One week after marching into Beaver Stadium, the white out, national prime time and Penn State, the Iowa Hawkeyes will host Arkansas State.
It will cost Iowa $900,000.
Arkansas State, a member of the Sun Belt Conference that finished 6-6 last season, will receive $900,000 for its Oct. 3 trip into Kinnick Stadium. That’s a record payout for an opponent to receive for a game at Kinnick, according to Mark Abbott, the associate athletics director who handles scheduling contracts.
Iowa paid Montana $650,000 for the 2006 season opener at Kinnick.
The price of filling the odd open home date could more than anything else drive the Big Ten into a nine-game league schedule. Right now, Big Ten teams have eight league games and four non-conference. Since the 12th game has been added, a market for short notice, fill-a-date home games has developed, thus the nearly million dollar price tag on the Arkansas State game.
Iowa’s non-conference mode is Iowa State, another BCS school in a recruiting area (Pitt) or heavy alumni area (Arizona), a MAC-type (Ball State in ‘10) and, in recent years, a quick fill-in with a price tag for another home game.
“It’s become quite a competitive arena,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said at Big Ten media days. “That’s the landscape that’s out there right now. It’s tough. I think most of us sitting here in this room would rather have that extra home game, for obvious reasons.
“It’s getting tough to put a schedule together. … Everybody’s got bills to pay.”
Not long after the Iowa deal, Arkansas State broke the $1 million mark by agreeing to a game at Auburn in 2010.
“When we’ve had to look at playing guarantee games, we have tried to maximize those opportunities,” Arkansas State Athletics Director Dr. Dean Lee told ESPN.com. “The million-dollar mark is a small milestone to help us ensure that we are achieving full-market value for Arkansas State.”
A popular topic at the Big Ten meetings was adding a ninth game to the conference schedule. There are a ton of possibilities, but one thing the conference could do is match teams through rivalry. Iowa is matched with Minnesota and Wisconsin, meaning those two teams will always be on the Hawkeyes’ schedule. This season, Illinois and Purdue aren’t on Iowa’s schedule. The Fighting Illini would be a logical rivalry matchup for Iowa.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany called the topic “alive” during media days. There’s no clear majority in favor, but there is agreement to discuss it.
Home games are a possible hurdle.
“I think one problem is the five-four mix, the five home games and four away,” he said.
“For some institutions, like Iowa with Iowa State and then Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue with Notre Dame and a couple other cases where you have a long-standing home-and-away rivalry, those would have to be sequenced.”
That means schools aren’t going to want to give up a home game and the $3 to $4 million, which is what a nine-game schedule might force. So, yeah, there are some hurdles.
Iowa’s non-conference games in 2010 are Eastern Illinois, Iowa State, at Arizona and Ball State.