FOOTBALL: Schedule lacks bye week, TV games

Parrish calls 2010 slate "fan-friendly"

With the announcement of the 2010 Ball State University schedule Monday, some features of the football season that became commonplace on campus have vanished.

Gone are the midweek football parties, the ESPN visits and the invariably awkward Thanksgiving week game.

While the Cardinals' four nonconference games have been known since November, the Mid-American Conference released the rest of the schedule. Of the deviations from what has become normal at Ball State, the most worrisome for coach Stan Parrish is the lack of a bye week.

"It's a grind," he said. "If you have [a bye] in the late middle of the season, I think it's great. It's tough playing straight through."

The Cardinals are the only MAC team without a bye. The rest of the conference will complete the season Thanksgiving week, while Ball State finishes the year Nov. 20 at home against Northern Illinois University.

Athletic director Tom Collins said the decision was the conference's, but he is happy with the result.

"I think it's good for us, especially if we're in the mix for a bowl game," he said.

Of the six MAC games scheduled for Thanksgiving week, five will be played Friday, when most students are at home. Ball State has played Western Michigan University on the
Tuesday before Thanksgiving the last two years, and both games drew more than 20,000 people.

"Those are tough issues," Collins said. "The last time we had a home game then, we had the biggest student crowd. If you're playing well, I think it plays into your favor. If not, it doesn't."

Parrish views the final week of the season as a bye week and hopes the Cardinals are playing well enough to utilize it.

"It's a long season already," he said. "To wrap up before that, if we're a bowl team, it gives us time to rest."

After the opener against Southeast Missouri State University on Thursday, Sept. 2, Ball State will play only one other game during the week. The absence of midweek games is a benefit to the Cardinals, as they won't have to worry about getting back to Muncie well after midnight on weeknights. However, it means the Cardinals won't appear on ESPN much.

"It's good and bad that we don't have Wednesday and Thursday games," Parrish said. "We don't have the TV games, but it's a more normal schedule. I think it's really fan friendly and student friendly."

Ball State is only scheduled to appear on the ESPN family of networks when they visit the University at Buffalo on Nov. 12. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU at 6 p.m.

Collins said he expects more TV games to be added as a part of the MAC's syndication package.

"I'm pretty confident we'll pick up another TV game or two," Collins said.

Until the TV schedule is finalized in early June, Collins said Ball State won't be able to release game times.

Only the Buffalo game has a time announced already. It is also one of the games Parrish has circled on his calendar.

"We haven't played Buffalo since the [2008] MAC Championship Game," he said. "I'm looking forward to that game. Hopefully players look forward to it as well."

In addition to Buffalo, Ball State will play Kent State University and the University of Akron in crossover games with the MAC East. Parrish said he expects the Golden Flashes to compete for the division title, but he isn't interested in attempting to break down the crossover opponents.

"A year ago, I thought our crossover was pretty good," he said. "We ended up playing best teams on that side. If you start trying to figure that out, you'll be way off base. In our league, if you're not ready, you're going to get beat."

The Cardinals are also sizing up a difficult three-game road trip early in the year. Ball State will visit Purdue University, the University of Iowa and Central Michigan University in weeks 3-5.

"Playing two Big Ten teams will give us a good barometer about how good the team is," Parrish said. "Then Central Michigan starts second phase of our season. That's as tough a stretch as anyone in our league is going to play this season. To have a good team, we have to come through those things."

2 Southeast Missouri State
11 Liberty
18 at Purdue
25 at Iowa

2 at Central Michigan
9 Western Michigan
16 Eastern Michigan
23 at Toledo
30 at Kent State

6 Akron
12 at Buffalo, 6 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
20 Northern Illinois


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