After K-State announced its 2009 football schedule today, which included two FCS opponents, it was only a matter of time before the local, regional and national punditry teed off on Bill Snyder's scheduling practices. Tim Griffin of ESPN.com certainly didn't waste any time jumping into the fray. To his credit, he at least took a novel angle by looking at the other eight FBS schools that still need to add games to their schedules for next season.
Perhaps Griffin was being serious in his post about who K-State avoided by scheduling an atrocious Tennessee Tech squad, and I'm just another K-State fan with an inferiority complex and paranoid disorder when it comes to the national media. But his post chronicling the order of "attractiveness" - measured by how easy each team would be to beat - of each squad struck me as a bit of a slap in the face of Bill Snyder.
Either way, this is something we're going to see a lot of in the coming days, weeks and months. Even after his retirement, media members continued to use K-State and Snyder references to describe teams that scheduled soft in the non-conference. I happen to think we're no more deserving of that reputation than a whole host of BCS-conference schools, but generally we had more success over a longer period of time than those other schools, so I guess you take the good with the bad.
What Griffin and others in the media who malign Snyder for his scheduling practices fail to understand is that we probably didn't have much of a choice in this decision. More goes into making a schedule than just finding good - or bad - opponents. You have to schedule several years in advance or risk being left with few choices. You have to line up your open dates with those of other schools. You have to coordinate with your conference.
Another factor that is often overlooked is the financial aspect of scheduling. Weaker opponents have less leverage in demanding financial payouts from other schools, because their alternatives aren't attractive and the big schools offer more than they usually get anyway. Scheduling teams like this isn't all about wins and losses. Schools like K-State need to play seven or eight home games per year, because their football programs fund their entire athletic department.
Further, two years of mismanagement by Bob Krause and Jon Wefald has left our athletic department in deplorable financial condition. The reserve fund created by Tim Weiser has evaporated and things don't look much better in the next few years as we are paying a $1.9 million buyout to Weiser and a $1.3 million buyout to Ron Prince. That's a lot of money for an athletic department with a budget that ranks toward the bottom of the Big 12.
So when it came to scheduling for the 2009 season, there were several related objectives. First, get home games so we could sell home tickets, food and drinks at the concessions, and merchandise. We're already short a home conference game because we're playing Iowa State in Kansas City, and we're locked into playing UCLA in Los Angeles and Louisiana-Lafayette in Lafayette, so it was imperative that the two unscheduled non-conference spots be home games. Second, schedule small, lower-division schools so we didn't have to pay them much money to come to Manhattan and get hammered (we hope). Third, don't get stuck with road conference games in the next few years, because the financial condition of the athletic department isn't going to get better soon with the buyouts being paid and the general economic situation in the United States flagging.
You may have noticed that Snyder is not buying out the September trip to Los Angeles to play UCLA. If his scheduling for 2009 was all about wins and losses, that game would have gone by the wayside long before UMass and Tennessee Tech were scheduled. The simple fact is that we can't afford to buy out that game out right now.