The college football landscape has changed, albeit not as drastically as predicted, but it’s about as clear as mud if you’re a University of Montana Grizzly fan.
The much-anticipated move by Boise State University from the West Athletic Conference to the Mountain West Conference probably opens a spot for a school to replace the Broncos. And, in many corners, the University of Montana is a preferred choice.
But if any contact has been forthcoming from the league to the Missoula campus, nobody is saying anything about it and the feasibility study commissioned by the Athletic Department will at least reveal what the administration already knows: Moving up is an expensive proposition at a time when expenses continue to increase.
Now I join about everyone in the fan base who tire with the lack of worthy non-conference opponents, but I also realize the absolute necessity to fill the home-game schedule because of the amount of money it brings to the budget.
And while the “money games,” against Oregon and Iowa especially, together supplemented the budget for more than $1 million and actually provided possible upset opportunities, I guess I still subscribe to the Don Read scheduling theory of playing non-league games against opponents that allow the opportunity to get your younger and less-experienced athletes playing time to hone their skills for league play.
Surely, I’m not much a fan of blowouts – although anytime the Grizzlies score 50 against the Bobcats I am a happy camper – but did anyone really expect the opener against South Dakota State to be the kind of game it was last year?
While I don’t expect Western State College to be that kind of opponent, don’t believe that team will arrive at Washington-Grizzly Stadium feeling any less confident of their abilities than the Grizzlies did when they arrived at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.
The problem with not grabbing the opportunity and moving into the WAC if such an invitation were to arrive is how to fill the home-and-home schedule with quality opponents if, say, Cal Poly or Cal Davis or a myriad other teams move to a league that does not allow its members to play Football Championship Subdivision schools on the road.
The WAC has such a rule, as does the Pac-10 – meaning Washington State or Cal Poly, for example, is more than happy to play the Grizzlies in Pullman or San Luis Obispo, but cannot return the favor, thus eventually setting up Montana’s home schedule to be even more difficult to fill.
So, while I totally agree the cost of Montana moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision level surely is difficult to pencil out and would be a tough sell with the Board of Regents and could even be more difficult to sell with a new president soon to come aboard, moves by similar FCS schools could well force the university’s hand.
And it’s not as simple as adding two sports and providing the necessary additional football scholarships.
The impending decision, however, will shape the future of University of Montana football.
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