• Loading stock data...
Monday, July 22, 2024
Join us this September for Tuned In Request to Attend

The Pros and Cons of Non-Conference ‘Pay Games’

  • Miami University head coach Chuck Martin explained the difficulties of non-conference money games.
  • He believes that schools shouldn’t necessarily play as many as current schedules include.
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

For years, the inaugural weeks of the college football season have featured a curious type of matchup: non-conference “pay” games, where Power 5 programs pay a less wealthy opponent — often a Group of 5 or FCS school — to travel, and presumably lose, to their teams. 

In general, both parties consider pay games a win-win. Power 5 schools get a chance for an “easy” victory, while Group of 5 schools earn income. But one FBS football coach is questioning whether there can be too much of a good thing.

Miami University head coach Chuck Martin told Front Office Sports he believes athletic departments have over-scheduled these games in recent years. “I wish, a lot of times, there was a little more balance,” he said.

Martin acknowledged the games earn important revenue for athletic departments. “We know our league — you gotta make the money,” he said.

  • In 2019, FBS football teams paid out $191 million in total competition guarantees, a majority of which was from football games, according to Knight Commission-Newhouse data.
  • A team can frequently earn high six or even seven figures per game. Miami’s game against Northwestern reportedly brought in $950,000, and its game against Kentucky reportedly fetched $1.4 million.
  • Group of 5 schools use money games to supplement income instead of raising student athletic fees — which can be highly controversial, University of Pennsylvania sports finance expert Karen Weaver told Front Office Sports. 

Martin said coaches and players also relish the experience and fanfare of a Power 5 matchup — calling them “memories of a lifetime.” (Of course, there’s always a chance for an upset — Miami scored one against Northwestern.)

“It doesn’t always go your way when you play these teams, but we all love them,” Martin said. “I wouldn’t trade any one of those three experiences” this year.

But the games take a big toll.

Anecdotally, Martin said he’s more concerned about players getting hurt during these matchups than during conference games — since Power 5 opponents don’t always match up. “You always have more attrition in those games, because the collisions are more violent,” he said.

Most of the games are on the road, and traveling multiple weeks in a row can be exhausting.

And then there’s the issue of morale — it’s never easy for a team to start with a multiple-loss record.

There are potential solutions. Martin suggested scheduling fewer games and spreading out travel. “Two of these is wonderful,” he said. “Three? Eh, a little too much.” Weaver noted schools could stagger pay games across seasons — play three games one year and only one the next, for example. 

But in the near future, there may be more factors at stake to incentivize the number of games teams agree to play.

Weaver noted that the pending College Football Playoff expansion to 12 teams gives Group of 5 schools a better opportunity to make the postseason — so they may want even more in order to improve their strength of schedule. But conversely, would Power 5 schools want fewer?

Realignment — with bigger Power 5 conferences — may change the number of non-conference slots in coming years. If Power 5 programs have to play more conference games each season, they simply may not have room for the Group of 5.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

The Road to the Return of ‘EA Sports College Football’

This summer, the biggest development in college sports is virtual.
Jan 4, 2006; Pasadena, CA, USA: FILE PHOTO; Southern California Trojans running back Reggie Bush (5) in action against the Texas Longhorns during the 2006 Rose Bowl at the Rose Bowl. The Longhorns defeated the Trojans 41-38. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Network

The Most Watched College Football Games in U.S. TV History

The most-watched college football game in U.S. TV history is the 2006 Rose Bowl with 35.6 million viewers.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

WNBA ASG, Paris Olympics Continue Rise of Women’s Basketball


Featured Today

Apr 15, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Caitlin Clark poses with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert after being selected with the number one overall pick to the Indiana Fever during the 2024 WNBA Draft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
July 16, 2024

Women’s Sports Merch Is a $4 Billion Market, but Supply Isn’t Meeting Demand

Retailers can’t make women’s sports apparel fast enough.
Jan 7, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at Nissan Stadium.
July 14, 2024

Without Hard-Line Bans, Pro Athletes and Personnel Will Keep Betting on Sports

Penalties often aren’t stringent or consistent enough to deter banned behavior.
Oct 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goddell speaks during the Don Shula Celebration of Life at Hard Rock Stadium.
July 13, 2024

The NFL Is Confident It Can Overturn the Sunday Ticket Verdict

The league may have good reason to believe it can win.

Pac-12 Media Days Evolve Into a Cocktail Party at the Bellagio

The two-team ‘zombie conference’ is still hosting a football media day.
July 9, 2024

Arch Manning Will Be in EA’s ‘College Football 25’ After All

The NCAA’s most famous backup had previously opted out.
July 9, 2024

Big 12’s New Era Kicks Off: Expansion, Private Equity, and Global Ambitions

The new 16-team conference is holding media days in Las Vegas.

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
July 8, 2024

Dan Hurley Finally Has New UConn Deal After Dramatic Offseason

Hurley is now the second-highest-paid coach in college basketball. 
July 7, 2024

The New College Sports Insiders Are Graphic Designers

Joe Tipton and Hayes Fawcett have become premier news-breakers on social media.
July 2, 2024

Navigating College Football’s 2024 Realignment Landscape: What’s Next?

Conferences are officially adding schools this summer.
April 13, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (2) catches a pass for the scarlet team while defended by cornerback Jordan Hancock (7) of the grey team during the first half of the LifeSports Spring Game at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
July 1, 2024

As NIL Turns Three, Collectives and Football Still Control the Industry

Collectives dominate NIL, and football makes up most of collective budgets.