First, does this sound familiar?
Like records, nonconference football contracts were made to be broken. In the 1990s, Nevada and Oregon entered into an agreement to play three games. The Wolf Pack would visit Eugene in 2000 and '03. The Ducks would play in Reno in '04. Nevada honored both visits to Autzen Stadium, losing both times.
Recall, SMU and A&M have an agreement to play three games. The Mustangs visit College Station in 2005 and 2011. The Aggies will play at SMU Reno in 2012.
Then, in the spring of '04, Wolf Pack associate assistant athletic director Rory Hickok received a disturbing phone call. "It was Oregon," Hickok recalls. "They told us that they had an opportunity to play a home-and-home with Oklahoma but that they could only do it on our date [Sept. 18, 2004]. They asked not to cancel the game, but to postpone it."
As one Oregon athletic official says now, "I suspect Nevada wasn't overly thrilled."
I am telling you, it will be a cold day in Hell before A&M sets foot on the Field Turf of Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
Second, I know some people don't care for the idea of scheduling down and object to playing Sam Houston State and Arkansas State. Though, I find it odd people don't mind playing UNT this year when Arkansas State beat UNT and won that conference. Strange.
In December 2004, McKinley Boston was named the new athletic director at New Mexico State. Almost immediately he hired Hal Mumme as his football coach. In 2005 the Aggies, playing a nonconference schedule that included bowl teams UTEP, Cal and Colorado, finished 0-12. After the Aggies' final game, a 24-21 loss to Utah State, Boston made the decision to drop Arizona State from the 2006 schedule.
"I told our [board of] regents and our president that we have to take a hard look at our schedule," says Boston. "Do we want to continue to take part in body-bag games, to lower our program's morale, to risk losing three or four key players to injury just for a big payday? Or do we want to turn this program around? So we made the decision to go in another direction, to soften the schedule."
Later in the article:
Indiana replaced Oregon with I-AA Nicholls State and issued a brief release. The pertinent sentence read: "Our decision to add Nicholls State in Oregon's place was to acquire a game that would ideally assist our new coaching staff in their transition to IU."
In other words, first-year Hoosiers coach Terry Hoeppner wanted no part of a preseason Top 25 foe in his home debut. As it happened, Indiana squeaked past Nicholls State 35-31.
I am not saying you have to agree with SMU's decision to soften the schedule. The fact is, lots of schools do it and there is sound logic behind it. People tend to ignore that logic in favor of the usual assumption that SMU always has it wrong. In this case, it is the right thing to do and there is more precedent for building a program this way than with a number of "body-bag games."