BOISE, Idaho -- Gene Bleymaier has been the athletic director at Boise State since 1988. He understands perfectly well the odds stacked against the Broncos. As much as Boise State has flourished on the football field during his time there, the school is king of the have-nots in an industry in which the haves make the rules.
But he’s going to try to change the rules anyway.
In this case, Bleymaier wants to change the rules for scheduling. Haves will play have-nots as long as they can beat them. These are referred to as “guarantee” games. The have-not travels to the have’s campus for a guaranteed fee that, in recent years, has crept into seven figures. In most cases, there is also an understood guarantee that there’s no way the have-not can win.
That is not the case with Boise State, which is why Bleymaier has such a tough time finding games.
“I make 30 calls at a norm to get a game,” he said. “To get a home game, it takes 50 calls.”
An athletic director who needs a game may send an e-mail blast saying, “We have this date open for a home game.” Bleymaier will call and say, “We have that date open. We’ll come.” After some throat-clearing, hemming and hawing, Bleymaier will hear that it’s not going to work out.
"We work so hard to level the playing field,” Bleymaier said, referring to the NCAA membership. “When it comes to scheduling, it’s ‘Let’s not worry about that.’ It’s a big advantage.”
Bleymaier idea for change is simple. He intends to propose NCAA legislation that would eliminate guarantee games.
“When you schedule an opponent,” Bleymaier proposed, “you play one at their place, one at your place.”
He believes the proposal is dipped in logic and washed in fairness.
“Little League baseball, Pop Warner football, high school, Major League Baseball, NFL, hockey, everyone in the country plays half at home and half on the road,” Bleymaier said. “It’s a given. In a baseball season, a team plays 81 and 81. It’s a given. You wouldn’t even suspect anything different. People would say, ‘That’s unfair.’”
Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee and Auburn each played eight home games in a 12-game schedule last year. Picture what might happen if the pros adopted the collegiate model.
“The Yankees ought to get more home games,” Bleymaier said. “Nobody wants to go to Green Bay. ‘We shouldn’t have to go there.’ The owners would laugh at you.”
In basketball, Bleymaier said, the issue of fairness is heightened by the number of road games and when they take place.
If you’ve missed games at home, you’re traveling in November and December,” Bleymaier said. “What happens then? Final exams. If you’re Boise State, you’re missing two weeks prior to final exams. UCLA and North Carolina are sleeping in their beds. That, to me, is wrong. We’re asking a number of schools to miss school, not sleep in their beds and travel. Nobody cares. They say, ‘We can’t do anything about that.’”
Bleymaier intends to try. In the world of NCAA politics, his chances may hover between slim and none. But that’s where the Boise States live. Or in the case of the Broncos football program, used to live.