Chris Korman has the scoop, although neither I nor anyone else can read it because of the H-T's shortsighted policy to hide its content behind a subscription wall. Nevertheless, what I can see of it makes me sick. IU, after playing at Penn State for two years in a row, has agreed, in exchange for 3 million dollars, to move the 2010 IU "home" game to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, the 91,000 seat home field of the Washington Redskins. The game will be played on November 20, 2010, and as best I can tell, IU has to sell 7,000 tickets. Fred Glass has impressed most IU fans so far with his aggressive and imaginative approach to supporting and marketing the football team, the basketball team, and the department in general, but this move strikes me as a major misstep. Again, I haven't read the article and can't see Glass's rationale, but here's what I see:
[EDIT: The original headline said 2009, not 2010. Cut me a little slack, I started writing this thing at 5:45 a.m.]
The only pro is money. I realize, of course, that $3 million is a lot of money, but it's only five percent of the IU athletic department's roughly $55 million budget. So yes, the money will be a bonus, but what are we giving up?
- Competitive advantage. IU has had one winning season out of the last 15. We need every advantage that we can get. Instead, in 2009, we are the only Big Ten team playing six road games. In 2010, when that looked to be changing, IU now not only will play a reduced number of home games, but will play only three Big Ten home games. This isn't the first time that IU has moved a home game off campus. In 1984, IU played Illinois at the then-new Hoosier Dome, and IU played Penn State at the Dome in 2000. I didn't support the 2000 move, but at least that was a good faith effort to market the football program to fans and alumni in Indianapolis. This is different. Fedex Field is a) 650 miles from Bloomington; b) 72 miles from the Pennsylvania border; c) 130 miles from Philadelphia and d) just under 200 miles from Penn State's campus. This isn't a home-neutral game, it's a road-neutral game in which IU fans will be outnumbered 10 to 1, at least. I don't harbor any great illusions about IU's status compared to Penn State: Penn State is a much stronger program. But it's worth looking at the scores. We have played Penn State four times in the last six seasons. IU's average margin of defeat in State College: 36 points. IU's average margin of defeat in Bloomington: 4.5 points. In each of Penn State's last two trips to Bloomington, IU had the ball in the final minute of the game with a chance to win. Now, we won't be playing at home.
Season ticket sales. I can't imagine that it will help season ticket sales to remove one of the most attractive games from the season ticket package.
- Credibility. This moves strikes me as the equivalent of raiding one's 401(k) or digging into the principal of any similar investment. IU will receive a short term financial boost but will do long-term damage to the program. Even setting aside the near-term competitive disadvantage of IU playing a home game near Washington, DC, it will have longer term effects. This will lead to bad publicity. Haven't we all had enough of IU-football-as-punchline, both from rival fans and from IU fans? Well, Fred, get ready for a bunch of laughs this week and as the game approaches next year. The current marketing campaign tries to convince fans that IU is serious about winning football games. Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words. In 2010, at least, getting paid by Penn State fans has been judged more important than beating Penn State. Also, this will be wonderful recruiting fodder for our rivals: "why would you go to Indiana? Their attendance is so bad that they moved a home game to Washington, DC!"
- Competitive balance. This isn't an original thought (hat-tip to DerrickC on the Rivals football board), but Ohio State fans, for instance, are going to absolutely lose their minds over this. Set aside the fact that IU will be playing only three Big Ten home games. Penn State, a perennial contender for the conference title, essentially will be playing five conference home games.
Bill Lynch is a good company man, so it will be interesting to see if or how he puts a positive spin on this. Whatever he says in public, this must be a kick in the teeth to Lynch and his staff. Again, actions speak louder than words. Glass has strongly supported Lynch publicly, but selling a game like this is not something an athletic director would do if he expects to be competing for a bowl berth in that season. This move implies that Glass expects 2010 to be yet another rebuilding year. Maybe it will be. Maybe that's a safe bet. But what if the program does make some progress, and does win 6 or 7 games this year? That means that in 2010, when trying to take advantage of a strong 2009, Lynch and his team would be trying to do so with a schedule that includes only three Big Ten home games.
This is a fresh news story, and perhaps I will moderate my perspective as I think more about it, but this morning, I'm absolutely disgusted.