MUNCIE – After the Mid-American Conference drew the national college football spotlight onto itself last weekend with multiple victories against BCS programs, one would assume that larger teams might be skittish to schedule a team from that league in the future; however, Ball State coach Pete Lembo doesn't see that becoming an issue.
In the past two weeks, his Cardinals have knocked off a pair of BCS teams (Indiana and South Florida), and he fully expects to continue to play BCS teams annually.
“MAC teams, and I think Sun Belt teams and some of the lower Division I conferences are still going to be attractive to the SEC and the Big Ten,” Lembo said.
He rationalized that because a win over a MAC or Sun Belt team counts toward that bigger program reaching bowl-eligible status.
“You have to be careful about scheduling too many FCS games,” Lembo explained, “because only one (win) per year can count.”
In the case of some BCS teams – take Indiana, for example – scheduling Ball State has been agony. The Hoosiers have been beaten three consecutive times by the Cardinals, including twice by Lembo's teams. But the Ball State coach has publicly proposed both Indiana and Purdue regularly scheduling the Cardinals and, according to Lembo, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is interested in doing so.
“I hope that part of the reason that IU would want to play us again is that it's the right thing to do,” Lembo said. “Coach Wilson and I had that conversation before the (Sept. 15) game … and he was very supportive of it.”
The Hoosiers will host the Cardinals again in 2016, and Lembo feels that economically it is the prudent thing for both the Boilermakers and Hoosiers to continue playing Ball State.
“Hopefully, the athletic directors will get together and start to have some discussion on that,” Lembo said. “Obviously the Big Ten programs in our state are getting a lot of revenue from (the Big Ten) conference. They are 'have' programs. They can build incredible facilities and those kinds of things. Hopefully, there is a moral, ethical piece about keeping some of that money in the state versus bringing in outside teams to play in their stadiums.”
The recent visit to Muncie by South Florida was an unusal gesture by a BCS program to simply exchange home games with a lower-tier Division I program such as Ball State.
“Typically, when we play an opponent like that, it is going to be a one-shot deal, where we travel to their stadium for a guarantee (payment),” Lembo said. “This game actually turned out to be a home-and-home, where each team just exchanged a check to the visitor. You'll see some BCS teams willing to do that. Other times it has to be a two-for-one. I think that it just depends on the school. It depends on the athletic director and coach and the philosophy.”