Nothing preys upon the passion and loyalty of college football fans more than scheduling. It's as if athletic directors are the Omegas from "Animal House" and the fans are all Chip Diller, assuming the position and asking, after each scheduling whack, "Thank you, sir. May I have another?"
Every week before the Iron Bowl, Alabama fans are commanded to watch the Tide destroy some hyphenated weakling from the FCS, while still selling out Bryant-Denny Stadium. Roll Damn Tide!
The ACC could use as many attractive games as possible -- even with Notre Dame sort of in the conference. Yet ACC fans are commanded to watch eight league games rather than the nine mandated by the Big 12, Pac-12 and, beginning this season, Big Ten.
Baylor fans had better appreciate those nine conference games. The other three could be played against an outdated male name (Lamar), a dinner accompaniment (Rice) and a religious reference (Incarnate Word).
Whether it's good greed, a potential competitive edge or both, schools and leagues repeatedly take advantage of football-starved fans and serve them scheduling slop, knowing they'll lap it up.
That's why Tuesday's announcement that Florida and Miami will open the 2019 season against one another in Orlando, Florida, is refreshing. It's a matchup that excites both fan bases in a state that used to dominate college football. The Gators and Hurricanes met in 2013 but had played just once in the previous decade.
Miami and Florida played every season from 1944 to 1987 because it made sense. What didn't was a 14-year hiatus that followed before the teams reunited in the 2001 Sugar Bowl, a 37-20 Miami win.
"There have been so many memorable games between our two institutions," Miami athletic director Blake James said in a news release, "and I am confident that all of our alumni and fans will enjoy seeing the two teams square off."
Matchups like this should be the goal, not avoided to puff up a team's record or, more often, an athletic department's budget and a coach's salary. The playoff system seems to be positively impacting scheduling, as more attractive matchups are on the books, particularly at neutral sites, which aren't ideal but better than nothing. Opening weekend is filled with captivating games, and the Penn State-Pittsburgh rivalry resumes Sept. 10 at Heinz Field. Even Baylor is adding royalty to its schedule, beginning a series with Duke in 2017.
But college football can do better. You, the fans, deserve better.
Here are six matchups that should resume or take place more often. Desirable matchups with multiple games already on the books, like Nebraska-Oklahoma and Pitt-West Virginia, were not included.
Texas-Texas A&M: Before the realignment craze started, the notion that these historic rivals wouldn't play annually seemed absurd. Sure, there always was tension and Texas-sized politicking between the two schools. But no meetings since 2011 after games every single season since 1915 -- even during World War II -- is simply wrong. After a few years of trading barbs, there seems to be a bit of hope -- new A&M athletic director Scott Woodward said this month he has "no objection" to playing Texas again -- but no games have been scheduled.
Michigan-Notre Dame: This is a pairing that, while not absolutely necessary every year, would be really nice to have every two to four seasons. The matchup certainly resonates in the Midwest, and there have been some memorable meetings, including the first night games in each respective stadium (1982 at Notre Dame, 2011 at Michigan). Notre Dame opted out of future games after 2014, but Irish coach Brian Kelly said last fall that chances for a reunion are trending up. New Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said last month that the rivalry is not only good for the schools but for all of college football. So make it happen.
Missouri-Kansas: The Border War was another realignment casualty, as a series that began in the 1890s and featured genuine hatred between the states (like, guerrilla warfare stuff) ended after the 2011 meeting, as Missouri departed the Big 12 for the SEC. The basketball rivalry has had a bigger impact, and it's hard to envision the football matchup getting bigger than in 2007, when No. 2 Kansas played No. 3 Missouri to remain alive in the national title race. There's still a lot of resentment at KU about how the series ended, but athletic directors Sheahon Zenger and Mack Rhoades are friendly. At some point, this game should return, maybe not every year but often enough.
Arkansas-Texas: Current players and younger fans likely don't realize the magnitude of this series, particularly in the 1960s, when at least one team entered each game ranked in the Top 10. Although Texas holds a 56-22 edge in the all-time series, the Darrell K Royal-Frank Broyles clashes were legendary, and the close friends both announced their retirements after the 1976 game. Arkansas and Texas have played just five times since the Razorbacks left for the SEC in 1992, including in the 2014 Texas Bowl. The good news is the teams will play in 2021, 20 years after their last league clash. But more Horns-Hogs meetings would be ... borderline erotic.
Auburn-Florida: The SEC's decision to maintain its 6-1-1 scheduling model -- six division games, one permanent crossover, one rotating crossover -- restricts the frequency of several historic league matchups. Auburn and Florida played every season from 1945 to 2001 and have 83 total meetings. But they haven't played since 2011 and won't play again until 2019. "A lot of our students come from states in the East, like Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said last spring. "They say, 'Why aren't we playing in my home state?'"
Louisville-Cincinnati: We started with an "Animal House" reference, so let's end with a keg ... of nails. That's the cool trophy Louisville and Cincinnati played for annually between 1966 and 1992 and again between 1996 and 2013, before Louisville moved to the ACC. Louisville is keeping its annual game with Kentucky, even though the Cincinnati series in football has much more history. Perhaps Louisville would be interested in a reunion if the Big 12 adds Cincinnati. Bring back the Keg of Nails and make all fans wear togas to the games (well, maybe not).