Friday, May 18, 2012

Hot Topics: Should Michigan Schedule Neutral Site Games?

Each week, our writers break down a "Hot Topic" among the Michigan fans and allow them to express their  opinions. Topics cover everything from rivalry games to team and fan apparel. Writers have their own opinion and readers are welcome to comment or contact them via Twitter with their thoughts.

Tyler Desy - Representing Those For Michigan Scheduling Neutral Site Games

1) Michigan....Alabama...Cowboy Stadium. Tell me you don't love it.  I think this is a great thing for the fans, getting to see two powerhouses square off in a brand new stadium in Dallas. While I would love to see this game in Ann Arbor, Cowboy Stadium is pretty good too. Gives the fans a change of atmosphere, I think it gives us a bowl feel right out the gate. You gotta win the big games in a neutral setting at the end of the year, so why not go up against the defending national champions early on. It allows each school to be showcased in front of the whole country, see whose fans travel best and support their teams better. It also lets you measure where you are at talent wise. If you are getting scheduled these types of big games at the start of the season you are no slouch which means your program is going in the right direction and on the path to where they want to be. These are two of the most storied traditions in football and it's going to be some sight to play them in Cowboy Stadium. Michigan fans travel very well so I am anticipating one for the ages. Games like this give you a true measure of where your team is at and it also changes things up for the fans. This is definitely a strengh of schedule booster and if Michigan can win this game, it will automatically jump them up into the top 5 (in my eyes).  I'm going to this game and I am crazy excited to see it. I've never been to Cowboy Stadium and it's something new that all of us fans get to experience. There's lots of places that Michigan hasn't played and it's going to be pretty cool to see them in different venues.

2) Recruiting. Playing in big time neutral site games is going to do wonders for recruiting. Having a top 10 class in 2012, and the #1 ranked class (as of now) for 2013 will surely be helped by these games. Recruits are going to love the idea of playing in the big stage right away. Playing a team like Alabama on neutral site like Cowboy Stadium is not only going to be an amazing experience for them, but will also get them and Michigan a lot more recognition then they would already get. With the level of talent coming in and this amazing coaching staff, Michigan looks to return to the upper echelant of college football and remain there for many years to come.  With this recent success and what I believe will be continued success Michigan will be a attraction for these neutral site games more often. Beating big time programs in settings like this will only do more to real in more top notch recruits which will only help out the program. Fans like to see big time matchups and myself being a fan, am excited to see Michigan vs Alabama.

Thomas Beindit - Representing Those Against Michigan Scheduling Neutral Site Games

1)  The role of neutral site games has changed dramatically from its earliest days.  However, the constants still remain.  First, how often are they actually neutral?  Most neutral site games are located at a venue that gives one team a significant advantage not only for ticket sales, but also for team and fan convenience.  This seems pretty unfair to me.  Along with this, neutral site games were primarily devised to avoid having to schedule a "home and home" with opponents and to bring in some extra cash from a normal game.  However, once again, this has not been in the case.  Not only is it very difficult to sell tickets for games hundreds or thousands of miles away from the campus, but the games often don't bring in even as close to as much money as many assume.  In fact, there has been an argument that Michigan could have made more money in scheduling a MAC team than in its game against Alabama.  I'm not completely convinced, but the fact that it's even debatable shows the basic problems of neutral site games.  They not only cut quality home games, but replace them with games that are difficult to attend.  For instance, another neutral site game that most don't know about, Michigan vs. West Virginia will be happening in Brooklyn next December.  Michigan basketball's home schedule has been pretty weak as of late, especially in non-conference play.  West Virginia is a quality opponent and John Beilein's former team.  There would have been a lot of hype for this game, but because of its neutral site location, I fear that most fans are going to forget it's even happening, which is going to be a big loss for the fans and potential home ticket sales.

2)  Although the lack of true "neutral" venues and financial issues are pretty significant, the real problems are with the atmosphere.  Not only do neutral site games not feel like a college football game because of their typical pro atmosphere (Cowboy Stadium is a perfect example), but fan energy is dwarfed by the existence of multiple fan bases.  Instead of listening to the band or starting Go Blue chants, fans are forced to listen to constant stadium advertisements (must have been 50 All State ads at the Sugar Bowl) and the other team's fans and band.  Sure, it's kind of cool to experience another fan base and their traditions, but wouldn't it be a lot cooler to actually go to their stadium and get the real experience?  No matter how many fans make the trip down to Dallas, it's not going to be a real representation of Michigan or Alabama.  Why?  Because it's only a small portion of their true fan base, they have to split time with the opponent, and you don't get to experience the campus or stadium.  If I wanted to experience Alabama football (I really don't want to experience it), I would go down to Tuscaloosa and watch a game.  Believe me, I love Michigan football and would gladly go to the game if given the chance, but I prefer that experience how it's meant to be, in the Big House.  I also am realistic enough to conclude that other fans probably feel the same way.  Neutral games remove all of the originality of teams and the atmosphere of college football, while making it tougher on fans to actually attend the game and making less money for the university.  It just doesn't make sense.


Final Points

Tyler - Hard to argue with Tom, there are downfalls of scheduling a neutral site game in a pro stadium. Sure, you have the ads, possible unfair advantage if its closer to one fanbase or another. But to me the pros outweigh the cons. Sure, it's difficult to travel there, I understand that, especially with today's economy. But think about this, pretty soon the Big Ten will be scheduling a home and home with the Pac 12. So regardless we will have to travel all the way across the country to the west coast if we want to go to a game against say Oregon or USC.  I think this neutral site game is better compared because the ticket sales as far as numbers go will be more favorable for each team, rather than a small section in the upper deck in a true away game.  A game in Tuscaloosa would be great to attend and I would be more than happy to do that. Love getting to experience other schools traditions, it's what makes college football. So why not bring two storied traditions together in a neutral site and not in a bowl game where there is much argument over which school is deserving or one of them shouldn't be there. This can just be talk about Michigan vs Alabama. It doesn't matter what the team is, if the fans aren't Michigan fans, even in the Big House they annoy me, so it won't be any different in Dallas. Alabama in the Big House would be awesome and I love that Penn State scheduled a home at home against The Crimson Tide, I think it's great for that program.  Michigan should defintely do this with a top tier school in the spirit of strengthening schedule, but beating them on a neutral site will certainly give the team a great experience and definitely prepare them for the upcoming season which will certainly be tough.  I'm not a fan of only 6 home games at the Big House considering we were spoiled with 8 a season ago, but Michigan is up to the task. I'm going to the game in Dallas and I want to be one of the fortunate to say I saw Michigan play Alabama in Cowboy Stadium. Going to be an amazing experience and something that will no doubt in my mind help Michigan out in the future.

Thomas - I agree with Tyler that many neutral games will be against top competition in front of a national spotlight.  However, it still glosses over the fact that the game is going to be pretty difficult for most to attend and is raising far less money for the university than originally anticipated.  Sure, it's going to be an exciting game for fans with two top teams competing, but isn't a venue supposed to add to the experience?  If Michigan and Alabama played each other in a run-down high school field it would still be exciting, but that doesn't mean it's a good venue.  Cowboy Stadium is supposed to be extremely nice and impressive, but the bottom-line is that it's still a pro stadium.  Fans are going to travel half the country in order to hear endless ads that really aren't benefiting the university.  Along with this, fans will have to endure the thousands of Alabama fans in attendance and their game day traditions.  Certainly, it will be cool to experience, but consider this for a second.  Have you ever watched something like the Michigan vs. MSU game with some Spartans in the room?  Overall, it's just not that fun of an experience.  Now, imagine having thousands cheering everything that goes against Michigan during the game.  Frankly, it takes a lot of energy out of the fans.  It's great if you win, but isn't it a lot more fun celebrating with the thousands in a place like the Big House than with only half of a NFL stadium?  Let's think about this.  Who benefits from these neutral site games?  The owners of the stadiums that host them and that's about it.  The schools and teams really don't benefit that much and the fans certainly don't benefit.  Here's quick comparison.  Look at how Penn State scheduled Alabama.  Instead of a one-off neutral site game, they schedule a home and home.  They got to face Alabama in a home game.  Yes, they had to play Alabama in a road game, but think about the excitement leading up to a home game against a team like Alabama.  Imagine opening the season in Ann Arbor against the Crimson Tide.  Now, that would be a season opener, not forcing fans to travel to Dallas in a sham of a college football game.  Neutral site games benefit almost nobody in the college football world and especially not the fans.


All writers are entitled to their own opinion and those may or may not represent the held beliefs of Hoke's Mad Magicians as an entity. Readers are welcome to comment below or contact the writers via Twitter with  their thoughts

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