College football is all about the learning experience. Not.
A dozen schools will start the 2006 season with the clock ticking on their status as full-fledged members of the NCAA's highest football-playing division.
And when the season kicks off in about two weeks, it will be important for those schools to get the turnstiles spinning.
The NCAA's attendance requirement for continued full-fledged status in the association's Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) can be met if a school averages 15,000 in actual or paid attendance for all home games one time during a rolling two-year period.
Twelve teams fell short of that goal last year and were sent a "courtesy letter" by the NCAA, reminding them of the requirement, NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said. The schools averaging fewer than 15,000 were Bowling Green, Louisiana-Monroe, Ball State, Temple, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State, Akron, Rice, Buffalo, Kent State and Eastern Michigan, which was last nationally at 5,219 a game. Six of the teams are in the Mid-American Conference, three in the Western Athletic Conference.
The strategies the teams use to build attendance are not necessarily in the best interest of the players.
[Bowling Green will play] three home games in September, including the opener against Wisconsin at Cleveland Brown Stadium, which counts as a home contest for Bowling Green, Campbell said. The school is anticipating 30,000-40,000 for the Badgers.
It may count as a home game for Bowling Green, but Wisconsin has some of the more loyal road fans, and an opportunity to prowl the riverfront (which has been gentrified) and visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame makes for a promising road trip.

Northern Illinois will be doing something similar with Iowa coming to Soldier Field. That's an easy road trip for Iowans, and there are more than a few Iowa expats in Greater DeKalb. But it has nothing to do with money.

The problem Northern Illinois has faced with scheduling such games is injuries to key players. There is enough of a difference between the top of the Mid-American and the top of the Big Ten that top performing players in Mid-American games can be badly whipped in these games. Although margin of victory doesn't figure in the bowl rankings the way it used to, there are still incentives for the Big Ten teams to run up scores on their Mid-American opponents. And in the end, the visibility gained may not be all that great. Bowling Green's experience is likely to be similar against Wisconsin.

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