The Detroit Free-Press just released contract details for the spate of nonconference games that Michigan scheduled recently, and one thing seems certain: Michigan AD Dave Brandon sure is certain all these games will come to pass.
According to the Free-Press, Brandon is paying up to $1.375 million for individual home games, and that's fine, but Michigan's not exactly giving itself the outs it might need if plans change. Here's more from writer Mark Snyder:
It's notable that U-M will have to pay the full amount of the guarantee if the game has to be canceled. While canceling a game is unusual, if the Big Ten season expands to nine games, it's certainly a possibility.
With Rutgers and Maryland coming on board (if not more teams), the Big Ten is nearly certain to move to nine conference games; otherwise the divisions would become so large that previously familiar opponents in the other division would only come on a team's schedule once in a blue moon. That's not a conference, that's a loose confederation of schools. We don't know if it would work for the Big Ten, but it certainly didn't work for the WAC.
So this is not a "hey what if" situation for Michigan as a member of the Big Ten. It's a "hey when" situation. And if Dave Brandon isn't even giving the school an out clause (or some sort of fee reducer) for taking a game off the schedule, that's borderline inept.
Michigan's nonconference slates are full through 2015, and the three games already on the 2016 slate are certainly not strong enough to hold up on their own. It's Hawaii, Colorado and Ball State—hardly the type of competition that would impress a playoff committee member.
Meanwhile, Rutgers and Maryland will be in the house by 2014. Maybe the Big Ten sticks to eight games for a few years to help member athletic departments avoid large buyout fees like what Michigan would be facing. Maybe.
Oh, and one last thing: As Snyder notes, Michigan has a home game with Hawaii but doesn't have a return date scheduled. That's the whole point of scheduling with Hawaii! It's football...in Hawaii! And you get to go and be in Hawaii instead of Michigan! How can we make this any clearer? If you can go to Hawaii, you go to Hawaii.
Sheesh. It's like we have to tell people everything around here.