TERRE HAUTE —
To paraphrase grunge band Soundgarden, Indiana State’s football team is feeling Minnesota again.
The Sycamores will play the Golden Gophers on Sept. 10, 2016 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Much noise has been made about the Big Ten Conference’s desire to drop Football Championship Subdivision schools like ISU off their football schedules.
It was thought the Sycamores were going to be one of the victims of the Big Ten’s philosophy change when Minnesota helped ISU arrange a game with Oregon State in place of the game it had contracted with the Sycamores early in the Trent Miles era.
The Tribune-Star reported in June that the Sycamores would effectively trade its contract with Minnesota, Oregon State would take it over and ISU would get a small bump up from its original contract with Minnesota, which had a payout of $475,000.
However, the Gophers quickly reconsidered canceling the game, and shortly after ISU’s arrangement with Oregon State was reported, Minnesota called ISU back.
“Apparently after we got the verbal agreement with Oregon state, Minnesota’s representative called and wanted to re-approach having us on the schedule. I’m not privy to it, but Minnesota and the Big Ten might have changed philosophy on some things,” said ISU assistant athletic director John Sherman, who is in charge of arranging ISU’s football schedules.
Sherman said the original signed agreement with Minnesota, which was never officially canceled, remains in effect. ISU will be paid $475,000 for the game.
The timing of the contest is significant. It has long been assumed that the Big Ten would attempt to clear as many FCS teams off existing schedules as possible by 2016 when it implements a nine-game conference schedule and that it would not schedule any more games against FCS competition in the future.
Indeed, Minnesota had already replaced its 2015 game against South Dakota State with a game against Texas Christian, now of the Big 12 Conference, by the time it helped arrange ISU’s now-aborted game at Oregon State.
Though Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has said he’d like Big Ten schools to play more “comparable” opponents in 2016, the Big Ten has never officially stated that it would stop scheduling FCS teams. Several Missouri Valley Football Conference games against Big Ten competition remain intact after 2016.
None of the other major conferences joined the Big Ten in discouraging games against FCS foes which could put Big Ten teams at a potential scheduling disadvantage when it comes to national playoff spots and rankings.
No matter the larger ramifications of ISU’s off-again, on-again contest against Minnesota, ISU coach Mike Sanford is pleased to be playing a Big Ten team again.
“We’re playing them, we’re not playing them, now we’re playing them again. We want one FCS opponent on that schedule every year and it’s exciting to have a Big Ten team. It’ll be a good trip. Minnesota is in our geographic area and it’s a great thing for our program,” Sanford said.
ISU has games against FBS teams scheduled through the 2017 season. ISU plays Indiana and Purdue this season, IU in 2014, Purdue in 2015, Minnesota in 2016 and Tennessee in 2017.
Sherman said that talks will begin with other interested schools about future seasons in the coming weeks.