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Fourth & Long: Mid American Conference Votes to play Six Game Schedule Starting in November

Yesterday, the Mid-American Conference or the MAC as most of us call it, voted to play a six game schedule starting in November. This is awesome I love MAC football on the weekdays. I almost wanted the MAC to play in the spring because after March Madness sports kind of takes a hiatus for a few weeks. What if in those weeks we had football to watch? I mean that’s my dream, but for now the MAC has decided to play this fall like everyone else, and I can’t wait for it to get started.

While we are talking about a smaller conference like the MAC, voting to play football, we have to realize that without football a lot of smaller schools don’t have the budget to support sports like golf, field hockey, and other less popular sports. Take for example Kent State (Both my parents went to Kent, and I went there for a semester). The Golden Flashes football schedule before the pandemic was a brutal. Their first three games they were scheduled to play (8) Auburn, Penn State, and Kentucky, all away from home. The only reason those smaller sports can exist is because the football team was supposed to receive a $5-million payout.

In other words the football team was going to get white washed by those three teams, just so other sports can happen. Last year the Golden Flashes played at Arizona State, at Auburn, and at Wisconsin. The total score of those three games 133-23, but just volunteering to play and getting destroyed paid Kent State $3.7 million.

Many of these games that the MAC participants play in are called “money games,” for obvious reasons. These are common not only in the MAC, but in other smaller conferences like the Sun Belt, Conference USA, and the American Conference. The smaller teams agree to play these games, knowing there is no real shot at winning. In 2018, according to a story from Allen Moff of the Kent-Ravenna Courier, Kent State mad the tough decision agreed to play three “money games” against Power 5 Conference teams per season. That’s is a high price to pay for any small football program. Not only will they get roughed up on the scoreboard, but injuries also affect teams in the first three games, simply because the opponent is stronger, bigger, and faster.

According to a story from the Associated Press, by Ralph Russo, “This season, 39 major college football programs have scheduled 49 ‘buy’ games estimated at $65 million…12 MAC teams are playing 18 ‘guarantee’ games this season.”

Even with their $3.6 million payout in 2019 from the three opening games, Kent State student fees still covered nearly 50% of the $29 million athletic budget. (Cleveland.Com)

According to the NCAA, the MAC averaged just over 15,000 in attendance. You have to remember at these small schools like Kent State, Akron, and Tulsa, are not a big draw for fans at all. That average in attendance ranked dead last in division I football conferences.

Hell, sometimes I’ll head Dix Stadium at Kent to catch a decent match-up. From first hand experience I can tell you that the 15,500 average attendance is in fact not true. Maybe the tickets they distribute comes close to 15,000, but I have never been to a MAC game that had much more than 10,000 in attendance.

When the pandemic hit, people didn’t leave their houses, and the world kind of stayed quiet for a while. Behind the scenes small division I conferences were scrambling to try and make some money so that they can support other sports. However, with school not being completely in session, and the Pandemic still showing strong form, smaller schools like Kent, Akron, and Ohio University are cutting attendance, which will make student fees also go down.

For example, Kent State already cut its athletic budget by 20%. So how do we fix this problem you may ask. Well there really is not a lot of options. Sports cost a lot of money, just last year, according the the Knight Report, the median spending for a small school on football is around $8.5 million. Some have even thought about dropping their football programs from division I.

MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher had this to say about dropping football from division I. “That’s not something our membership wants to do,” he said. “Look at our league. It’s been one of the most stable in Division I. We don’t have schools coming and going.” (Cleveland)

He is absolutely correct about the conference. It is much easier and more profitable for conference games to happen in the MAC, when the furthest you have to travel is like Chicago. While other conferences like the Sun Belt have their teams going all over the country, and not in a certified area.

Finally, the MAC will receive about $850,000 from ESPN for their games that are televised on weekdays, on the ESPN family of networks. Look I am happy that the MAC and those student athletes do get to play meaningful football this fall. However, this needs to be fixed, and I really don’t know the answer. Just play conference games? Play in the spring like the MAC was going to do? For now MACtion is back, and all is good this fall. Check out 4th and Long college scoreboard throughout the day for updates and scores. You can also follow me on twitter @BrownlojCLE . Football is back baby!

Follow Me on Twitter: @BrownlojCLE

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