At the risk of over-stating the obvious – next year is a very important year for the NC State Football program and every single leader with any type of influence over the direction of the football program. Unless the Wolfpack can string together four consecutive wins to close out the 2008 season, the program is heading for a 4th losing season in the last five years – all under the ‘leadership’ of Athletics Director, Lee Fowler.
To offer some historical perspective on this – NC State has experienced four losing seasons in a five year period only three times since the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953..
-1958 to 1962 (16-31-3)
-1981 to 1985 (19-36)
-1983 to 1987 (21-34-1)
Two of these five year periods were essentially the same era of NC State football – the mid-1980′s under Monte Kiffin and Tom Reed prior to the arrival of Dick Sheridan.
With the improvement we have seen in the last three games of this season and the composition of the freshmen that are currently being redshirted, true hope exists for some success in 2009 (and beyond). Coach Tom O’Brien will return the highest total of starters in our program’s in recent history after two consecutive seasons of returning the fewest combined total of starters in the conference. State will boast a talented quarterback who is leading the conference in passing efficiency to go along with a head coach who has a track record of winning 7-9 games for 80% of his tenure at Boston College. The 7+ win seasons started in his third year at BC after two losing seasons; hopefully a similar streak will start next year after what has been almost an identical start to Coach O’Brien’s tenure at NC State.
Making a bowl next year would go a long ways towards creating the momentum that our athletics department desperately needs right now. The Wolfpack’s schedule won’t be easy next season as we drop Miami from the Coastal Division, but add a game at Virginia Tech. Even Duke returns 23 seniors next year including their quarterback who might be the best player at his position in the conference.
According to this website, we still need to add a 12th game to the schedule next season. Knowing how much our athletic department values home games for revenue, there stands a stronger than average chance that a second game against a 1-AA team (or whatever that division is now called) will complete next year’s schedule.
The rules for bowl eligibility state that you can only count one win vs. a I-AA team per year. It also takes six wins to become bowl eligible, so NC State could essentially schedule ourselves into a situation where we only have eleven games to get those six wins. If we were able to add another Division 1 opponent, then we would have an additional game to get the sixth win to become bowl eligible.
Can revenue next year be more important to the athletics department than not giving our football program the best possible chance to participate in a bowl? It would seem like a smart business decision to do whatever is necessary to avoid at any cost adding another I-AA team to next year’s schedule. If that means writing someone a check to come to Carter Finley, then write the check. If that means going on the road to play a beatable Division 1 opponent, then let’s get ready for a road trip next year.
Looking at next season, here is the schedule:
-Need 1 more game
-Gardner Webb @ home
-USC @ home
-Pitt @ home
-Duke @ home
-UNC @ home
-Maryland @ home
-Clemson @ home
This schedule included a trip to Greenville until Lee Fowler allowed Terry Holland to move that game to 2010 when ECU will have an expanded stadium, making it a more difficult environment for us to win. Having beaten ECU the last two season, what was Lee Fowler thinking letting this happen when our program was in this situation of needing a winnable Division 1 game?
NC State could be picked last in the Atlantic Division again next year. If Vegas were putting an over/under on next year’s win total at this point, then it couldn’t be more than 3-5 wins. Maybe winning three of our last four games this season would change the outlook, but at this point we are staring a 2-10, 0-8 season directly in the face.
As far as scheduling this additional game, NC State is the perfect opponent for anyone looking for an additional game. Schools are always looking to add a BCS team that has some type of name recognition (if for only being from a BCS conference) and a home game on top of that. There has to be a dozen or more division 1 teams that would thrilled to add us to their schedule. We wouldn’t want to add Oklahoma, USC or some other traditional power. The idea is to give yourself a good chance at a win and if that means going on the road to play one of the worst Division 1 teams in the nation, then get the game scheduled now. Any lost revenue is surely worth not putting this coaching staff, the NC State fanbase, and the administration through the frustrations of missing a bowl game for the fourth straight season and fifth time in six years.
Here is just a sample of Division 1 teams looking for an additional game next year that don’t already have a loaded OOC schedule:
*Washington St (1-7,0-5) Hawaii, ND, open, open (how about a rare trip to the West Coast?)
*Rutgers (2-2, 3-6) at Maryland, at Army, open, open (they need home games badly)
*Texas Christian (5-0, 8-1) Texas St, SMU, open, open (they are even a good team)
*Ohio U (1-3, 2-6) at N. Texas, UConn, at Tenn (let’s go on the road and get a win)
*Minn. (3-1, 7-1) Air Force, Cal, S. Dakota St, open (let’s play in their brand new stadium)
*Kentucky (1-3, 5-3) Louisville, E. Kentucky, open open (decent team, let’s sign a contract)
*E. Michigan (1-4, 2-7) Army, at NW, open open (buy a win or go to their stadium if that is what it takes)
There are several other options as well from that list. Now that WE have done all of the initial leg work for the ‘hard workers’ in Fowler’s Athletics Department, can someone please pick up the phone and see what can be negotiated with some of these teams? This is the perfect opportunity for Lee Fowler to step up and put the football program in a position to succeed next year. But why do I have this suspicion that there is already a plan in place to bring a second I-AA opponent to Carter Finley next year?