Hard to get excited about UConn for the University of Michigan's 2010 season opener
The 2010 season opener was supposed to be special.
For fans, who anticipated a marquee opponent. For the Wolverines, who will open a newly renovated Michigan Stadium. For athletic director Bill Martin, who will see the crown jewel of his department’s building boom reach completion.
Instead, Connecticut is coming to town.
That’s the word from UConnreport.com, which reported earlier this week that the two schools have reached an agreement on a home-and-home series to be completed with a Michigan road trip in 2013.
Martin was unavailable for comment earlier this week, according to a spokesperson, and neither school has confirmed the deal.
So one can hope the report is wrong or that the deal could be scuttled by some last-minute contractual snafu. But if correct, the scheduling move will be greeted with all the enthusiasm of a shanked punt.
No offense to the Huskies, but this is a big letdown for Michigan fans. An anticlimactic ending to what had been a high-profile scheduling search.
Rich Rodriguez had only heightened that anticipation earlier this week, when he said that Michigan had a BCS opponent under consideration for the 2010 opener while speaking at Big Ten media day in Chicago.
Technically, UConn fulfills that promise. The Huskies are indeed members of the Big East, one of six BCS conferences. But they’re not who anyone quite had in mind when envisioning a BCS opponent, which conjured thoughts of a respected opponent, perhaps one with a prestigious history that could rival Michigan’s own, or at least one that’s ranked consistently in the Top 25. Not an opponent that joined Division I-A this decade.
The disappointment lies not only in the fact Michigan has seemingly failed to land a marquee opponent for the game, but also that it failed to achieve its other key priority - staying out of a home-and-home contract. Home games mean significant money for the athletic budget. Signing on for a road game decreases future profits.
Martin succeeded in doing this last season, adding a highly-ranked Utah team to the schedule without sacrificing a future payday.
“You’re trying to get a one for none, not a home-and-home series,” Rodriguez said earlier this year, describing the financial goals that impact scheduling decisions. “You pay the bills with those home football games.”
If there’s not going to be a big payday, the reason should at least be because there’s a marquee opponent demanding a home and home.
UConn does not fit that bill.
Meanwhile, Michigan’s rivals continue to sign home-and-home deals that excite their fan bases. Michigan State has committed to home and homes with Alabama and West Virginia. Ohio State has previously engaged in a spectacular home and home with Texas, and continues its contract with USC this season.
Those games are good for college football, even if they take a bite out of the budget.
And if Michigan had accepted the fact it was faced with the prospect of scheduling a home and home, you'd think it would have been with one of the many big-name schools that still have openings on Sept. 4, 2010.
Michigan’s home-and-home agreement with UConn would make a little more sense if the travel game was held at a venue like Gillette Stadium outside Boston or Giants Stadium outside New York City.
Such a venue would maximize Michigan’s exposure to its formidable East Coast alumni base and draw more attention in those major media markets.
Instead, the game will be played at UConn’s Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., according to the report. The stadium only holds 40,000 fans and sits squarely on the outskirts of the New York and Boston media markets.
A road trip with limited exposure. Unless there are some unparalleled financial incentives for Michigan, it’s hard to make sense of the deal. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking to hope there’s some sort of miscommunication or that the report that this is a done deal is wrong. But if it holds, it’s a letdown.
The Wolverines had two priorities in scheduling an opponent for its unveiling of a renovated Michigan Stadium at the start of 2010.
In scheduling a home and home with Connecticut, Michigan accomplishes neither.