USC is the number four ranked team, and opened its football season against San Jose State, a team that is not even ranked in the top 50. As expected, USC blew out SJSU, winning by the score of 56-3. Logically, it doesn’t make sense for SJSU to open up their season against a perennial powerhouse like USC. They start the season off with a loss, not the best way to start. SJSU would have to be insane if they thought they would pull off the upset. But maybe SJSU knew all along they didn’t have a shot at the win, and there was another motivation. If you follow college football you know that these games are called “paycheck games.” That means that small schools like SJSU accept to play powerhouses like USC during the first week because they get money to play them.
According to an article on Sports Illustrated’s website, Ann Killion reported that the guaranteed payday that SJSU received was in the “high six-figures.” Money is a great compensation for losing by 53 points, and so is being nationally televised. SJSU gets exposure, which can help them recruit more efficiently in the future, and the money they receive helps the athletic department. For USC, playing against an over-matched opponent is a good way to start the season because it helps transition players into the season. They re-acclimate themselves to the speed of football again and a win in the first game is a confidence booster. It’s a win-win for both schools.
Here is a question for the USF athletic department: is this something they consider for our sports teams? In 2004, Santa Clara University men’s basketball opened their season again at the time number four ranked University of North Carolina. That year UNC won the national title and Santa Clara, an unranked team beat them in their season opener. SCU was like SJSU in this game, an underdog facing a powerhouse for a season opener. This game allowed SCU to play in front of a national audience, helping them in the recruiting aspect. And it certainly helps that they pulled off the improbable upset. That’s the thing with sports; even in games like this, where one team has a clear advantage, an upset can always happen.
Wouldn’t it be great if USF hosted Kansas and beat them in War Memorial? I’m sure there would be a full crowd in that game. Everyone watching the game on TV would see this incredible upset and USF would get exposure all of the country. Like I said earlier, but this point actually needs repeating, this exposure would help tremendously in recruiting. The more popular a team is, the easier it is to recruit athletes.
This could be a way to help USF sports get to the next level. Although we have talented players, our school doesn’t get the same recruits that Gonzaga and St.Mary’s get. Those schools have more well-known sports programs because they receive more exposure. And they rightfully deserve the exposure they get because they win games and compete at the highest level. USF sports are improving and I am pleased and optimistic about what the basketball program has done, but we still are not competing for a national title. It would be exciting to watch a championship contending team and it would return our school to the glory days. Maybe a few “paycheck games” and the occasional big upset can get our team back to that level again. It’s just an idea, but maybe it’s worth a shot.