Ohio paying up to play Eastern

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

Win or lose the Eastern football team will walk out of Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio $325,000 richer on Saturday.

Ohio, like every other FBS program that schedules a game against a lower division team, will pay Eastern to play the Bobcats on the road.

Earlier this season, Eastern played against Minnesota, which is part of the Big Ten Conference. The Panthers received $400,000 from the Golden Gophers to go play at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.

Last season, Eastern played at Northern Illinois, which paid the Panthers $325,000. Like Northern Illinois, Ohio is part of the Mid-American Conference.

Former Eastern athletic director Barbara Burke, who scheduled these games during her tenure at Eastern said a lot of phone calls are needed to plan games in advance. The amount paid by schools is also parallel compared to what conference teams Eastern goes to play.

Since 2009, the Panthers have played against seven FBS teams. The 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Athens, will make it the eighth.

Along with Northern Illinois and Ohio, Eastern also played Western Michigan from the MAC in 2013. The Broncos also paid $325,000 to the Panthers.

“You can see the similarities (in the amount paid) and that goes back to being able to do the research and know who is paying what to whom and using that as a little bit of bargaining during the process,” Burke said.

The most Eastern has received to go play against an FBS team since 2009, was from Penn State, which paid $450,000 that year.

Before these past two seasons, Eastern has played two FBS opponents in the same year once since 2007. Before last year, when the Panthers played San Diego State and Northern Illinois, they last had two games against FBS schools in 2008, when they played Central Michigan of the MAC and Illinois of the Big Ten.

Burke said she took advantage of the opportunity to schedule a second FBS team last year and this season.

“The calendar was such that FCS schools by NCAA rules could schedule an additional non-conference game,” Burke said. ‘So, we could have scheduled another FCS opponent or an FBS opponent, and we took the opportunity to schedule a second FBS opponent to help us with our budget.”

From 2009 through 2014, Eastern will receive a total of $2.825 million from eight FBS schools.

Aldo Soto can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]