Wednesday, August 25, 2004

For Indiana St., playing Miami makes cents

By Colleen Kane
Enquirer staff writer

When the Indiana State administration signed on in April to replace Colorado State on Miami's football schedule this season, it knew what it was getting its team into.

The Sycamores play what athletics director Andrea Myers calls "money games" every year - in this case, pitting their Division I-AA team that went 3-9 last year against a Division I-A Miami program that finished 13-1 and ranked 10th in the nation.

"The honest-to-God truth is we're playing it for money," Myers said. "Mostly, we need it to supplement our income, but I think our athletes enjoy the opportunity to play the I-A schools. ... It's a great experience to play in front of a packed house."

It's common throughout the country for I-AA programs, which give out fewer scholarships, to travel to I-A schools for compensation. Indiana State, a school of about 11,500 students that plays in the Gateway Conference, is no different.

In the past five years, Indiana State has played nine Division I-A schools, beating Eastern Michigan in 2001 and losing the rest by an average of more than 34 points. The Sycamores played two Division I-A schools last year - Ball State and Indiana.

They lost both by more than 20 points and didn't score more than a touchdown in either - and neither of those schools had the success Miami did last year. Ball State finished ninth in the Mid-American Conference. Indiana tied for second to last in the Big Ten.

"You've probably written yourself two losses," Myers said. "A win happens on occasion, but the drawbacks are that you know going into the game that it would be tough to win - and unlikely. But you do it, both for experience and for money."

ISU has gotten as much as $300,000 to play one game against a Division I-A school. Miami has guaranteed $80,000 for this game, assistant athletics director Mike Harris said.

The last-minute scheduling and a lower travel budget needed for a trip from Terre Haute to Oxford pushed Indiana State to accept the lower payout, Myers said.

Miami is the only Division IA school the Sycamores will face this year after a fallout with Pittsburgh left an opening in MU's schedule. Myers said she would like to keep Indiana States' "money games" to one a year - the "fairest situation to put our team in," Myers said.

On the other hand, this is a fairly unfamiliar situation for Miami, which has had contracts with bigger Bowl Championship Series schools such as Iowa, LSU and now Michigan for many of its recent nonconference games.

The RedHawks were set for the second game in a two-year contract with Colorado State this season, when the Rams, who lost to Miami 41-21 last year, reneged on the game, asking for it to be pushed to a future date, yet to be decided.

The last time Miami played a current Division I-AA school was in 1982 against William and Mary. Division I-A schools are allowed to play one Division I-AA school every four years and have it count toward their bowl eligibility.

On top of all the odds, Indiana State has to face Miami in its first game under new lights while the RedHawks are riding a 13-game winning streak.

But the Sycamores, who went 0-7 in conference last season, could have a better outlook this year after adding 20 transfers, 12 from Division I-A schools, in the offseason.

"They are a dangerous opponent, and we're looking at this as playoff game No. 1," Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said Tuesday. "We can't wait to play them."

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