Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Schedules, schedules, schedules

So as you may have seen (or maybe not, the ISU website wasn't updating for a few hours yesterday, but problem solved), Idaho State made a change in their schedule. After seeing a few things from fans that aren't thrilled about it, it occurred to me that I'm guessing most folks don't know how much goes into scheduling, especially at Idaho State where coaches are basically told how much money their schedules have to raise.

In football, you have the opportunity to make a bunch of money in a hurry in scheduling by picking up big money games. For Idaho State, originally, only one of those existed for 2009...Arizona State for $400,000. That was a deal brokered by Paul Bubb, who used his contacts with ASU, their A.D. Lisa Love whom he knows, and of course, their former coach Dirk Koetter, whom he obviously knew as well. Add a game at North Dakota, and a game at home against Cal Poly and the schedule is done.

However, that trip to North Dakota had just a $20,000 buyout, and let's face it, it is a tough game out's very, very expensive, and a tough game to win. Well, here comes Oklahoma. Jeff Tingey says no....they didn't offer enough...can't do. Well, here comes potential budget cuts. Well, here comes Oklahoma offering a half a million dollars ... hey, we are going to Oklahoma. Out goes UND, in comes Oklahoma, because let's face it ... if you are going to lose a game, get $500,000 for it, no? (Side note...last year Idaho State's games with Boise State, Cal Poly, and Idaho netted ISU just shy of $400,000. Have you ever held $400,000 in your hands? Well....I did. Oh. My. For a brief moment.....that was awesome...I digress)

So, now the issue is Oklahoma vs. ISU is on the same date at Cal Poly vs. ISU ... well, that's not good LOL. Tingey then swings basically the deal to save the season in a way, by getting Cal Poly to go to Weber instead of ISU, giving the Mustangs a shot of revenge against the Wildcats, getting the Wildcats a home game, and we are paying the $30,000 we had to pay Cal Poly anyways to come here, instead they are coming there. We still have to go there in 2010 (along with Utah State on September 11 for $200,000 ... that's another great get ... $200,000 for a day trip...woo-hoo! Aggie ice cream for everyone!)

So...ASU and Oklahoma, followed by Weber State, then a bye, with a bye at the end of the season too. Jeff worked pretty hard with Weber State to move that game, but they didn't want to move it to the end of the season on November 21 because of the BYU-Utah game that day (total assumption on my part, but in the past that has always been the reason. Paul tried desperately to get us and Weber to always be the final game, much like Montana and Montana State, who just move their game off the scheduled date and play it on the final day every year).

So, Jeff scheduled Montana-Western on a date that is allowable for Division II, Division III, and NAIA, but not for Division I unless you get a waiver from the NCAA. Because of the economic climate (not just at ISU, but the rest of the country), the Bengals scheduled Montana-Western on August 29, knowing they might have to move the game to the 26th. UMW has Carroll on the 26th, but they agreed to move the Carroll game to the end of the season. However, Carroll didn't want to move the game since it would mean playing UMW twice in three weeks. Not stated by Carroll, but I'm sure it was in there, is that we dropped them in 2004 to add San Diego State when Jim Senter got a chance to pick up an extra game. I don't know if folks remember that we got that game in part because Notre Dame agreed to move a game and add San Diego State in like 2015 or something silly like that.

So, when word started trickling down that the waiver wasn't going to get approved, which is understandable since the NCAA doesn't want to start a precedent (although let's face it....everyone else in America is playing that weekend...except Division I? Please...) Jeff had to work on an alternate plan. There were many involved (trust me...I came up with several scenarios) and finally, Jeff landed Central Washington.

While the Wildcats were 10-2 last year and very good, they do lose their All-World QB and some very big pieces of the puzzle. Still, it's funny for me, who hears almost everything the public says (folks in the grocery store and church have no problems informing me of things) that people hate playing NAIA teams, and then you drop one to add Central, and folks hate that too.

Now, I will readily admit, as would Jeff, Z, and the players, that it sucks to not have a home game against a perceived easier opponent prior to heading to ASU and Oklahoma, and starting with three straight on the road really, really, really sucks, but the reality is this....we ain't Montana. I don't mean that on the field...I mean it in the stands. Until the community comes out and fills Holt Arena (granted, we gotta win a bit more, but still....we didn't fill it in 2002 or 2003, save for a close one against Montana...11,434), playing money games is going to be a reality, and those money game dates are going to usually be the first two weekends of the season. There is a reason Montana doesn't have to play a money game...actually about 26,000 reasons.

Someone posted on the Bengal Den that playing three lower Division folks would at least mean if you go 3-5 in conference, hey, you are 6-5 and you can have a good record to talk to recruits about, but how are the coaches getting to see recruits? Say we did that this year...we generally pay out $20,000 to $25,000 for a lower division opponent, so that $75,000 we are paying out, and not bringing in $900,000 ... that's a million dollar sadly we can't afford right now, especially in this economic climate.

Anyways, this is a ridiculously long post, but I'm hoping it gives a little insight into the process of things. You do have to admit...the whole CWU/ISU thing is intriguing with the three former ISU coaches there, and five former CWU coaches here ... I would think folks would want to show up for it.

Well, we made the Top Five Twice
This is more of a diss on our opponents however, but we are there twice...gotta love the need for cash, eh?.

Quick, which program recorded the best winning percentage in 2008-09?
If you said softball, well, you probably cheated, because most folks probably didn't know that answer, but the team is 15-19 (shockingly I might add), and they have seven more games left, all at home. They have three this weekend against Northern Colorado, and if you want to see some of the best athletes in the school...come out to Rainey Park. The school record for hits is 46 set in 1979 by Chris Shoemaker, and you have the chance to see two players surpass it this weekend in Caitlin McGrath and Megan Miller. Kandis Clesson will go for the single-season win record too....should be a good weekend. Tim Flagstad has been dutifully impress as well.

Former Bengals Still Take Down Boise State
Ouch...Heather Dixon is ISU's career leader in home runs....ouch.

Nothing to Do with ISU Athletics
But all the same, these folks are deserving of the accolades...


Anonymous said...

Frank wrote, "Until the community comes out and fills Holt Arena (granted, we gotta win a bit more, but still....we didn't fill it in 2002 or 2003, save for a close one against Montana...11,434), playing money games is going to be a reality."

What incentive do the fans have to come to Holt Arena when the losing doesn't seem to stop? ISU will almost certainly be 0-3 entering it's FIRST home game in 2009. I'm no genius, but I can tell you attendance is already going to take a hit. Those who only see an 0-3 team will not attend. Those who aren't familiar with or don't care about division 2 teams won't attend.

I'm sick of hearing that the fans need to support ISU football better, when the simple truth is, ISU is doing NOTHING to draw the fans into Holt. It's a two way street.

Marketing sucks. How many times did we hear last year that it was too late to run promotions for games. What the Hell?

Schedules suck. We understand money games, but scheduling still should be done to help build the program for success. It hasn't been done. Either somebody truly doesn't understand how to schedule for success, or somebody just doesn't care.

If ISU is at the point where they are throwing away wins for the sake of the almighty dollar, game after game, then it's probably time to end the suffering and the charade. ISU can become the University of Phoenix - Pocatello campus.

Frank Mercogliano said...

Fair enough, but you even quoted me that we have to do a better job of winning more. Colin Cowherd on ESPN is great at pointing this out, as does Gregg Easterbrook on's Page 2, but there is a reason why certain schools are always at the top, and that's because the system favors that the rich get richer, and the poor...well, the poor struggle.

The way to get out of that is to capitalize on the moments when the iron is hot. It will be interesting to see if Portland State basketball can keep it up. I had two basketball coaches during the season tell me that the only schools who should be contenders year in and year out are Weber State and Montana, because they have the facility and the resources to bring in teams to get wins. Two different coaches, exact same answer, which was interesting.

I will say this though...everyone beats up on ISU marketing, and could KaLee do a better job? Yes, but so can I, and Jeff, and Z, and many other people. The fact is there were tons of newspaper and TV ads (I saw them all the time on Channel 3 and 6), and there were radio ads too.

I will admit we need to be creative with our ticket strategies for this year in this economy, while still hitting a budget line figure, which will be tricky.

But, I would argue that ISU does nothing to get fans into Holt Arena. Folks didn't show up for Idaho, Brigham Young, Utah, and Utah State in basketball.

We had only 6,600 or so for Homecoming ... less then 6,000 for the home opener against North Dakota, a team that folks were excited about.

Here's what I would say (and this is not me railing at you, although your real name would make your argument stand better in my eyes, but I appreciate your thoughts) ... I like hearing community ideas, sometimes that's where great ideas come from ... but we gotta hear them early. Would a potato game thing have been cool? Well of course, but we need manpower to pull that off, something we are woefully short of right now.

I've said this before, and I've done it, but if folks have a good idea, I'm not ashamed to bring it to the folks here. Seriously, BengalCub asked me for permission for those bios he is doing, and I love them....I might have to do something like that for the fans next year. I like the wallpaper idea and am working on finding out how to host some of that on ISU's site so folks can download it.

Again, I like your comments, and I agree that 0-3 can definitely hurt attendance, which is why we wanted Weber to move that game for us, and when that wasn't happening, why we tried to get the NCAA to let us play on the 29th. There was a method to that the end it didn't work out, but not for a lack of trying.

Anonymous said...

"Folks didn't show up for Idaho, Brigham Young, Utah, and Utah State in basketball."

ISU was 1-3, with the lone win being a narrow win against an NAIA team, when it faced BYU. All things considered, I don't think 4,300 was too bad of an attendance number. Still, ISU lost.

ISU was 1-5 when it faced Utah, and ISU came off an ugly loss to Washington State.

ISU was 2-7 when it faced USU, and again, it was coming off an ugly loss to UW-Green Bay.

ISU was 2-10 when it faced Idaho, and the game was between Christmas and New Years. I'm surprised over 2,400 showed up as it was.

Is there a pattern here?

I was at every game during the 90's when Herb Williams's teams drew larger crowds than these. They were exciting to watch, and they won.

"We had only 6,600 or so for Homecoming ... less then 6,000 for the home opener against North Dakota, a team that folks were excited about."

In football, ISU lost twice to two very visible opponents in BSU and Idaho. It's no secret that Idaho has struggled in football, and losing to them did ISU no favors whatsover. People saw a really bad Idaho team beat ISU. That hurt attendance for the opening game. As far as homecoming is concerned, ISU was 0-6 entering that game (and had lost to traditional last place Northern Colorado). Interest was dead by this point.

Could the fans be better? Of course. Most take it for granted that there is an NCAA Division I school in their city. However, ISU needs to quit putting all the blame on the local citizens, too, and realize it is in a better position to change things than the fans are.

Winning draws fans, period. If ISU wants to play no-win games for the paycheck, then that is understandable. However, ISU needs to take the responsibility and admit it is not doing anything to build fan attendance, momentum, or winning in doing so.

Go Bengals!

Michael Strickland said...

Nice analysis, Frank

... Lots of inside details, the kind that that most of us would have to be lucky ... to be a fly on the wall to get get near.

Great use of this blog!