Hot Reads: On Florida's non-conference scheduling, dropping FCS teams, and playing Miami

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

News and takes on two important Florida football topics, because it's been a busy week.

When, in the course of Internet events, things get so hectic as to require a single post about Florida football that stands in for what could've been several posts split up, that post shall be called Hot Reads.

News: Will Muschamp and Jeremy Foley offered differing takes on Florida's continued scheduling of FCS opponents at SEC meetings on Tuesday.

Muschamp's key quotes: "We're probably going to move forward without playing FCS opponents" and "I think our fan base wants to see better opponents."

Foley's key quotes: "In a perfect world, you would play all D-I schools. But also, you have to have 12 opponents."

Take: Florida doesn't want to play FCS opponents in the future, if possible, but that might be unavoidable as a last resort.

Reading beyond those two quotes, which are the framework of the stories like this Associated Press one that have popped up since Muschamp and Foley talked on Tuesday, provides, as one might expect, some more context.

Here's a fuller picture of what Muschamp said, via the Gainesville Sun article linked above:

"I think every institution ought to be making their decision on what they want to do," Muschamp said. "I know moving forward that for us obviously having four non-conference games, one of those would be Florida State every year. We’ve talked about upping our non-conference schedule. My opinion is what everybody else does doesn’t matter.

"We’re probably going to move forward without playing FCS opponents. I think more than anything, (the College Football Playoff), that’s part of it. And I think our fan base as much as anything want to see better opponents. So that’s kind of where we are with it."

And here's a fuller picture of what Foley said.

"(Muschamp) doesn’t have final authority, but he certainly has the right to weigh in with input,” Foley said. “The issue for me is not FCS in terms of wanting to play necessarily an FCS school. The issue for me is I have to have an opponent for a certain date before we play Florida State. We have an open weekend there.

"I think next year or a couple of years from now, we don’t have an FCS school because we were able to get all D-I schools. I understand what Will’s saying: In a perfect world, you would play all D-I schools.

"But also, you have to have 12 opponents. He certainly has the right to weigh in and give that opinion. We’ll certainly work through that together."

Foley said he has gotten feedback from UF fans unhappy over the Gators playing an FCS opponent every year.

"But there are some D-I opponents we get feedback about, too," Foley said. "And I understand that conversation as well. Scheduling is always a lot of different pieces and parts.

"I understand Will’s point of view, and when I hear that from the fans, I understand their point of view. Some years, you’ve got to have 12 games (and you have to fill the schedule with an FCS opponent)."

There is more nuance here than the "Running scared!", generalized trolling, and japery reflect, because it's way easier — and more fun, because jokes are easier than analysis, especially tired ones, and it is more fun to do easy things, like playing FCS opponents that pose no threat to a healthy team early in the season, than slightly more difficult things, like playing FCS opponents with potentially dangerous offensive systems as a M.A.S.H. unit late in the year — to not suss out nuance. But both Muschamp ("probably") and Foley ("in a perfect world") were hedging, and so neither Muschamp nor Foley is saying that Florida will forgo FCS foes, just that the Gators would prefer to do so.

Year2 did some of the heavier lifting on why at Team Speed Kills, deeming FCS opponents "unprofitable." I think sticking a toe into the math without working up a balance sheet is almost more confusing than it's worth, but it's a good read, and you should read it.

I think that analysis also misses some of the many reasons that Florida needs to do a better job of scheduling games that Florida fans want to see.

Student attendance is down, which bodes ill for the years well down the road when today's students could be Bull Gators. Can that be rectified by playing more than cupcakes, and adding enough value to already cheap student tickets to entice kids to go to the games?

Travel for road games has gone down so precipitously that Florida is faced with selling a greater percentage of its tickets to its own fans, something that proved especially challenging in a historically bad year in 2013. I have had a great view of the visitors' section at The Swamp from my seats for the last couple of years, and I don't think it was ever filled, even by Florida State fans who could come to Gainesville and expect a glorious braining. There's also the problem of getting Florida fans who bought tickets to use them: FSU fans have purchased plenty of tickets from Florida fans in their last two Gainesville visits. Does swapping Southern Mississippi in for Georgia Southern help fix that problem?

Finally, Florida, and many of the rest of the premier college football programs, will forever be a donor state of sorts for its guarantee game foes — but some of those programs don't invest as heavily in a diversified athletics program as Florida does, and thus don't face the challenges of raking in the money that allows those other non-revenue sports to make Florida what I've lovingly called an "everything school."

The most obvious reason for any decision made at any point by any business is "This will make us more money." Florida football is a business, and so that reason applies here, too. 

That reason, which has a lot to do with this stance, is not nearly as funny as the riffing on it, admittedly. But it goes a lot further toward explaining the stance.

Star-divide

News: All of that stuff about the potential resumption of the Florida-Miami series I wrote last week? Let's add these new comments from Foley on Wednesday to that mix.

Take: The new thing here is Foley calling the interest in a potential one-off game with Miami at a neutral site — which I explained at length was the format a game between the two teams would take — "mutual." That's a step up from Miami's athletic director saying Foley was "receptive" to the possibility.

We now know that Foley (and, by extension, Florida) has some interest in investigating a neutral-site game with Miami. We don't know when that would happen, where it could be played, how it would work, or anything more. But given that Florida's getting serious scrilla to play Michigan, we can assume that the Gators would like to parlay that potential game into a payday that makes up for missing a home game, and perhaps more.

Again, and always: Follow the money.

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