Michigan State football has been known for their strength of schedule in the past few seasons. The Spartans have chosen to to play some of the top teams in the nation in years past and their plans only get bigger in the coming future… or will they?
On Monday, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announced that some potentially big changes could be coming now that the Big Ten Conference has decided to add two new teams in Maryland and Rutgers and has done away with the oft-ridiculed Leaders and Legends divisions.
Starting in 2014, the Big Ten will debut their new East and West divisions with MSU, U-M, OSU, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers comprising the new East division. Each of these schools will have five Big Ten home games in the 2016 season, allowing for MSU to play one of its non-conference games away from home and still allowing the program to reach their “magic number” of seven homes games in a season — A number Hollis says is crucial for the financial stability of the athletic program.
“It’s very important,” said Hollis of the seven home-game minimum.
The problem arises in Michigan State’s plan to play the defending national champions in Alabama in the 2017 season, as well as national runner-up and long-time MSU rival, Notre Dame. MSU is slated to host Alabama and set to play the Fighting Irish away that year, as well as play four Big Ten Home games. That leaves MSU with only six home games overall… which school administrators say just won’t foot the bill.
Hollis has spent “the last few weeks” in talks with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick concerning possible changes that may need to be applied to the Spartans’ schedule in order to still allow for MSU and the Irish to meet for as many planned battles as they had hoped, seeing as how in 2016 the Big Ten will start a nine-game conference schedule. Both teams are hoping an arrangement can be made that would still allow for the two schools to meet on the gridiron.
“Everything’s under review,” Hollis said of the Spartans’ scheduling in the next few years. “And don’t overreact to that, because I think (the Alabama series) is safe. We want to play these games, we’re not shying away from them. … But this is a challenge.”
Regardless of these new issues having arisen with the conference realignment, Hollis claims both sides are working diligently to make sure the MSU/Notre Dame series is played out in full… and fairly.
“You’ll see a high degree of cooperation,” Hollis said. “We’re both interested in keeping this series intact.”
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