NCAA board OKs 12 games

In a meeting Friday, the NCAA board added a 12th game for all Division I-A teams.

by David McCoy

Looks like now really is the time for Minnesota’s football team to start winning those last few games.

That’s because there’ll be one more starting in 2006.

At a meeting Friday in Indianapolis, the NCAA Division I-A Board of Directors approved adding a 12th football game for all Division I-A programs.

The board decided not to add a 12th game for Division I-AA programs.

Gophers coach Glen Mason has been opposed to the adjustment throughout the entire process, saying it’s bad for the players.

But Athletics Director Joel Maturi said he sees it differently.

“I’m an athletics director, and he’s a football coach,” Maturi said. “I’m very conscious of the revenue needed, and it’s not on his list. He’s just concerned with coaching football.”

Maturi said he’s found there are actually more athletes in favor of having the 12th game than there are against it.

He also said he believes the extra game will not negatively affect the players at all.

“The season won’t be extended, the players won’t miss any more class time and we didn’t have any more injuries in the years that we did play 12 games,” Maturi said.

Minnesota played 12 regular-season games in 2002 and 2003.

Maturi said Minnesota expects to gain an additional $500,000 on the 12th game, and that figure could increase if the Gophers open an on-campus stadium in 2008.

This is especially with the honeymoon period of high attendance that typically accompanies new stadiums.

“Obviously, it’s a whole new game with ticket sales,” Maturi said. “That’s a significant factor. There’s also concessions, parking, suite revenue and (advertising) dollars that we don’t get at the Dome.”

The board also approved something that proved beneficial to Minnesota last season.

Minnesota had to count one of its victories against I-AA Illinois State to be bowl-eligible last year.

That was something programs were only able to do once every four years. But the board also changed that rule Friday, enabling teams to count a I-AA victory toward bowl eligibility every year.

Maturi said the full ramifications of that move haven’t yet been determined.

“The NCAA has not yet determined if you will need to win six or seven out of 12 (to be bowl eligible),” Maturi said.

The board also approved a measure to help Division I-A teams with low attendance retain their I-A status.

Previous criteria called for teams to have an average of 15,000 fans in actual attendance at home games each season.

The new rule allows teams to have either an average of 15,000 in paid attendance or an average of 15,000 in actual attendance during a two-year period instead of each year.

That rule will have no effect on Minnesota, however, as the Gophers averaged 47,573 fans at home last year.

Both the measure involving using I-AA teams for bowl eligibility and the measure on attendance requirements take effect next season.

The likely result of the new 12th game is that Minnesota will play an additional Division I-AA opponent at home.

Maturi said he would prefer to play a rotating schedule against local I-AA teams North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Montana State and Northern Iowa.

“It makes sense to play someone in your region rather than thousands of miles away,” Maturi said. “Having that name identification might bring more fans. It’s something we’re very serious about looking into.”