Athletic director Mario Moccia still plans to bring his Southern Illinois football team to Champaign on Aug. 31. By bus.
The school will be paid $350,000 to play Illinois that day. With limited travel expenses, most of the money will go into Southern Illinois’ athletic budget.
“That is very important for our fiscal health,” Moccia said.
“Our philosophy has been to try to schedule a BCS opponent that we can bus to.”
But future games against Illinois aren’t as certain. The Big Ten is planning to stop playing Football Championship Subdivision schools. Like Southern Illinois.
“I don’t think anything official has come down,” Moccia said. “Certainly, in the back of my mind I’m making plans if it does happen.
“I would be very surprised if they said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this for next year.’ I don’t see that as reality.”
After hearing the Big Ten’s idea, Moccia looked ahead to the Salukis’ schedule. The school has game contracts with Purdue in 2014 and Indiana in 2015. The lawyers might be getting involved.
“I am assuming if those games aren’t played, for whatever reason, the schools would owe the guaranteed money to the FCS schools,” Moccia said. “I know what we would want, we’d probably want every dime that we’re owed.”
When Southern Illinois plays a BCS school, the guaranteed money is in the $400,000 to $600,000 range.
“That’s what it seems like the market is bearing for FCS teams,” Moccia said.
Illinois has one FCS school scheduled each year into the 2016 season. Illinois plays Youngstown State in 2014, Western Illinois in 2015 and Murray State in 2016.
The Illini played Charleston Southern in 2012, paying the school $410,000. Illinois has also played South Dakota State, Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Eastern Illinois in recent years.
“We appreciate Illinois keeping the money in the state of Illinois,” Moccia said. “They don’t have to do that. They’ve been good about spreading it around.”
The games against Illinois have been a hit with Southern Illinois fans. There are 30,000 alums in the Chicago area, making it an easy trip to see the Salukis. Moccia expects a good turnout at Memorial Stadium in late August.
“At the end of the day, Illinois has been very good about playing in-state schools,” Moccia said. “I hope they get some credit for that no matter what happens.”
The Big Ten is adding Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. There will be changes to the divisions and an increase in the conference schedule, to at least nine games, is likely.
“We realize that we’re not holding the cards,” Moccia said.
While the Big Ten is considering an end to games against FCS schools, Moccia said other BCS conferences aren’t following along.
The SEC schools have a long tradition of playing games against the FCS. National champion Alabama had Western Carolina on its 2012 schedule and will host Chattanooga in 2013.
“I haven’t heard this from any other conference, and we hope it doesn’t happen because it’s a great source of revenue for us,” Moccia said. “Quite frankly, there are some teams here that have had really good success against FBS schools.”
Just ask former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who lost to Appalachian State. This past season, Illinois State beat Eastern Michigan and Youngstown State beat Pitt. Southern Illinois owns recent wins against Indiana and Northern Illinois.
“We feel the upper-division teams of our league, even though we have 22 less scholarships, we count for a pretty stout game when given the opportunity,” Moccia said.
Former Illinois co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales talked to Matthew Stevens, Mississippi State beat writer for the Commercial Dispatch. Gonzales is the new receivers coach for the Bulldogs, reuniting with Dan Mullen. The two were on the Florida staff together.
“I think you can look back, it’s easy to point back and say this didn’t work, that didn’t work, or this worked,” Gonzales said. “I think the biggest thing is how to overcome and put yourself in a situation. Everything is not always going to be a cakewalk. If anything, it leathers your skin a little bit, so next time you’re in that situation you know how to prepare yourself a little bit harder.”
One more to go
Illinois coach Tim Beckman on Saturday told Loren Tate and Jim Turpin that his coaching staff would be complete on Monday, when the school is expected to announce a receivers coach to replace Gonzales.
So far, Beckman has added offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, offensive line coach Jim Bridge and defensive line coach Greg Colby.
Bob Asmussen covers college football for The News-Gazette. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter