IOWA CITY, Iowa – The hot-button topic of Iowa’s non-conference scheduling resurfaced Thursday when the school announced it would be adding Northern Iowa to the 2020 slate. The Hawkeyes already had Northern Illinois and the annual Cy-Hawk game against Iowa State on the docket.
For some followers, UNI represents another ho-hum addition. The Cyclones are the only Power 5 non-conference team on the schedule for the next three years just as they have been for the last two.
That bugs folks when they see Wisconsin playing LSU, Michigan State facing Notre Dame and Nebraska lining up against Oregon. The difference in the case of the Badgers and Huskers is that they don’t have a yearly in-state rival. And the Spartans annual rivalry game against Michigan is a Big Ten affair.
Whether or not the Hawkeyes should drop Iowa State so they can play a program from another Power 5 is a topic for another day. The contract is signed through ’23. Let’s move on.
Iowa could add another Power 5 with the Cyclones but that gets tricky with the nine-game conference schedule. The Hawkeyes want (need for revenue purposes) seven home games annually. That means on years when they play five Big Ten road games, it looks for three non-conference contests at home.
Few, if any, Power 5 programs are willing to play a road game without getting a return home game from that opponent. So, during the seasons when the Hawkeyes have five league games at Kinnick Stadium, they still need two non-conference home games with the third one being on the road at Iowa State. With this blueprint, they couldn’t play another Power 5 on the road.
There’s a possibility of playing a neutral site game. But, again, what kind of revenue would be generated compared to being at home against a MAC school? Not as much, certainly, but maybe it would be enough. The big boys get paid, but how much would Iowa bring in?
Wisconsin already has Notre Dame lined up for neutral site games at NFL stadiums in Green Bay and Chicago. I often wonder if that would have worked for Iowa. The Badgers are the bigger national brand right now and have a pro venue in their state.
Without the Irish, with whom could you pair Iowa to make up for revenue received from tickets, parking and concessions at Kinnick? A game against Missouri in St. Louis or facing Bill Snyder and Kansas State in Kansas City? Maybe you play get Arkansas at Soldier Field if Bret Bielema survives in Fayetteville.
The neutral site games we saw this season created national appeal. Michigan played Florida and Alabama took on Florida State. That’s quite a ways from Iowa-Missouri by the Arch.
In the end, it’s tough to imagine much of a scheduling shakeup at Iowa in the near future. Veteran coach Kirk Ferentz and the athletic department like how things are going financially and that’s the No. 1 priority.
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And it’s also not as if the other Big Ten teams are lining up heavyweights. Here’s a look at the Power 5 schools each member is playing in the non-conference during the next three years:
B1G Power 5 Non-Conference Games Next 3 Seasons
Illinois (0) – None
Indiana (1) – UVA ’18
Iowa (3) – Iowa St. ’18-20
Maryland (3) – Texas ’18, Syracuse ’19, WVU ’20
Michigan (4) – Notre Dame ’18-19, Washington ’20, Virginia Tech ’20
Michigan State (3) – Arizona St. ’18-19, Miami (FL) ’20
Minnesota (0) – None
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Nebraska (2) – Colorado ’18-19, Open Date in ’20
Northwestern (3) – Duke ’18, Notre Dame ’18, Stanford ’19, 2 Open Dates in ’20
Ohio State (3) – Oregon St. ’18, TCU ’18, Oregon ’20, Open Date in ’20
Penn State (3) – Pitt ’18-19, Virginia Tech ’20, 2 Open Dates in ’20
Purdue (5) – Missouri ’18, Boston College ’18, Vanderbilt ’19, TCU ’19, Boston College ’20, Open Date in ’20.
Rutgers (3) – Kansas ’18, Boston College ’19, UCLA ’20, Open Date in 20
Wisconsin (2) – Syracuse ’20, Notre Dame ’20 (play BYU in ’18, USF in ’19)