Baylor is giving the college football world a lesson in self-preservation and not giving a second worry to the thoughts of others. It is a middle finger of sorts to the collegiate landscape, in favor of one true goal: continuing to win a lot of football games.
When FBS Schedules reported that the Bears would be playing the University of Incarnate Word during the 2019 season, the critics got loud. Over at The Dallas Morning News, Josh Friemel hit on Baylor's future schedules, not just UIW but in their overall "lack of" strength. At the Star-Telegram, Mac Engel did the same, calling the schedules "insensitive."
Ian McCaw: We play a FCS game every year. We've done that for a long time. Incarnate Word is moving to the FCS level in the Southland Conf.— Craig Smoak (@CraigSmoak) March 19, 2014
Friemel and Engel are both correct, but Baylor's athletic director, Ian McCaw, has a plan and he is sticking to it, as Craig Smoak from ESPN 1660 points out.
As McCaw notes, on the high end Baylor is looking to get into the playoff—or at least be positioned to be an option for the committee—by virtue of 11, or 12 wins. Baylor's a team that spent 1995 to 2009 sitting at home watching the postseason, and McCaw, even with the new found success, the Bears have no desire to go back to those days.
And the athletic director makes no bones about it, even championing the Big 12's nine-game conference schedule and stating that the SEC, among others, is simply playing catch up to his level.
McCaw: We play 9 conf. games whereas most play 8. For some others that play 8 to take on another BCS opp. just gets them up to our level.— Craig Smoak (@CraigSmoak) March 19, 2014
McCaw remaining steadfast in his convictions is a quick lesson for coaches and athletic directors across the board. In the face of the outside pressure from fans and media, McCaw is not only sticking to his guns, he is addressing the issue head on as one can hear in the entire ESPN Central Texas interview.
Coaches and ADs have their jobs tied to these decisions. While it is nice for folks to pine for entertaining contests between elite teams, the fact is no one has been fired for winning too many games. Cupcakes or not. However, teams have missed out on better bowl games thanks to non-conference losses.
Scheduling is what it is and until there are clear instances where a team from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC is left out of the playoff due to scheduling, McCaw and his brethren have no reason to change. Wins, for college football's power players, are worth more than losses. While a tough schedule might push a non-AQ program a little higher, all it does is toughen the road for teams that have the inside track.
In 2013, 11-1 Baylor did not miss out on a BCS National Championship berth because it played Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe. Art Briles' team was shut out of the game because they lost in Week 13 in embarrassing fashion to Oklahoma State. Beating a BCS team to start the year was not going to save them from being sent to the Fiesta Bowl.
The strength of McCaw's comments put the ball in the College Football Playoff's court. The committee will either validate McCaw's scheduling methods, taking an undefeated Baylor, weak schedule and all. Or, the committee will reward tough schedules, leaving a 12-0 Baylor with wins over Northwestern State, SMU and Buffalo at home, opting to take an 11-1 Notre Dame who does not play an FCS opponent.
Lines on the scheduling issue have already been drawn, as one side demands tough games while the other is looking for wins, job security and more wins. McCaw drew a hard line, defended it, reminded people it's his decision, and as the chatter gets louder heading into the inaugural playoff season, more athletic directors would be wise to do the same.