Hawkeye football scheduling 101

BY TRAVIS VARNER | JULY 17, 2009 7:15 AM

Who wants to play the Iowa Hawkeyes?

Annually, colleges around the country work out deals to play future games against one another. It’s a part of college football. So, what does Iowa look for when creating its schedule?

Iowa Associate Athletics Director Mark Abbott said a lot of communication is involved throughout the year among schools. It’s a never-ending cycle of phone calls and e-mails among colleges, all trying to solidify quality schedules.

“Well, there’s certainly nothing magical … we make calls all over the country and talk with schools all over to gauge interest,” Abbott said. “[It’s] to determine whether there are spots available, matchups with places that needs games as well, and that’s how we go about it.”

Iowa plays four nonconference games every year, with one of those game slots being filled by Iowa State. The Hawkeyes essentially have three games each year that must be filled.

Although the format is flexible, the Hawkeyes tend to end up with two non-BCS home opponents and one BCS opponent on a home-and-home deal. This season, Iowa begins a home-and-home with Arizona. The Hawkeyes face the Wildcats at Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 19 and will play them again next year in Tucson.

Abbott thinks that home-and-home agreements are great for the football program because money is saved and the team is able to play a recognizable university.

“The draw of having a home-and-home is there’s usually good, solid opponents, and it makes for interesting competition at their place and ours,” he said. “When we have a home-and-home with a school, we essentially just trade enough money to keep us from not having to pay out of pocket on travel.”

One interesting opponent Iowa recently agreed to terms to play in 2015 and 2017, North Texas, is historically significant. Legendary coach Hayden Fry left North Texas for Iowa after five years with the Mean Green in 1979.

North Texas Sports Information Director Eric Cappers was glad to play Iowa because of its name recognition. Fry’s link between the two schools just made it an easier decision.

“Hayden Fry’s history just made it a natural fit … [his] being at both places, that was just kind of an added bonus,” Cappers said.

Another reason North Texas agreed to play the Hawkeyes is the financial guarantee that the Hawkeyes offered the university. Mid-major level schools play BCS schools because of the financial incentive the game presents. The big universities, such as Iowa, provide a dollar amount to cover that particular school’s travel, food, and lodging costs. In return, that school, such as North Texas, gains exposure, as well as money to help subsidize its athletics budgets.

Abbott said that although the Hawkeyes are paying these schools to come to Kinnick Stadium, Iowa still ends up with a profit because the game is at home.

“If we pay them a guarantee, and we have a home game, then we keep the gate,” Abbott said.

Missouri State will receive that financial guarantee from Iowa in 2013, when it plays the Hawkeyes in Kinnick. Head coach Terry Allen agreed the smaller schools play BCS programs largely because of the financial gain. Another reason Missouri State agreed to go to Iowa City was the distance between the schools is not large. He hopes his fans will travel.

“Having been from Iowa and knowing Gary Barta, we thought it’d be a great opportunity for both of us,” Allen said. “I think it works out for everybody. It’s cheaper, and our fans can travel to Iowa City.”

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