Published Friday, May 17, 2013 AT 10:46 AM / Updated at 10:59 AM
Neutral-site football talk lot of hot air
Lee Barfknecht Omaha World-Herald

The latest trendy topic for college football commenters to bloviate about is how schools should play more neutral-site games, even giving up home games to do so.

Sounds kind of cool. But it’s not happening on anything more than an irregular basis, as anyone who has ever sat down with an athletic director at conference administrative meetings can attest.

Power conference schools playing at least seven home games a year is NON-NEGOTIABLE. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t paying attention.

Listen to Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez from earlier this week: “Everyone needs seven home games to balance your budget.”

Or hear Ohio State A.D. Gene Smith: “We all work off needing seven home games. That’s how we’re set up.”

One school in a position to get creative in football scheduling is Penn State, which is facing three more years of a postseason ban.  A.D. Dave Joyner is looking into a game in Ireland, but he’s not giving up a home game to do it.

“You build your financial model on seven home games,” he said. “Every 1,000 seats is a half-million dollars to the bottom line at our venue. And it’s a big economic impact to the community, too.”

Those last 10 words are critical but forgotten by those who pine for neutral-site games.

Any athletic director who moves a home game many miles away had better step lightly the next time he hits up local merchants for a donation. The economic reality is a lot of area businesses budget for seven home games, too.

Any change in that comes at too high a price for everyone.

About Lee Barfknecht

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald. You can email Lee at