— Joining the Big Ten means that Maryland's football team will soon have Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and other schools as new division opponents. But it also means the school's nonconference schedules are being upgraded and that some previously-scheduled games could be dropped.
The Big Ten wants Maryland — which joins the conference in 2014 — and its other members to stop scheduling Football Championship Subdivision opponents.
As a result, according to multiple officials, Maryland may drop at least some of their planned games with FCS schools in future seasons. The schools include James Madison, Richmond and Howard.
While it is too soon to say which games might be cut, the school said it would honor all existing contracts. Nonconference contracts typically contain buyout provisions if one school needs to withdraw.
There is another factor at work besides strength of schedule. The Big Ten is moving to nine conference games in 2016. The extra league contest will result in shorter nonconference schedules — and the weaker opponents are likely to be the ones sacrificed.
Maryland plays Old Dominion, an FCS school, in the second game of the 2013 season on Sept. 7. That game will be played as scheduled.
In strengthening schedules, the Big Ten wants its schools to be well positioned for the college football playoff, which begins following the 2014 season. The conference also wants matchups that generate favorable television ratings.
Maryland fans have long said they want the school to boost its nonconference schedule.
"People told me when I arrived that strength of schedule was one of the things that we needed to look at," said Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson last week.
Maryland and other schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision can award 85 football scholarships, while FCS schools are allotted 63.
FCS schools often rely heavily on the revenue from games with Football Bowl Subdivision opponents to aid their budgets. For Football Bowl Subdivision programs, the matchups against FCS schools fill home dates and can pad their records.
Maryland's FCS games typically don't draw as well as others. Maryland opened 2012 with a 7-6 win over William & Mary that drew 31,321 to Byrd Stadium. It was Maryland's lowest home attendance of the season.
"I do think there is an advantage to this (schedule upgrade)," said Larry Grabenstein, a 30-year booster and former chairman of the Maryland Gridiron Network, which raises money for special football projects.
"When you upgrade the competition, there won't be the human inclination to look beyond somebody," Grabenstein said. "And you'll prepare that much more."
Maryland's future nonconference opponents also include big-name teams — such as West Virginia and Texas — that are expected to draw well. The Terps play West Virginia next season at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 21. Texas appears on the schedule in 2017 and 2018.
Maryland recently committed to play at South Florida in 2014 with a return game in College Park the following season.
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