Scheduling 101

The University of Colorado announced this week that it had scheduled home-and-home series against TCU from the Big 12 and Texas A&M from the SEC. The Buffs will take on the Aggies of Texas A&M in 2020 and 2021, then play the Horned Frogs of TCU in 2022 and 2023.

The move was widely hailed by the Buff Nation, and rightly so. There are several reasons why scheduling two Power-Five opponents from the state of Texas could pay long-term benefits for the CU football program.

– Recruiting in Texas –

In February, Colorado signed two prospects from the state of Texas, running back Patrick Carr and quarterback Steven Montez, continuing a decades-long trend of signing high school players from the Lone Star State. Over the past 43 seasons (since the return of freshman eligibility), Colorado has signed 125 Texans to the roster, a tally coming in behind only California (253) and Colorado (246). These numbers have been consistent throughout the decades, whether CU was in the Big Eight (without any Texas schools), the Big 12, or the Pac-12.

So, it stands to reason that Colorado, with no conference games within 500 miles of Texas, would want to pitch home-state non-conference games to future prospects out of Texas.

And scheduling games with teams from Texas just got a little easier.

This past season, the first for the College Football Playoff system, schools like Baylor and TCU were taught a difficult lesson:

From here on, scheduling non-conference games against easy opponents will count against you come playoff time.

With this in mind, the Southeastern Conference (SEC), notorious for playing the Weak Sisters of the Poor in non-conference games (opponents this fall include such powers as The Citadel, Southern University, Austin Peay, UT-Martin, Louisiana-Monroe, Northwestern State, Jacksonville State, Charlotte, and Western Carolina,) has mandated that its schools play at least one Power-Five opponent in upcoming seasons. This has led to a rush to upgrade schedules throughout the country.

So, it was a marriage of convenience for Colorado, in the current frenzy to tie up non-conference games with other Power-Five conferences, to turn to the state of Texas in search of opponents.

That being said, games against Power-Five opponents have been mandated by the SEC, but not the Pac-12. Which begs the question:

While it was a good idea for CU to schedule schools from Texas – for recruiting purposes – was it necessary to schedule Power Five schools?

Arizona understands the value of playing – and recruiting – in the state of Texas. The Wildcats have no fewer than seven games in the next six seasons against teams from the Lone Star State. Only two of those seven games, however (a home-and-home with Texas Tech in 2019 and 2020), will be played against teams from a Power Five conference. The other games will be against UTEP, Houston, and Texas-San Antonio.

There is certainly no guarantee that future opponents TCU (12-1 last year, a preseason top-five team this year) or Texas A&M (8-5 last season) will be powers in their respective conferences (or even be in the same conferences) come 2020 and beyond. Still, the argument could be made that Colorado could have set its sights a little lower when setting its schedule to play (and recruit) in Texas out into the next decade.

Colorado still looking to gain a foothold in the Pac-12, and the Buffs’ cellar-dweller status, foreign to the program for almost 100 years, is likely to be the status quo for the foreseeable future (the other five teams in the Pac-12 South won at least nine games in 2014, and all are projected to be in the discussion for top 25 rankings this fall).

Here’s hoping that CU’s choices for Texas opponents will assist the Buffs in their argument for playoff positioning in the 2020’s.

– A CSU fait accompli –

Back on Signing Day, CU athletic director Rick George set off a firestorm when he quietly announced that the continuation of the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver was not in the best interests of the University of Colorado.

“Right now, I don’t have any intention of extending the contract past 2020,” George said. “We have a contract and we have to honor it and we’ll do that, and we hope to continue to have a dialogue about bringing it back to campus.

“My job is to do what’s best for CU, our athletic department, our teams, our student-athletes and the president and chancellor are very aware of how I feel about this,” George continued. “My job is to do what’s in our best interests and I think what’s in our best interests right now is trying to move this game back on campus if we can. We haven’t been able to do that.

“To have a game beyond 2020 at this point, I’m not sure that is in our best interest.”

The Denver media, as it is wont to do, attacked George and CU for ducking the Rams, and shirking its supposed responsibilities to the people of Colorado by playing Colorado State in Denver. The fact that attendance at the Rocky Mountain Showdown hasn’t been within shouting distance of a sellout for more than a decade never entered into the discussion. The fact that CU fans (and sponsors) hate giving up a home game for the game in Denver was never allowed to be a consideration.

The Ram Nation – and its defenders – pointed to CSU winning two of the last three games in the series as proof that the balance of power in the state had shifted north (memo to Ram fans: winning two of three games does not a shift prove. CU, despite enduring its lowest ebb in school history, has still won three of the last five games in the series, eight of the last 12, and holds a 62-22-2 advantage overall). The Ram fans are ranting that the Buffs are ducking CSU in order to play UMass (another 2021 opponent), conveniently forgetting that the UMass game was part of a two-for-one which the Buffs are already committed to playing, and that it was Texas A&M – an SEC school – which filled the vacancy which was “supposed” to go to the Rams.

The truth is that the Colorado is moving on, and Rick George has quietly set about making that happen.

By offering season ticket holders the opportunity to opt out of buying tickets to the game in Denver this fall, the attendance at the game will be down again in 2015 (though if CU opens 2-0 with victories over Hawai’i and UMass, and CSU limps in after a loss to Minnesota, those numbers could change).

Then, this week, George filled out CU’s 2021 schedule with the home game against Texas A&M. The Buffs will now play UMass, Texas A&M and Minnesota – all at home – in 2021. With nine Pac-12 conference games to follow, there is no longer any room for the CSU Rams on the 2021 schedule.

In making the announcements of the home-and-home series with Texas A&M and TCU, George was emphatic that the schedules were set, regardless of the wishes of CSU or the Denver media. George stated has no intention of changing the 2021 schedule even though there are open dates in the schedule in both 2020 and 2022. “We don’t have any intention of changing our schedules in either year at this point,” George said.

True enough, schedules are never set in stone, and there still could be changes made before the Rocky Mountain Showdown goes into hiatus after the 2020 season, but at least Rick George has positioned the University of Colorado into a strong position:

If Colorado State wants to continue to play Colorado, it will be on CU’s terms.

– Hope Springs Eternal –

Don’t get me wrong … I am very glad Colorado has UMass and Nicholls State on the calendar this fall.

The Buffs need victories to help restore the program to relevance, and getting beat up upon by Power-Five powers before taking on a Pac-12 schedule with exactly zero easy outs is no way to get there.

That being said, its nice to see the CU athletic department giving a vote of confidence to the football program.

True enough, Bill Snyder built a program at Kansas State out of dirt in the 1990’s by taking on teams you needed an atlas to find (Indiana State, Western Illinois, Western Kentucky, Northern Iowa among them), and now Arizona (with games against Grambling State, UTEP and UTSA) is all-but guaranteeing itself bowl-eligibility each season with easier opponents, and Cal, with other schools beefing up their schedules, announced this past week that they were putting UC-Davis and Cal Poly on the future docket (a CU at the Game hat to the first three Buff fans who can state – without looking – the nicknames for UC-Davis and Cal Poly. Just drop me a note at if you know that answers).

Rick George and the CU athletic department, in scheduling Power-Five conferences, is acknowledging the “right way” to get to the top. Colorado was once able to create a championship team by taking on the best. In the 1990 national title season, CU played No. 8 Tennessee, No. 21 Illinois, No. 22 Texas and No. 12 Washington in non-conference play … the toughest-schedule in the country … and won the championship anyway.

The CU football program has been down for what seems like an eternity. History, though, is on CU’s side. The Colorado athletic department is scheduling into the next decade with an eye on being relevant in the national title race.

That confidence alone is justification for Buff fans feeling good about the home-and-home series announcements with Texas A&M and TCU.

The help in recruiting in Texas … and the shutting out of CSU from the 2021 schedule … were just icing on the cake.



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