Getting the Boot?
LSU official says school would prefer to play A&M, not Arkansas, Thanksgiving weekend
LSU has made its recommendation to the Southeastern Conference that the Tigers begin playing Texas A&M, not Arkansas, on the final week of the season, according to LSU Senior Associate Athletics Director Verge Ausberry.
Ausberry, in charge of LSU football scheduling, told Tiger Rag Radio that he feels the Aggies, now without traditional Thanksgiving Day opponent Texas, are also receptive to the idea.
“I think eventually you’re going to see a move on that,” Ausberry said. “I think eventually you’re going to see Texas A&M taking that slot. We don’t know when that’s going to be determined. I know we made that recommendation to the commissioner.
“I think Texas A&M would maybe want to do that. It hasn’t been finalized and there’s been no final determination on that, that’s just a recommendation that we would like to see. I think that would be a good game to have at the end of the year in place of the Arkansas game. But that’s future talk.”
The LSU-Arkansas game has rotated between Baton Rouge and Little Rock every year since 1993, with the two teams trying to cultivate a rivalry, playing for the “Golden Boot” on the last week of the regular season every year since 1996.
The Tigers and Razorbacks are set to play in Fayetteville the day after Thanksgiving in 2012.
With future SEC scheduling up in the air beginning with the 2013 campaign, LSU would like to see Texas A&M in that spot.
The Tigers are also anticipating a slew of other schedule-related changes brought about by the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the conference.
“I think you’ll see a lot of big games in the conference starting a lot earlier,” continued Ausberry. “You could see the Auburn game moving up. You could see maybe the Florida game, or some other East Coast opponents moving up on the schedule, starting the year off earlier.
“There might be a time where we see an SEC game starting the year off pretty soon. When the playoff system gets here and when the TV contracts get here, there will be some things that will be changing in the way that scheduling will be done.”
In the face of so much change, Ausberry confirmed LSU would still like to continue playing in season-opening kickoff classics, like the Tigers did in 2010 (North Carolina in Atlanta) and 2011 (Oregon in Dallas).
“Yes, I can foresee that. I think that’s something we’re always looking to do,” Ausberry explained. “The right place, the right time, the right opponent, the right team (are all factors). I think it brings great publicity to your institution. I think it puts your football program in a big game on national television. It’s great exposure for a program that recruits all over the country, especially in the Southern region. And that’s pretty much where we want to stay when we do these types of games — we’re always looking at New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. That’s pretty much our base.”
One thing the LSU athletic administration is vehemently against is the addition of a ninth conference game.
“I’m against it. We’re against it,” Ausberry responded to that possibility. “We’re totally against going to nine games. If you look at our schedule and the teams in this conference, who would that ninth game be? Especially since we’re playing Florida every year.
“And the SEC Championship Game is a tough game. You could beat Florida in the regular season and have to play them again in the Championship Game, same with Georgia or Tennessee. So we just don’t think that’s what we want to do. We said that at the AD meetings in Sandestin a couple of weeks ago. We all held strong that we were against a nine-game schedule.”
When asked what if it meant more money, Ausberry conceded, “That’s another conversation.”
Enhanced revenues from TV deals are the reason for all of the conference realignment to date, according to Ausberry. The byproduct will be an increased say in scheduling for the various networks.
“As you see around the country and look at the realignment process, it all was built on TV,” said Ausberry. “We’re always a few years behind professional football. I think in a few years that the TV networks will have some kind of input on scheduling and when games are played, especially with the amount of money that ESPN, FOX, CBS are putting out there right now. You’re going to see them get more involved with the scheduling process in some conferences and some schools.”
Finally, Ausberry addressed two other aspects of future scheduling — the inclusion of FCS schools and the retention of currently scheduled future opponents like Oklahoma and TCU.
On continuing to schedule FSC schools, Ausberry commented, “I think you still will see those games on the schedule. One thing we feel in this conference, and we haven’t seen the new schedules yet, is that with the games we play, the (conference) schedule is strong enough. I think you keep that one BCS team (out of conference). We’ll play it by ear, though. This year we had a very tough schedule the way it ended up. We had two BCS teams outside the conference with what they did in bowl games at the end of the year. But we’ll play it by ear. If strength of schedule is a definite and is going to make a difference, we’ll keep our options open.”
As for keeping Oklahoma, TCU and others already scheduled on future dockets, Ausberry acknowledged they’re likely to stay.
“I think that those games, since we have contracts, will hold up,” he said. “But in future years there’s a lot of uncertainty. After 2014, when the playoff system gets here, the top four teams and the strength of schedule will determine how we play those games and where we play those games.
“We’ve been scheduling under a BCS-type structure, but with a new structure coming in place and new scheduling coming in place with the addition of new teams, I think everything is on the table for us.”
Editor Ben Love covers LSU football and men’s basketball for Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.