With the recent news that WSU basketball will be playing a home and home (which is in actuality a "semi-home and semi-home" in Kansas City and Spokane) with Kansas State, our thoughts naturally turn to future football schedules for the Cougars in terms of out-of-conference foes.
WSU's scheduling philosophy has changed significantly under Mike Leach from previous regimes. Gone are the "body bag" style games that the Cougars have played for decades -- that's where the team flies across the country for a one-off with a national power to bring back a big chunk of cash to boost the overall budget.
Those games have now been replaced by a series of low- to mid-level opponents. Here's the next four years of non-conference games, via FBSSchedules.com:
This is also known as the Mike Leach Way, or more cynically, the Mike Leach Path To Ensuring Bowl Appearances. This is a significant part of how Leach built his reputation at Tech -- remember all the talk of all the bowl games and seasons with 8+ wins? Only twice in 10 seasons did he have six or more conference wins.
I don't point that out to be critical; I merely mean to show that there were choices being made that had very real outcomes as to how his teams were eventually perceived. If you win your three non-conference games, you should be able to, at the very least, get three more wins to get bowl eligible. And if you happen to have a pretty good team? Adding seven or eight wins in a quality conference to three that are already in the bank has you sitting in great shape for an excellent bowl - or even the playoff.
It works for the SEC, right? I mean, if Stanford had played FCS Directional University instead of Northwestern in week one, the Cardinal are probably in the College Football Playoff.
This shift doesn't come without consequence, however. It's fun to see how your team stacks up against teams from other conferences, even if they won't ever come back to your stadium to play as part of a home-and-home, and some fans love to travel to other parts of the country to watch the Cougs.
Additionally, not even trying to schedule attractive non-conference opponents makes selling season tickets just a little bit harder, especially in years where the Apple Cup won't be in Pullman -- three of your seven games in Martin Stadium in 2017 will be Montana State, Nevada and Boise State, with no UW. Godspeed, season ticket reps.
Of course, those concerns are irrelevant to Leach (as they should be), and here's to betting athletics director Bill Moos is going along with it because he believes a winning team provides the ultimate entertainment value and will attract people, regardless of opponent.
So, two questions for you.
1. How do you feel about the current scheduling philosophy?
2. In an ideal world, how would you want the Cougs to schedule?
*Yes, we know that Wisconsin is on a future schedule for a home-and-home. Let's just say that a lot can change between now and 2022 and 2023.