B-CU Eyes Big Time, To Play Miami in 2011, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH -- Bethune-Cookman University's Wildcats have never scheduled one of college football's top-tier teams, and now that they're starting, they're not exactly dipping their toes in the water.
Athletics Director Lynn Thompson confirmed Monday the Wildcats will play the University of Miami -- one of the nation's most storied football programs -- in 2011 and 2012 and renew an old rivalry against another Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team, the University of Central Florida, in 2013.
"If you're going to swim with fish in the open ocean, you might as well swim with whales," Thompson said. "When we started looking at guarantee games, our intent was to get the best opponent we could play."
They'll also haul in a whale of a payout.
Thompson said the three games will generate "well over a million dollars" for the university.
Thompson confirmed the ‘Cats received the going rate from the Hurricanes. Florida Championship Subdivision schools like B-CU have been receiving about $400,000 to $500,000 from Bowl Championship Series schools in recent years. Delaware State, another MEAC school, collected $550,000 to play at Michigan last season.
The ‘Cats are scheduled to meet the Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Oct. 1, 2011, and Oct. 13, 2012. They'll play UCF at Bright House Stadium on Sept. 21, 2013. B-CU has played UCF 15 times, the last time in 1995, the year before the Knights moved up to what was then known as Division I-A.
"I'm very excited," said B-CU's first-year football coach Brian Jenkins. "I think it's a win-win situation for us. To have the opportunity to play a national championship-caliber program like the Hurricanes and to play against one of the top coaches in the country whom I admire in Randy Shannon is exciting. We get the chance to line up against one of the premier teams in college football. And UCF is another good program that's on the rise."
Seven other Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schools have played "guarantee games" against major conference football teams during the past two years. The games are a way for major football powers to secure a lucrative home game without having to play that opponent on the road in the future; the opponent leaves with a fat paycheck.
"It's substantial money that will help both the football program and the entire university," Thompson said. "We'll use the money to grow the department by hiring more support positions, not only in football but in women's sports as well. And the remaining dollars would go back to the university."
Thompson said the Wildcats had been looking at guarantee games for the past several years but became "aggressive" in their search last year. And when Jenkins was hired to take over the program last December, he made the schedule upgrade a priority. Their goal is to play one guarantee game every season, and Thompson is trying to schedule those opponents through 2020.
"We're getting very aggressive now," he said. "We've been in preliminary discussions with Florida for the last couple of months, and we've had preliminary contact with Rutgers (where Jenkins was the wide receivers coach last season). We would like to eventually play each major Division I opponent in Florida."
With the MEAC schedule dropping down to seven games in 2011, B-CU can also try to add annual "classic games."
Thompson said he's had talks with Tennessee State about a two-year deal that could be home-and-home or at nearby sites. Currently, B-CU plays Florida A&M each year in the Florida Classic at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, a game that has drawn between 59,000 and 73,000 fans since 1988.
But B-CU has had difficulty scheduling additional classics in recent years. While the classics have been the biggest money producer for B-CU football in the past, guarantee games will likely take over that role in the future.
"There are three good reasons to play major BCS schools," Thompson said. "The revenue it generates is the most important priority. But it also provides us exposure for recruiting and helps our strength of schedule. The year we got an at-large bid to the (FCS) playoffs (2003) we played Florida International and won."
Reprinted with permission of the Daytona Beach News-Journal © 2010
About Bethune Cookman University:
Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement. B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000. For more information, visit www.cookman.edu.