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Northern Iowa double dipping in the Big Ten
The Northern Iowa football team is double dipping in the Big Ten Conference, playing both Wisconsin and Iowa next season.
A Sept. 1, 2012 showdown with the Badgers was announced Thursday by Panthers athletic director Troy Dannen.
It will mark the first time since 1990 that Northern Iowa’s schedule will include two opponents from a Bowl Championship Series conference.
“Originally, the plan was to wait until 2013, when we have a 12-game schedule,” Dannen said. “But the opportunity presented itself.”
The Panthers, who play an 11-game regular-season schedule this fall, will receive $400,000 for a trip to Iowa State in two weeks, and $500,000 for playing at Iowa on Sept. 15, 2012.
Wisconsin is paying Northern Iowa $450,000, and also agreed to buy out a previously scheduled game between the Panthers and Southern Utah.
“Our preference is to play the BCS teams that are within driving distance,” Dannen said. “I don’t know that we will schedule a second one every year.”
Playing two BCS foes will help Northern Iowa meet its expected annual football budget of $2.7 million.
Dannen estimates the Panthers generate $700,000 in ticket sales, plus guarantees to travel and play schools such as Wisconsin, Iowa and Iowa State.
“Football would show about a $700,000 loss,” Dannen said. “But a lot of donation activity you can’t attribute (directly) to football. And it’s revenue that wouldn’t be there without football.”
Iowa will pay Louisiana-Monroe a school-record $1.05 million for a Sept. 24 game at Kinnick Stadium. Dannen says schools such as Northern Iowa don’t have the same bargaining power as smaller programs in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
That’s because teams can count only one win against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent when trying to qualify for a bowl game.
“The leverage isn’t the same,” Dannen said. “There are 30 or 40 of those schools in those leagues who are able to put themselves on the market. Meanwhile, there are about 120 FCS schools.”
Losing twice to BCS foes could hamper Northern Iowa’s chances of earning an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs.
“It takes away any margin for error,” Dannen said, “but we know we always have a chance to get into the playoffs by winning our conference championship.”
The FCS playoffs have expanded from 16 to 20 teams in recent years, and there have been discussions on possibly increasing to 24 in the future.
“There is a proposal on the table,” Dannen said.
More than two decades have passed since the Panthers played two BCS-level opponents, losing to Iowa State (35-6) and Oklahoma State (33-23) in 1990.
The last time Northern Iowa faced two bowl subdivision teams was 2001, losing to Iowa State 45-0, but beating Ball State 42-39.
“The 2012 schedule creates an opportunity for our team and fans to experience two of the greatest gameday atmospheres in college football,” coach Mark Farley said in a statement. “While it is a challenge, it is also an opportunity.”