The Scheduling Game

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As you may have seen by now, Mizzou has added six games to its future football schedules over the next six years, beginning with a trip to Tempe, Ariz., to face Arizona State in 2011. In addition to a home-and-home series with the Sun Devils concluding in 2012 in Columbia, a similar series was added for Memphis in 2015-2016.

We often get questions from fans saying, “Why don’t you play so-and-so?” or “Team X has an opening on their schedule - let’s play them!” Mark Alnutt, Mizzou’s senior associate AD for operations, says it’s not that simple.

“Fans may look at our schedule and see that we have an opening in 2012 for example, and see that a school has an opening for a team to visit there,” Alnutt says.” But if you look at our schedule right now, we only have five home games scheduled. That opening we fill has to be a home game to get us up to six.”

Alnutt likes to get the bulk of the Tigers’ scheduling done four years in advance, which is about the norm for schools like Mizzou. Yet a curve ball last year put those plans on hold: As Tiger fans know, last summer the schools agreed to let the current five-year Arch Rivalry contract with Illinois expire after this fall’s game, mainly due to Illinois’ expressed need to schedule seven or eight home games.

Suddenly, games against Illinois that were penciled in for the foreseeable future had to get filled. While the four-year plan was going ahead - note that the 2013 schedule is completed with today’s announcement, and the 2012 schedule is missing just one date - the 2011 schedule still has a season-opening hole to be filled.

As to the list of schools that are considered, Alnutt cites the longtime scheduling policy set forth by Mike Alden and Gary Pinkel: each season, Mizzou strives to schedule one game against a school from a BCS automatic-qualifying conference (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC), two games against schools from “mid-major” conferences such as the MAC, WAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt, and a game against a school from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA).

Alnutt is in regular contact with his counterparts across the country regarding scheduling. He made contact with both Arizona State and Memphis about a year ago about these games, and while there was mutual interest, for various reasons the deals weren’t cemented until follow-up contacts were established recently. As Phil Stukenborg from the Memphis Commercial-Appeal wrote for this morning’s edition, the Memphis deal was sealed when Alden and Memphis AD R.C. Johnson discussed their mutual openings during an NCAA Leadership Council meeting last month in Atlanta.

“We were on the leadership council together and sat together at the last meeting,” Johnson said. “We had been trying to work getting dates with Navy, but it wasn't working. Mike was working on games for (2015 and 2016), too, and we said, ‘why don't we play?’”

Over the course of the last year, Alnutt says he’s either contacted or been contacted by well over half of the 120 FBS schools across the country in regards to potential series. Many contacts don’t go beyond the initial call: Schools either don’t have an opening for when Mizzou needs one, or the openings that schools do have don’t match Mizzou’s needs (like the aforementioned example in 2012 when we need a home game). Finally, some schools request guarantees that are much higher than Mizzou can afford to pay.

Alnutt’s also had contact, either initiated by Mizzou or the opponent, with upwards of 40 FCS schools to travel for a one-game series at the FBS school’s stadium. Mizzou is currently in discussions with two schools from the Central time zone about a game on a future season’s schedule. A third school in the time zone is wanting Mizzou to schedule them, but is demanding a higher guarantee. It’s a job that requires finesse and patience.

Have a question about scheduling? Perhaps we can answer it! Make a comment below.

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3 Comments

I am just curious why we havent played the Iowa Hawkeyes in over 100 years. I have been waiting my whole life to see us play IOWA in football. I know a few years back we tried and it fell thru. Does Mizzou have ANY intention to try and schedule Iowa in the future?

Its a natural border rivalary and could be as intriging if not more than Mizzou vs Illinois.

Thanks for your time.

Bobby

Bobby -- Our current AD and football coach have only been around for the last 10 years or so, so I can't address why we haven't played Iowa in the previous 90 years.

We did have a series scheduled several years ago that was agreed to before Coach Pinkel was hired. He didn't want to build his program by playing a school that was coming off multiple 10-win seasons and BCS berths early on, so we asked Iowa if they would trim the 4-year agreement down to just the final two years. Iowa would not agree to that arrangement, which resulted in cancellation of the entire series.

Our administration has been on record that they'd like to schedule more games of regional interest; you saw it with the addition of the Indiana series, you saw it today with the addition of Memphis, and it's entirely possible series with schools such as Iowa and Arkansas will be attempted. How soon is anyone's guess. It depends on many factors, which I relayed in the original post above.

The reason we aren't scheduling Iowa in our non-conference schedule is due to the fact that we will likely be playing Iowa in our CONFERENCE schedule beginning in 2012.

Same thing with Illinois--although we have some logistical issues to clear up so that we can continue to stomp on Kansas annually in KC.

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