The University of Central Arkansas is on the verge of filling its schedule with one NCAA Football Bowl Subdivison opponent through 2017.
Dr. Brad Teague, UCA’s athletic director, confirmed Monday that UCA will play Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., in 2017 and he’s currently in contract talks with either Auburn or Missouri for 2016.
It’s in keeping with UCA’s desired template for high-payout games on the road against FBS opponents. UCA is a member of the Southland Conference, which is a part of NCAA Football Championship Subdivision that generally consists of what are known as mid-major conferences. The subdivision (formally known as NCAA Division I-AA for football) has a playoff setup for a national championship.
Most FCS football teams schedule one or two FBS teams a year as "money games" because of a large guaranteed payout that helps supplement their athletic budgets.
"Ideally, we want to play one FBS team a year that is in proximity to us, a regional game," said Teauge.
Teague said UCA will receive $400,000 for playing Kansas State, a Big 12 power the last couple of years and the University of Arkansas’ opponent in the 2012 Cotton Bowl.
The payout is determined by the accepted rate for an FBS team playing an FBS opponent and varies by the method of travel by the Bears (bus or airplane) and the amount of travel costs paid by the host school.
Other future games for UCA and their payouts: Colorado (2013, $390,000); Texas Tech (2014, $425,000); Oklahoma State (2015, $375,000).
"There is some talk in NCAA committees about FBS schools eliminating games against FCS schools at some point in the future," Teague said. "Right now, that’s basically one athletic director in one conference (Big 10). I don’t know what will happen there, but the good thing is we’re pretty much set with future games against FBS teams for the next five years,"
He added, "I think as long as athletic directors and head coaches understand that a win against an FCS opponent counts the same as against an FBS opponent as far as bowl eligibility, they will continue to play FCS teams."
Another aspect that will affect future UCA schedules is the addition of three new football-playing members to the Southland Conference (Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian and Houston Baptist), eventually increasing the conference to 11 members. SLC football teams will play seven league games this season, eight in 2014 and nine by 2015, when all new members have full eligibility. Each year, each team will not play one conference member on a rotating basis.
UCA currently has a four-year, home-and-home contract with UT Martin and a two-year home-and-home pact with Missouri State, both FCS members. UCA gets a break in that it is allowed to play 12 games the next two years. Teams are allowed to schedule 12 regular-season games on years there are 14 Saturdays between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. After 2014, that won’t happen again until 2019.
In years that UCA is only allowed 11 games during the regular season, the Bears will play nine conference games (as long as the currently conference structure remains the same) and a non-conference game against an FBS opponent and UT Martin for two years after 2014 under the current contract. Teague said UCA will try to schedule another team from an FCS conference or one from a lower-division league for the 11th game in years a game against an FBS opponent cannot be finalized.
"The way things are going with the movement in the NCAA, teams in conferences such as Conference USA, the Sun Belt and the new Big East are going to need games," Teague said. "And if we have to play another FCS team, the payout is usually about $300,000 so the difference from playing an FBS team would not be an terrible blow."
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