End of CyHawk?

April 6, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

Yeah, I have talked about this before and I have written about this before and I am hardly the only one with this notion, but…

Is 9/13/14 the last of the annual Iowa vs Iowa State football games?

The Big Ten released it’s conference football slate for 2013 & 2014 on Wednesday, and more talk related to the league moving to a nine-game conference schedule as early as September 15th kicked up some dust around the blogosphere.

That’s something that Commissioner Jim Delany talked about back in early September when the Big Ten’s Legends and Leaders Divisions were announced…he talked about it on the set of the Big Ten Network’s Division ‘reveal’ program that I was a part of, and it’s been a back burner but not insignificant topic since.

Seeing these schedules laid out Wednesday, seeing how Iowa and Illinois will not play one another for six years and seeing how well a nine-game regular season would fit with regards to rotations, it’s tough not to imagine a nine-game Big Ten slate NOT being put into place for the 2015 seasons.

League honchos get together next month, and some folks wonder if it might not get approved right then and there.

If it does, it could put the continuation of the Iowa-Iowa State football series in jeopardy.

A nine game regular season slate would have you playing five games a year against your divisional foes, one game against your protected rival in the opposite division (for Iowa this is Purdue) and then three more games against three of the remaining five teams from your opposite division. With this set up, the longest drought any Big Ten team would have with regards to playing a fellow conference member would be two years.

Under the current set up, you have five divisional games, one protected rival from the opposite division, then two games against the remaining five teams from the opposite division…after two years, those two teams would be swapped out by two more teams, which leaves one team that you will not play for four years.

Delany has been quoted several times saying things along the lines of ‘We are in the same conference and we want to play each other. We like each other,’ and yada yada.

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With a nine-game slate, you avoid the four-year gap problem. However, you create another issue where some teams will have five home games to go along with four road games, while others will have four home games to go along with five road games.

That’s where the Iowa-ISU issue comes to bear…

To keep that series alive, the logistical issue of matching up Iowa having a home game against ISU in years when it has just four Big Ten home games would have to be put in place. In this day an age of college football, as a member of a BCS Conference, you cannot (nor should you) have any less than seven home games due to the financial ramifications of what home games mean to the athletic department’s pocket book, not to mention what it means to Johnson County.

That’s a two-way street as Iowa State would want the same set up for their Big 12 slate that is going to be nine games; they will want to play Iowa in Jack Trice Stadium during the years where they have just four Big 12 home games. Iowa State has already had this discussion with the Big 12 to offer some scheduling assistance or at least a heads up, for the day when the Big Ten goes to a nine-game regular season slate.

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Let’s say that Iowa and ISU can work out these logistical issues. A nine-game conference slate means there is one less out of conference opponent for Iowa and Iowa State. Ideally, with today’s BCS system, if you are going to have nine conference games, you’d likely want to schedule three out of conference opponents a) at home and b) that are cupcakes.

While I realize Iowa State has not scored a touchdown against Iowa’s first or second team defense since 2006 (and even then just one in total), I won’t call them a cupcake; you don’t play cupcakes on the road.

There are factions of Iowa and Iowa State fans that say they’d be fine if the game went away. I am still indifferent.

In my opinion, Iowa has nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing Iowa State. When they win, they are supposed to. When they lose, it’s ‘what the heck happened?’ from a national perspective. Iowa doesn’t have the national cache that a Michigan, Ohio State, Texas or Oklahoma has, but they have been a Top 20 program over the past decade from a winning percentage standpoint, while Iowa State is 87th over the same time frame.

Iowa would likely be better off in scheduling a cream puff, pocketing the gate, posting a guaranteed win and go into the Big Ten slate 3-0 more often than not. ISU might be able to say many of the same things, although the financial implication of the Iowa-ISU contract favors them and with Nebraska now off their schedule, losing an Iowa home game would leave them without the guaranteed sellout those two games have been.

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However….however…there is the sentimentality of the ‘rivalry’. We live together, we work together, we go to church together and we talk smack together. Do we want to see that go away, especially those of us living in Central Iowa? Will the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry take over and be ‘THE’ game on the schedule every year for Iowa fans, relegating the Iowa-ISU game to second billing status? Is it merciful to ‘put out to pasture’ one of the ugliest rivalry trophies in college football?

Who knows…we’ll find that out over the next few years.

One last note; while Iowa and Iowa State have a contract in place for this game to be played well beyond 2015, there is a clause in it that gives either side an ‘out’ in the event either team’s conference moves to a nine-game regular season slate. The Big 12 already has, and I think the Big Ten will announce a similar move before summer begins.

ADDITIONAL NOTE 4/7/11: After the 2012 season, the teams will not longer share home game revenues with the visitors. Each team will still make 4,000 tickets available for the visiting team, just like Iowa does with Big Ten home games…an argument could be made that the cost of ‘buying’ a home game against an inferior opponent makes financial sense for continuing this series. My guess right now is that if both sides can make it work where they would host this series in years where they had just four conference games, if and when the Big Ten goes to a nine game regular season slate, they figure out a way to keep playing it.

However, will the benefit of scheduling a guaranteed home win, hoping your school can get to 3-0 in the non-conference each year, which gets you halfway to bowl eligibility and the extra practice time you get from being in a bowl game prove to be the more tempting move? There are a lot of factors at play here.

There will be a lot of opinions on this one as there always are. I am eager to read yours. You can comment below in our newly revamped comments section. Click on the login button and see the various ways in which you can reply, including using your facebook, google, twitter, yahoo or other popular platform option.

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