Michigan State today announced plans for a trio of 3-1 series (three home games, one away) with Western, Central and Eastern Michigan. The visit to Mt. Pleasant in 2012 will be MSU's first visit to what is now a MAC school since 1899, when Eastern Michigan was still known as Michigan State Normal.
Now, I know Hollis and MSU President Lou Anna Simon are loyal to the state, but this was about money as much as anything. Here's what Hollis said of the reasons for making it:
Financially, the series provides a positive for each university with regards to game guarantees, regionalized travel expenses, and keeps revenues within the boundaries of the state of Michigan. The games will also provide a positive economic impact on the state of Michigan from teams and fans that spend dollars in our state with travel, housing, dining, and other activities on game days.Let me translate that for you: It's a helluvalot cheaper to bus a football team to East Lansing from Kalamazoo than fly them in from Montana. It's so much cheaper, in fact, that MSU will still make money off this deal even though they'll lose three home games over the next 10 years. Although, to be fair, one can't deny that on an altruistic level that Hollis knows most Spartan fans would rather see MSU-Eastern Michigan than MSU-Eastern Washington.
Some fans I've talked to wonder why we're giving Directional Michigan a return match. The answer to that, simply, is that FBS teams now just aren't signing one-off tilts like they used to. You saw this with Michigan, which tried to get a BCS-caliber team to open its 2010 season without a return date, but eventually had to settle for a home-and-home with UConn because no one would agree to a match in Ann Arbor without the Wolverines returning the favor.
On a more personal note, I love this move. Unequivocally love it. I've always thought MSU should have a constant, formulaic schedule that goes as follows:
vs. Directional Michigan
vs. FBS team of some quality or lower-level BCS team (Baylor, Vandy, Syracuse, Washington State, etc.)
vs. good BCS team (Alabama, Cal, WVa, etc.)
vs. Notre Dame
Big Ten Schedule
This move brings us one step closer to that ideal.
I've got one question that hasn't been answered, however, and it involves television. MSU has a streak of televised games stretching years back, but the Big Ten Network doesn't have guaranteed rights to away games. It won't be an issue if both teams are good, but what if Eastern's as terrible in 2018 or 2020 as they are now? My guess is that the Big Ten Network will sort out a one-off deal with the host MAC school to be able to show the game, particularly if one of the schools is as good as Western or Central are now.
Overall, this is a deal that makes total sense for all involved. It's a patriotic one, if one can be patriotic toward a state. Most importantly, it will save Michigan State's athletics department a ton of cash - and that's crucial given how bad the Michigan economy has been recently.