What Does A Non-BCS ISU Do To The Iowa-ISU Rivalry?

Mas Casa touches on something we discussed briefly in the now-monstrous thread about the Big 12 crumbling (what happens to the Iowa-ISU football rivalry if ISU becomes a non-BCS school) and comes to the conclusion that, in fact, it probably wouldn't change much at all.  And while I initially disagreed and thought that it might spell the end of the every-other-year-in-Ames portion of the rivalry, now I'd say he's probably right.  Aside from the contractual issues he raises (the current deal runs through 2017), there's the matter of history/tradition and, frankly, popular sentiment.  Like it or not, the game certainly is a big deal within the state.  

It's not as if Iowa's going to see a difference in the revenue the game produces -- unless you think the game would stop selling out if ISU was in a non-BCS league.  In the short term, at least, that seems highly unlikely -- even if ISU fans are unimpressed by newfound conference rivalries with non-BCS schools, they're still going to be excited about a chance to take down Iowa.  And the animosity between Iowa and Iowa State seems too great for Iowa fans to suddenly become less interested in the game when it's at Kinnick.

The biggest problem, which Morehouse also noted, would be the effect on non-conference scheduling:

"For the most part what we’re looking for is a balance for a mid-major school, opponents and then BCS competition," Mark Abbott, Iowa’s associate athletics director who handles much of the scheduling, said in a 2008 Gazette story.

"Obviously, we want to have seven home games as much as possible so that dictates the schools that we’re looking at for other games. If Iowa State is (at Kinnick Stadium) and we have a BCS home-and-home, it would be on the road so our other two games are going to be home."

(more after the jump)

Blog buddy Fight For Iowa chimed in on the issue as well:

Some other problems...generally any non-BCS opponent for Iowa agrees to play in Iowa City without a return trip. I don't see any possible way that Iowa State would agree to an arrangement like that. So, if Iowa wants to keep ISU on the schedule and keep a non-conference schedule with 2 BCS teams, then that would mean 3 home and away series to manage and just 1 guaranteed home game. That could leave Iowa taking a significant dip in revenue with less home games on the schedule. The other option would be to only have one BCS opponent scheduled each year.

If Iowa State does fall into a non-BCS league, it's the end of the 2 non-BCS/2 BCS team scheduling paradigm.  Period.  BCS teams simply won't acquiesce to anything but a home-and-home series, which means the only way to keep the current scheduling format alive* would be for Iowa State to fill the (using the 2010 schedule) Ball State role: a non-BCS squad that plays Iowa only at Kinnick.  And while that would be quite desirable for most Iowa fans (would anyone shed a tear about never setting foot in Jack Trice again?  Of course not), there are plenty of significant obstacles in the way of that happening, either in the near future or, possibly, ever.  Contracts, political pressure, decades of tradition... these are not things that can be easily swept aside.

(* -- Likewise, barring seriously radical changes, the current scheduling format is also unlikely to go away; no matter how much fans detest playing cupcake squads like Eastern Illinois and Ball State, the economic need for seven home games almost every year is very real.)

If the BigXIIocalypse strikes and the conference is torn asunder, with six teams scurrying off to link up with the Pac 10 and one or two (Nebraska and Missouri) jumping into bed with the Big 10, there are only a few options remaining for Iowa State.

OPTION ONE: The remnants of the Big XII merge with the Mountain West Conference and get an automatic BCS bid.

Needless to say, this is the best-case scenario for Iowa State (despite the inherent absurdity of a team from Iowa playing in the Mountain West Conference).  It's why the Mountain West is cooling on Boise State for now; stay in a holding pattern and wait for the dust to settle and they could wind up as the best possible destination for the four BXII free agents (Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Colorado, assuming the latest chatter about the Texas legislature forcing Baylor into the new Pac 10 super-conference is true).  Four state schools with large alumni bases (and some solid TV markets in Kansas City, Denver, and whatever portion of St. Louis Kansas holds sway over) would be pretty desirable and a conference with those schools (and existing MWC powerhouses like BYU, Utah, and TCU) would have a strong argument for an automatic BCS bid. As the New York Times' Pete Thamel explains, if the Big 12 South absconds to the Pac 10 and either Missouri or Nebraska bolt for the Big Ten, the Big 12 is officially kaput.

If the Pac-10 swiped six teams from the Big 12 and Missouri or Nebraska went to the Big Ten, the Big 12 would become defunct. Under N.C.A.A. guidelines, a conference needs at least six universities that have played together for five years. The Big 12 would lose its Bowl Championship Series bid and automatic bid to the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament.

Thamel also raises the possibility of (at least) Kansas and Kansas State going to the Big East (again, let's just ignore the obvious geographic insanity), if only to avoid any sort of transitional period in which they might not have the guarantee of an automatic BCS spot (or automatic NCAA Tournament berth in men's basketball, for that matter) to lure recruits.  Of course, that also presumes the Big East wouldn't also fall victim to the NCAA rule cited above; they're only at eight teams now, so if even three teams take off for greener pastures in the Big Ten, ACC, or SEC when the expansion dominoes start falling, they're in the same dissolved mess as the Big 12.

Potential downsides to this option for Iowa State: how big does the Mountain West want to get and do the four remaining BXII teams have to be a package deal?  Iowa State's the least desirable of the four BXII options (in part because Kansas State appears to be tied at the hip to Kansas) and if the Mountain West wants to stop at 10 (probably just Colorado) or 12 (Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State), Iowa State could get left out in the cold.  If they're willing to go all the way to 14 teams, Iowa State likely gets in (alongside Boise State).

Regardless, if this option happens and the Mountain West gets an automatic BCS bid, everything remains simpatico in the Iowa-ISU series because ISU's still a BCS school, albeit one with a lot of new neighbors now.

OPTION TWO: Iowa State doesn't get invited to the cool kids table in the MWC and has to go to the MAC or Conference USA.

On the other hand, this would be very bad news for Iowa State.  It would be a near-catastrophic loss of revenue (although, ironically, it might lead to more TV exposure if they're willing to go along with the MAC's "we'll play whenever ESPN tells us" scheduling ethos) from any source you care to think of: bowl revenues, television monies, game attendance, alumni donations, etc.  But from the perspective of the Iowa-Iowa State series, how much does it really change things?  As noted above, Iowa would probably want to play the series primarily in Iowa City, perhaps in a 2-for-1 scenario, with two games in Kinnick for every one game in Jack Trice.  (Moving the series wholesale to Kinnick is, regrettably, just a pipe dream.)  But is even that feasible?  Again, as noted earlier, the obstacles against changing the current format are substantial; even leaving aside legal matters like contracts, there's the reality of political pressure and the sheer inertia of thirty years of tradition in the home-and-away format.  That isn't going to be overturned easily.

Playing a home-and-away series with a team from a mid-major conference would certainly be unusual (Colorado-Colorado State seems to be the only other example featuring an annual rivalry between a BCS school and a non-BCS school and even that series has been contested exclusively on CU's campus in Boulder or on a neutral field in Denver since 1996), but the Iowa-Iowa State series is already fairly unique: there aren't many annual rivalries between in-state schools from different conferences in the first place.  You can argue that Florida would (hypothetically) never agree to a home-and-away series with Central Florida, and you'd be right, but it's also irrelevant; like it or not, the Iowa-Iowa State series has a great deal of history, tradition, and importance (if only within the state borders). 

The other major argument against playing a non-BCS Iowa State home-and-away (or, indeed, even still playing them at all) is that it would negatively impact Iowa's strength of schedule.  That's a possibility, but how much benefit did Iowa accrue from playing Iowa State every year in the first place?  It's all well and good to tout the fact that Iowa plays two BCS opponents (almost) every year in the non-conference slate, but in years when Iowa State has been a BXII bottom-feeder, is anything really gained?  It's an improvement on playing another FCS school or a bottom-feeder non-BCS school, but is it a significant upgrade on a solid or even a good non-BCS school?  While we like to heap a lot of shit on "little brother," they probably aren't going to sink to the bottom of the MAC if they land there. 

OPTION THREE: Iowa State gets an invite to join the Big Ten.

/Ferentz snort.

This option only lurks within the deranged headmeats of CycloneFanatic posters and lazy sports columnists (and Doc, who is not lazy but simply very, very thorough).  It makes no sense.

Regardless, in the short term it's hard to see much changing in the Iowa-Iowa State series, even with all the potential tumult in the college football landscape.  Now, if Iowa State spends the next ten years wasting away in the MAC or C-USA and the passion that fuels the series now starts to dissipate, then the stage might be set for some significant changes to the format of the series.  But for now it still seems likely we're stuck making trips to Jack Trice every other year, even if the Big 12 implodes.

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