Blame Bruce for the brutal football schedules

Chris Williams

Publisher

Sick and tired of Iowa State playing what seems like a top five schedule in football every year?

Understood. 

First of all, blame that nasty 9-game Big 12 schedule.

But when it comes to what Iowa State can control – the non-con – blame former athletics director Bruce Van Van De Velde - for now. 

“Our scheduling has been done so far out that really, any decisions we have had to make are a long way coming down the road,” Paul Rhoads said last week in at the Big 12’s media days in Dallas. “These games that we have been playing and are in the middle of have been all in place.” 

We have done some reporting on this in the past but the scheduling situation isn’t as cut and dry as Van De Velde wanting to schedule ‘up’ for the football program 15 years ago. Iowa State has had a lot of bad luck in this department too. 

“When these games were put on the schedule these teams were 2-9 and things like that,” Rhoads said. “They have gone on to be 9-2 and teams of that nature.”

Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard painted a very clear picture of what scheduling in Ames is like on Tuesday's Murph & Andy Show heard from 2-4 weekdays on 1460 KXNO.  

"We play nine Big 12 games so we have three games that we get to play – that we actually get to schedule," Pollard said. "One of them is Iowa. So now there are two left to play. We traditionally have opted to use the, I’ll call it the IAA or the FCS opportunity where you can play one of those schools and count it towards a bowl game. And in large part, between Northern Iowa and North Dakota State, there are some really good school. North Dakota State is coming this year and they are buying all 3,500 of their team tickets. So that adds great environment in the stadium. We really come down to having one game to schedule. In our particular case, we have chosen to play a home and away with a team from whether if it is the MAC, or a team from one of those conferences that we feel comfortable that going on the road hopefully isn’t going to be so daunting that we can get a road win and put our team in the best position to hopefully win those games. Fans will just say, ‘Why don’t you just buy another game in the stadium?’ Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. Most teams don’t want to be bought so the ability to buy somebody, the teams that will be bought are going to want a lot of money and are going to wait until the last possible second, like a year out or two years out. We’re just not in a position to be down to not knowing who a game is going to be a year from now and be in a bidding war against Alabama or Florida with that team. We’ve got to schedule further in advance.” 

The tough scheduling luck has snake bit the Pollard/Rhoads scheduling combination too. San Jose State is a decent example. The Spartans were 1-11 when Iowa State scheduled a home and home with the school (for 2016 and 2017) in 2010. Two years ago, San Jose State went 10-2. The program was 6-6 (under a new coach) in 2013.

However, when he took the job in 2009, Rhoads knew what he was getting into as far as the schedule he would coach against during the beginning of his tenure at Iowa State. 

“I stood in the corner and punched myself in the gut when I took the job bracing for coaching (against the upcoming schedules),” Rhoads said. “I knew what I was getting into at Iowa State. I grew up in the state. I spent five years here as an assistant. I knew the challenges that were ahead.”

Iowa State’s 2014 non-conference schedule consists of the three-time defending FCS champs in North Dakota State (who won in Manhattan, Kan. last season), at Iowa and the Cyclones will host Toledo, a popular pick to win the MAC this season. Compare that to the old days when Iowa State would play four non-conference games (one always being against Iowa while the other three were usually scheduled as wins) and a watered-down league slate against the less than impressive Big 12 North. 

“Add the recent changes to our league where we play nine games and we play every other team, that’s a hard run right there,” Rhoads said. “It is the reason why in the five years that we’ve been through, I think we have been in the top five or the top 10 in toughest schedules in four or five. The Big 12 alone puts us there. Playing Iowa every year adds to that. We have our hands full again. It doesn’t scare our kids. It doesn’t scare our coaches. It is a fact of life and we know that you better strap it up every week because every week is going to be a battle.”

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