By Mick Holien
It getting more difficult as the year goes by to find non-conference football opponents at the Football Championship Series (FCS) level.
Several traditional opponents over the year, even most recently Liberty who picked off Baylor the opening weekend, have moved or are in the process of moving to the Football Bowl Series.
Of course it’s all about the money because not only does a program enhance their chances to eventually qualify for a bowl themselves nit they also stand to share in the league’s bowl proceeds and when your circuit is qualifying several teams that amounts to a considerable amount of coin compared to the FCS level.
The other factor is the size of the Big Sky Conference which in moving to a larger field eliminated some teams that previously were non-conference opponents.
And let’s face it; while it usually is a less than guarded secret, the money UM Athletics receives for playing a game like this weekend’s Washington matchup sure doesn’t hurt the budget.
Games that I broadcast over the years against such teams as Tennessee, Iowa, Oregon, Wyoming and Washington State reportedly salted the budget from say $450,000 to $600, 00.
And when you grab a check and come away with an upset (think Oregon State), you’re probably going to face a more difficulty rematch than not.
Such money games are more apt to be available in basketball and besides the budget addition give teams maybe a more balanced opportunity to put one in the left hand column.
It is also an opportunity to take players back to their home area, enhance future recruiting opportunities and serve as a measuring stick of your team’s progress.
And over the years hoop has been anything but cannon fodder although one could argue claiming victory at Duke or Kansas may have been a stretch even for the best of teams.
There was a day when UM could convince say former big Sky member Gonzaga to play a home and home but upper level teams are highly reluctant to journey to Missoula for several reasons.
Travel costs are excessive and of course there’s no guarantee weather won’t prevent you from getting in or back out.
But the biggest reason is Montana used to be invincible at Dahlberg Arena and while the fan base is not as rabid as in the “basketball” years, it’s still a tough place for an opponent to gain victory.
And let’s face it even marginal FBS teams have little interest in agreeing to a home-and-home football series.