but the athletics leadership had to create significant income to finance the entire program.
As a result, the Wolfpack played several away “money” football games. For instance, in 1973, State traveled to Nebraska, Georgia and Penn State, bringing home lots of money and three losses. It was exciting for the fans as the Wolfpack won the Atlantic Coast Conference title with a 6-0 league record and was 8-3 in the regular season with non-league wins over South Carolina and East Carolina. NC State was rewarded with a trip to the Liberty Bowl in which the Wolfpack defeated Kansas.
For the love of money by the athletics administrators, NC State fans were rewarded with one heck of a schedule, especially the five non-conference games. It’s the way schedules should be made. But not today.
Today, for the love of money and the need for a easy wins, NC State is more apt to compile a very weak non-conference schedule for two primary reasons: the away gates at major colleges do not pay as much as a home game with a perceived patsy; and, football coaches want somewhat guaranteed wins, especially when the team is seemingly young and inexperienced even though football schedules are usually determined years before the results of recruiting are known.
Going to Ohio State with an experienced Philip Rivers is okay because a win is possible. To schedule the same with a first-year starter is akin to killing your program because losing away to a big power with a small income is worse than winning big over a new program and including that game in a season ticket with other ho-hum games. There are some ho-hummers on this years home NC State schedule.
Along with four Atlantic Coast Conference games, you’ll find Liberty, South Alabama and Central Michigan, surely all formidable opponents when you hear the pregame jabber from head coach Tom O’Brien. Each game will gross between $1.25 million and $1.5 million in ticket sales, primarily due to the season ticket which also includes Georgia Tech, Clemson, Maryland and North Carolina, the hook that does the heavy lifting, especially when the Wolfpack seeks a fifth straight win over its primary rival.
On the surface, this year’s NC State schedule looks similar to Alabama’s weak home non-conference list of Kent State, North Texas and Georgia Southern except for one little thing: One of NC State’s non-conference games counts for nothing as a win and is huge as a loss. It might as well be a scrimmage.
The Wolfpack’s September 17th game with the University of South Alabama (USA) will have the look and feel of a football game, but, in the bigger picture of NCAA Division 1A (Football Bowl Subdivision), it counts for nothing as far as wins are concerned. The Jaguars, which started their football program in 2009, are, after two seasons not classified, in the first of two transitional seasons before obtaining its FBS status. In 2011, the first of two transitional years, games with South Alabama count as a NCAA-1AA (Football Championship Subdivision) game but not as a bowl eligible game for FBS teams (read that NC State).
So, a win over South Alabama will not count for the Wolfpack in the required six wins to be bowl eligible which makes the NC State’s season opening game against Liberty a must win. To take a straight-forward look at it, NC State’s game with South Alabama is no more than a glorified scrimmage. And it’s included in the seven home-game-season-ticket price, or you can purchase that game for $39 as a single ticket game. How many do you want?
If there is anything that it counts toward other than padded statistics (and I’m not sure stats compiled against USA count either), it’s that NC State must win the game…er…scrimmage to even think about competing for the National Title. A loss to South Alabama should keep an 11-1 Wolfpack out of the rankings altogether.
But, let’s be positive. The goal for all BCS teams—NC State included—is a berth in the National Title game. Let’s say the Wolfpack beats USA and wins the other 11 as well as the ACC championship game. A spot in the Orange Bowl will be as good as it gets. In my humble opinion, there’s no chance, just based on strength of schedule, that a 13-0 NC State would get a shot at the BCS Championship game, even as the only undefeated team out there. The voters will hold it against State and the computers will malfunction.
I’m sure that Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien, who along with former NC State Athletics Director Lee Fowler is responsible for scheduling this game, will take the scrimmage seriously, and well he should. If previous results by the Jags are any indication of what’s to come, the Wolfpack could be in for a real tussle in its game #3 because USA probably will come in undefeated. Not just 2-0 for the 2011 season but completely undefeated for the less than storied history of the football program at the Mobile AL college.
The Jags are in their third season of playing intercollegiate football and enter the 2011 season completely undefeated, winning all games in 2009 and 2010 when the program had no NCAA classification. In 2009, the Jags were 7-0 against Hargrave Military Academy, Army Prep, Georgia Military JC, Louisburg JC, Fork Union Military Academy, Milford Academy and Huntingdon College. Last fall, the Jags went 10-0 against Pikeville, Nicholls State, Edward Waters, Kentucky Wesleyan, Missouri S&T, Lamar, California-Davis, Georgia State, Henderson State and Arkansas-Monticello.
USA is 17-0 for the life of its program, and with 2011 opening games at home against West Alabama—a tough opener for South Alabama because the Tigers website, in announcing its 2011 schedule, says “A season opening clash at South Alabama highlights the 2011 West Alabama football schedule…”—and Lamar (Jags won 26-0 last year at Lamar), the Jags should be 2-0.
Because NC State should be 2-0 as well after opening at home with Liberty and then playing at Wake Forest, that mid-September scrimmage…er…game between the Wolfpack and USA could feature two undefeated teams in two developing football programs. There’s a good chance it make not make ESPN3.
Following USA’s game in Carter-Finley Stadium, the Jags fill out the 2011 schedule with Kent State, Texas-San Antonio, Tennessee-Martin, Georgia State, Henderson State, Mississippi Valley State and Cal Poly. I may be wrong on this because it was just took much trouble look it up, but I believe each school on USA’s 2011 schedule except NC State, is Division 1AA. So, at least the other nine schools get to count the game as a Football Championship Subdivision game.
NC State, though, just has a scrimmage that day with USA, but in 2012, it’s legit when the Jaguars return to Raleigh for a re-match. In 2012, NC State will have the option of using either South Alabama or The Citadel Bulldogs, but not both, as it’s one Division 1AA (Football Championship Subdivision) win on its way to six just to be bowl eligible. (Okay, okay. The Wolfpack also plays Tennessee in Atlanta and at Connecticut in 2012 so winning six is tougher.) even with just six home games, the cash comes in at the Carter-Finley gate and the players gain more confidence.
In 2015, according to USA’s future opponents web-page, NC State will be traveling to Mobile for game three in the series. From looking at each team’s future schedule, it seems USA is scheduling up while NC State, in many ways, is scheduling down. Not to take anything away from future NC State opponents, Wolfpack fans deserve better. Future NC State home opponents look better on paper but not nearly as good as they could and should be. While the money is not as good, I’d much rather lose at Alabama than play South Alabama at all. For strength of schedule, the loss to the Crimson Tide might be better than a win over USA.
Except for the money and the ability to give the unseasoned players a tough scrimmage, I’m not sure of the reasoning behind scheduling South Alabama in 2011, especially since the Jags are in a transitional season when a win counts for nothing for the Wolfpack and a loss would be extremely detrimental. Someone in a position to do so tried to explain it to me, but it still doesn’t make any sense.
If you feel the USA game this season is justifiable, if you feel it makes sense, look no further than 2013 to satisfy the same appetite. That’s when the UNC-Charlotte football team takes to the field to begin that program. Will the 49ers soon get to play in Carter-Finley Stadium? The Wolfpack’s schedule is full that season, but 2014 appears to have a vacancy.
For a look at South Alabama’s football scheduling timeline and information used to write about this scrimmage, go to University of South Alabama Football Scheduling Timeline and click on “program timeline” and “future opponents” found along the right hand side of the page. For a look at NC State future football opponents, go to Wolfpack football future opponents.