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Are Alabama and Arkansas avoiding their responsibility as flagship programs?


By now you've probably seen Northern Illinois' ad calling out Illinois. The two have played four times in their history, most recently in 2010, and the Illini have won all four meetings. The alumni that put the ad together no doubt want a pound-your-chest moment against the flagship school as their respective programs move in opposite directions, especially after Northern Illinois took down Northwestern last week.

Logic would tell us there is also a separate motive here for Northern Illinois: money. Tomorrow Northern Illinois plays at UNLV. A week from now, Northern Illinois will travel to Arkansas for a guarantee game. On that same day, Illinois trucks in Texas State for a similar guarantee. This makes no sense.

We've gone on record on this subject before, wondering why Arkansas refuses to play Arkansas State. The same scene happening in Illinois next week happened last Saturday in Arkansas, as Arkansas paid Nicholls State for the opportunity to beat them 73-7, while Arkansas State traveled to Tennessee for a guarantee. Would someone mind asking Jeff Long to explain how this is good for the game?

Guilty as the Razorbacks may be, they are not the most egregious offenders of the in-state scheduling shun this season. That belongs to Alabama. 

The Crimson Tide will pay Southern Miss a whopping $1.4 million to drive the two and a half hours to Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Meanwhile, LSU will pay Louisiana-Monroe $975,000, and Ohio State will pay Kent State $850,000. Those are each massive sums of money, especially so at the mid-major level, and the Tigers and Buckeyes have kept those funds in-state. And Alabama will pay half a million dollars more than that.

Not only is Alabama sending it out of state, they've sent it to a Conference USA program. Instead of helping an "in-state" - and, beyond that, a school inside the University of Alabama system - school, Alabama has actively made life more difficult for UAB by funding an in-conference opponent. (UAB hosts Alabama A&M on Saturday, proving there is not a state law against in-state non-conference games for University of Alabama system schools.)

Some schools have better track records on this topic than others. LSU, Clemson and South Carolina deserve credit for their long history of taking care of their in-state programs. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have both made recent visits to Tulsa. On the other hand, Florida and Tennessee don't have a long track record of playing their mid-major neighbors, but each has at least done so recently.

Alabama and Arkansas can't say that.

Which leads us to this: If you're going to call yourself the flagship program of your state and the leader of the sport within your borders, don't you have a duty to act like it?