In 2011, Alabama wrapped up a successful home-and-home with the Big Ten's Penn State. But according to a report, it apparently wasn't so successful that Nick Saban wanted to relive the experience with Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported Saturday that in an effort to beef up the Badgers' nonconference schedule, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema approached Alabama about a potential home-and-home series with the Crimson Tide-- Bielema's counter-idea after ESPN brought the two schools together to discuss a potential neutral-site game. But according to Badger athletic director Barry Alvarez, Saban declined.
Bielema and Alvarez aren't giving up on the idea of a high-profile nonconference matchup just yet, with Bielema revealing this week that he had approached Notre Dame's Brian Kelly about a possible home-and-home during the Fighting Irish's 2018-2019 hiatus from their annual rivalry game against Michigan. The Badgers haven't traditionally scheduled aggressively outside of conference -- the past three seasons have seen Wisconsin play just two BCS nonconference opponents, Arizona State and Oregon State, both at Camp Randall Stadium -- but Alvarez is concerned about the impact of strength-of-schedule on his team's ability to qualify for the four-team playoff debuting in 2014.
As for the Tide, Saban and Co. have not been particularly shy about arranging at least one heavyweight non-league matchup on the schedule -- in the past five seasons, Alabama has faced Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Penn State twice -- but have not faced two nonconference BCS teams in the same season under Saban. Saban has also expressed his preference for playing that matchup at neutral sites over home-and-homes, explaining this season's Dallas-hosted tilt against Michigan and their coming Chick-Fil-A Kickoff appearances against Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
Still, that hasn't stopped Alabama from also agreeing to a home-and-home with Saban's former employers at Michigan State in 2016 and 2017. It's easy to see a potential Wisconsin series as simply one Big Ten series too far. (It's also not outside the realm of possibility for the SEC to switch to Saban's preferred nine-game schedule before those hypothetical Wisconsin games were played.)
It's still something of a shame that Alabama has told the Badgers thanks-but-no-thanks, since watching the Tide go to Camp Randall would have been appointment viewing. And it's more than a little admirable that after years of lazy scheduling, Alvarez and Bielema have begun looking for bigger and brighter matchups. (The Alabama series would have even wound up on the same slates, presumably, as the Badgers' future dates in the Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling agreement, giving them a pair of BCS nonconference games.)
But it's also not a surprise that the Tide declined. As long as they can continue arranging for blockbuster neutral-site games in major recruiting areas -- and it's hard to see why they couldn't -- programs approaching them for a home-and-home will need Alabama more than Alabama will need them.
HT: Andrew Gribble.
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