Sophomore running back Darian Green holds on the the ball to prevent a fumble on Sept. 26, 2015 at Ryan Field against Northwestern. DN File // Allison Coffin
Ball State to cash in $1.5 million for 2022 matchup at Tennessee
The Ball State football team has added another SEC matchup to its future schedule — and another big boost to the athletic budget.
Ball State Sports announced via Twitter on Aug. 30 that the Cardinals will make a trip to Neyland Stadium to play the Tennessee Volunteers in their 2022 season opener on Sept. 3. Tennessee will pay Ball State $1.5 million to play in the game, according to the guarantee contract provided with the Tennessee Athletics press release.
This is called a "guarantee game," where mid-major schools like Ball State are paid to play Power 5 Conference schools in games they are assumed to lose. The games are often lopsided, but athletic director Mark Sandy said it provides huge dividends to the athletic department.
Future Power 5 conference opponents
Sept. 2 at Illinois
Sept. 8 at Notre Dame
Sept. 15 at Indiana
(Date TBD) Ball State vs. Indiana at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis
Sept. 21 at North Carolina State
Sept. 12 at Michigan
Sept. 19 at Indiana
Sept. 11 at Penn State
Sept. 3 at Tennessee
"They're vital to our revenue stream, there's no question," he said. "Any of the teams we're playing now out of the Power 5, we're certainly getting more than $1 million. The guarantees are starting to approach $1.4 to 1.5 million."
Ball State played two guarantee games last season. The Cardinals received $1.9 million for these games — the second largest source of income on the budget.
In some cases, like last year's loss to Texas A&M, the Cardinals fell behind 49-3 by halftime. But Ball State has also taken Iowa and Northwestern, both Big Ten schools, to the ropes in the past two seasons.
"[The players and coaches] will say they like to step up and play the Power 5 Conferences every year for a game or so and see how they match up," Sandy said. "We don't play the SEC very often, so it's an intriguing game for us."
Ball State has several guarantee games lined up leading up to the 2022 game in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The Cardinals will hit the road to play Illinois in 2017, Notre Dame in 2018, North Carolina State in 2019, Michigan in 2020 and Penn State in 2021. Ball State will also travel to Indiana University in 2018 and 2020.
Ball State likely won't be favored to win any of those games, but there are benefits of playing in these types of games. The money, recruiting and the chance to challenge the best in the country often outweigh a non-conference loss.
"I think it's exciting for the players, and for the fans. And most of the games are within driving distance," Sandy said. "When recruits are looking at which school to go to, they look at future scheduling and non-conference to see where teams are willing to go."
After Ball State and Tennessee square off in 2022, Ball State will have played in four of the biggest five stadiums (Michigan, Penn State, Texas A&M, Tennessee) in the nation since 2015.
As indicated by the Cardinals' future schedule, guarantee games aren't going away any time soon for schools like Ball State. Head coach Mike Neu, however, said his focus is on this season's schedule.
"[Playing at Tennessee] is a great opportunity, but it's so far down the road," he said. "We're worried about Georgia State on [Sept. 2]. But certainly, when you have an opportunity like that, you want to make sure you take advantage of it."