Alabama football needs to raise the bar

As the old adage goes, “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

Well, consider this an open letter to Bill Battle. In light of the announcement this weekend that the football team will be foregoing a planned series with Michigan State in 2016 and 2017, I’ve decided it’s time to speak up.

The apparent reason for this decision is that the SEC might expand the current eight-game conference schedule to a nine-game format, meaning that we would only have three out-of-conference slots available on our schedule. This logic indicates that our program is at least “uncomfortable” with the idea of playing more than a handful of worthy opponents in a single season. Of course, we can’t always predict how formidable some of our SEC foes might be in a few years. So how do we respond to this uncertainty? Well, naturally, we sugar-coat the remainder of our schedule, just in case.

On Saturday, the Georgia State Panthers will earn a hefty $700,000 for the likely shellacking we’ll be giving them. But this pales in comparison to the $1.5 million that we forked over to Colorado State earlier this year. Why has this ever been considered to be respectable football? We’re literally paying for three wins each season. All those crystal footballs start to look a little less impressive when you realize how much we pay every year to tweak the odds in our favor.

Last season saw top programs like Oklahoma State come under fire for paying to play pitiful FCS opponents, like Savannah State. That criticism is only going to continue in the years to come, and the idea that “if everyone else is doing it, then we might as well too” really shouldn’t fly here. This is Alabama, dad-gum-it! We’re better than that! We’re champions, remember?

I’ve been an Alabama fan since I was a child, and football played no small role in getting me on this campus. It’s a tradition in excellence, and I like being a part of that. At some point, we have to decide if we’re really okay with these devious scheduling antics. It’s only a matter of time before it’s no longer acceptable to schedule such clearly inferior opponents. Why shouldn’t we be on the front end of that change?

Garrett Teal is a senior majoring in economics.


  • Damon

    This is a poorly executed article. I get what the author is saying, but the reality is that since Saban has been here Alabama has tried to play 1 marquee non-conference game per season. Traditionally, you played a home-and-home with someone, like the Penn State series in 2010 and 2011. More and more schools are looking at the neutral site, one-off game as it sets up a bowl-like atmosphere to start the season and both schools get a big pay day. Fans lose out, because another big name opponent is not on the home schedule. It’s disappointing, but no school is going to schedule more than one challenging non-conference game with an extended conference schedule looming and potential conference title games and now a playoff to boot.

    • Brad Erthal

      I grew up a University of Colorado fan, and their penchant for scheduling more than one big non-conference game early cost them a chance to play for the ‘ship one year (Nebraska wound up higher ranked despite giving up a team record number of points to CU, and CU winning the division and the conference). CU never got respect for scheduling tough games. Voters hardly care, and the computers don’t a all. I’m all for playing several cream puffs a year, until everyone else stops doing it as well. No unilateral disarmament.

  • Michael Wanninger

    I understand the article and agree on non-FCS schools. But understand with Colorado State – that is Saban trying to help a former coach. This is a tradition I remember in the ’60s by Bear Bryant. I, being old, remember early in the year Alabama blowing out teams by 60+-0 – while following the Alabama tradition of pulling the 1st string early. Bear would play 120 players to keep the score down. But these were usually teams coached by a former Bear coach. He was helping out a friend in trying to bring school into or back into top college football. One team – Virginia Tech. (Seems like at 1st, they were still call VPI (Vir. Polytech) but don’t hold be to that.) Look where they are now. So helping there teams out with a big payday and lots of publicity for recruiting is a good thing. After all you have to start moving up somehow. Unfortunately adding the “payday” non FBS schools just to get money is one thing that Auburn perfected that I wish Alabama had not copied.

  • Miles Hutcherson

    Alabama plays more formidable teams early in the season that most. The issue isn’t as simple as us wanting to play better teams, they have to want to play us. Why would a team like Ohio State, who would probably lose to us, play against us in the regular season when one loss in the Big 10 ensures you won’t be playing in January for the crystal football? Once the playoff is expanded from 4 teams to likely 8 in a few years, we should see schools play more quality opponents to get ready for a postseason tournament, rather than avoid them so they will finish the season undefeated in order to have a chance at a championship.

  • YeaBoy

    CSU was a last chance substitute for another team that scratched on us. It was schedule them no one. Get it?

  • Casey Sperrazza

    The reason we paid Colorado State as much as we did was due to a cancellation on our schedule that needed to be filled on short notice. It gave CSU a 13-game 2013 schedule (allowed under NCAA rules because they’re traveling to Hawaii), so it required a little…extra persuasion. And if you actually listened to Saban’s remarks on MSU when asked, he said that the Athletic Department would rather play neutral sites than a home-and-home. That still puts Bama at 10 ‘legitimate’ games a year, if the SEC does move to 9.

    Really, the cupcake system is the status quo. And since nobody is being penalized for having 2-3 wins over clearly inferior teams, it’s accepted. And until all of the championship contenders move away from it, there is no incentive for anybody to do so individually – the risk is too high. Especially when you consider that UA is one of very few (~12, IIRC) profitable D1 athletic departments in the country. We can afford to do it, so why not pad the schedule and have the built in ‘scrimmage’ type weeks.

    The only way to eliminate cupcakes in the current system would be to drop the games completely and go to a 10 game schedule, with multiple off weeks. Just a guess, but the voters wouldn’t be having any of that, either.