‘Body Bag’ Games New UH Norm

A look at future non-conference football schedules for UH shows a changing landscape in which power conference teams have more leverage than ever before.

There was a time when UH could arrange home-and-home series against many of college football’s big boys, but now the best Hawaii can negotiate are single road games, albeit ones with significant paychecks.

These so-called “body bag” games can bring $1 million or more – UH will receive $1.2 million for serving as a sacrificial lamb at Ohio State if things progress as expected, and a million more for competing in the Big House at Michigan.

And despite that such schools are bringing you in with the expectation of delivering a thorough whipping and sending you on your way, those plans can occasionally go awry. They are still talking in Boone, N.C., about the Appalachian State team that went to Ann Arbor and shocked the Wolverines. And it should prove useful for recruiting, because prospective student athletes want that taste of the big time.

But those opportunities should be occasional rather than constant. An insistence on “anyone, anytime, anyplace” is a big part of the reason that Pat Hill is no longer at Fresno State. Several early season tilts against programs with more talent and greater depth can lead to beat-downs that can affect your chances of success in conference. One or two games a year against that level of competition is fun for players and exciting for the fan base. Any more than that and negative effects start to snowball.

Remember when opponents were attracted by the Hawaii exemption, which allowed them an extra home game? With 12 regular season games and conference championship games, an extra game is no longer so desirable. And the dates for conference championships make it problematic to schedule marquee opponents at end of the season.

Might it be possible to schedule a conditional game with another team from the same division in a conference to come in case of a conflict? It’s never been done, but this kind of out-of-the-box thinking might be necessary in the future.

* All pro sports leagues have a copycat element, and the hiring of freshly retired future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd by the Brooklyn Nets with no coaching experience of any kind comes on the heels of the success of first-year Golden State coach Mark Jackson, who had a similar lack of a coaching resume. Jackson proved that the ability to relate and motivate was easily a match for a lack of experience in strategy and tactics.

The Brooklyn Nets are a little different from Golden State. They have no cap room and are hamstrung by some big contracts, so Kidd will have to work with what is already there. Hard to imagine he’d do better than interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who was not retained despite having been one of the NBA’s more successful coaches in the second half of the season.