TERRE HAUTE —
When the Big Ten Conference implemented a nine-game football schedule starting in 2016 and discouraged members from playing Football Championship Subdivision teams, there was one game on Indiana State’s future schedule that was likely on borrowed time.
ISU’s scheduled game at Minnesota in 2016.
So it was no surprise when ISU coach Mike Sanford revealed that the Sycamores and Golden Gophers have canceled their intended match-up. However, ISU received assistance from Minnesota to find a new FBS opponent. The Sycamores will now play Oregon State in 2016.
“We’ve come to an agreement with Minnesota where they’ve helped us and basically bought out the contract, but worked with us to get another opponent … Oregon State,” Sanford said.
A contract has not yet been signed, but the schools involved have an agreement in principle. The game will likely be played in the first or second week of September 2016.
The original contract with Minnesota called for ISU to be paid a $475,000 guarantee.
According to Senior Assistant Athletic Director John Sherman — who is the point man for ISU’s football scheduling — full financial details have not been worked out yet. However, the intended arrangement is for Minnesota to pay Oregon State for ISU’s contract and then the Beavers will use that money to pay ISU for the newly scheduled game, plus a slightly higher guarantee for ISU to make the trip to Corvallis, Ore.
Both Sanford and Sherman praised Minnesota for their role in getting ISU a new opponent.
ISU’s game against Oregon State will be its first against a Pac-12 Conference team. ISU has never played football against a team from a state bordering the Pacific Ocean, home or away.
ISU also has future games scheduled against Big Ten schools Indiana (2014) and Purdue (2015), but those games will still be played as scheduled as the Big Ten’s nine-game schedule and FCS scheduling edict will have not taken effect in those seasons. The Sycamores will play both the Hoosiers and Boilermakers in 2013 and will be paid over $800,000 combined in guarantees.
ISU’s game against Tennessee in 2017 is still on as of now. The Southeastern Conference has discussed going to a nine-game schedule, but that’s a contentious issue in the SEC. The SEC has also said it will not follow the Big Ten’s lead and will continue to play FCS opponents. The Big Ten is the only FBS conference to go that route at present.
ISU is the second Missouri Valley Football Conference school that Minnesota has dropped from its future schedule. South Dakota State was dropped from Minnesota’s 2015 schedule after the Gophers entered into a home-and-home series with Texas Christian.
The Big Ten’s decision to end games against FBS opponents was expected to have a ripple effect on the MVFC, which is the closest FCS conference geographically to the Big Ten. Five MVFC member schools are located in Big Ten states. The three Dakota schools border Big Ten states and all three have played Minnesota in recent years.
ISU will have to adjust just like other member schools will, but Sanford thinks the Sycamores will manage.
“I normally want to play one BCS-level opponent a year. That’s something you’ll see on our schedule as we move on. We loved playing the Big Ten schools, but that’s going to have to change,” said Sanford, who also expounded on his general scheduling philosophy. “We’d like to play in-state teams when we can. We like to play FCS opponents in the near region where we can do a home-and-home thing. That’s something you’ll see.”
ISU will open a home-and-home series with Tennessee Tech of the Ohio Valley Conference on Sept. 28 at Cookeville, Tenn.
In the meantime, ISU still has Big Ten opponents to match wits with. ISU opens the season at Indiana on Aug. 29 and follows with a game at Purdue on Sept. 7.
It’s a tough one-two punch for Sanford to start his ISU regime.
“It’s exciting for our players. We look at those two games as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to gain some respect. It’s tough to start out with two Big Ten opponents, but it’s also exciting challenge,” Sanford said.