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Back to back FBS games a tough way to start year for Tennessee Tech
I miss the days when Tennessee Tech had its Football Bowl Subdivision games spread a little further apart.
After two weeks into the season, the Golden Eagles have been beat, pummeled, devastated, stretched nine ways to Tuesday, or whatever colorful colloquialism you prefer, all for the quest for those important dollars.
And I’m serious, those dollars are important. You can look at the improvements around Tech’s football program and athletic facilities to show that it’s all going to a good cause.
But is it worth it? Is it worth getting the players demoralized before the season really gets under way? Is it worth the battering and bruising they’ll take? That point is debatable because, honestly, it can go either way.
“Coach Brown and I talked about it when we were putting the schedule together,” said TTU athletics director Mark Wilson, “and Watson felt that it would be better for the team to play the two FBS games at the beginning of the season and get them out of the way.”
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing two FBS teams in a season. Don’t get me wrong about that, because it’s worth every dime. But in back-to-back weeks at the beginning of the year? It gets tough on the team.
“We look at it this way,” Wilson said. “Those games are one season. That’s over. Thursday, we start a new season. Every goal we want to meet this season is still in reach. We’re still in position to win an Ohio Valley Conference championship.
There’s the tremendous gamble of trying to keep the players healthy. Fortunately, the Golden Eagles were able to do that. There were a couple of minor ailments, but nothing that really sidelined anybody.
“That’s the report I’ve heard,” Wilson said.
True, the players know they will not face a higher caliber of player the rest of the season. It’s a moral victory, because they stood toe-to-toe with Heisman hopefuls, All-Americans and Bowl Championship Series contenders as opposed to the normal foes they’ll see in the Ohio Valley Conference.
But at what cost?
The demoralization of the team after two brutal losses is going to take a lot to come back from. They’ll get a big boost this week against Lane College, but they can’t let up. After all, they know that Lane is going to come to Tucker Stadium on Thursday with the same lean and hungry look the Golden Eagles did the last two games, and one slip-up keeps the visiting Dragons in the game and the game becomes one step away from Lane pulling off its own Jacksonville State over Ole Miss.
And with the way the players probably feel after two brutal beatings, it’s not impossible.
“We know exactly what they’re thinking as they come in this week,” Wilson said. “They’ve seen the successes Jacksonville State, James Madison and Gardner-Webb have had this season against FBS opponents, and we know they would love to come in and make a name for themselves.”
Will they? That remains to be seen, and the Golden Eagles are probably just eager to be back in front of their home crowd again in a friendly environment.
It’s not an easy thing to make a schedule. There are so many factors that go into the process and the two money games just happened to fall where they did. After all, the OVC games are set first, then the other games are put in place.
The first step is done. It’s behind the team now. It’s up to them to grow from those games and become better. After all, there was a bit of improvement from Tech’s opener at Arkansas to the following week at Texas Christian.
“No team in the FCS started off with a tougher schedule than we did,” Wilson said. “Two back-to-back Top 25 teams. It’s going to pay off for us. The value of the exposure is tremendous. We had alumni talk to us about the exposure we received from those games. The games, financially, are very important to us. We’ll come back from those losses stronger than we were before.”
Right now, the 2011 football schedule has just one FBS team on the schedule – the Iowa Hawkeyes – so the situation won’t repeat itself.
I digress, I love being able to brag about who the Golden Eagles are playing. Arkansas and TCU? Those raised quite a few eyebrows when I talked about them in normal conversation.
It’s a tough cost, but it’s not too hard to get some return out of it.
And that in itself is worth its weight in gold.