MOBILE (Press-Register.com) - Some have wondered aloud why South Alabama would schedule a football game in Hawaii in 2012.
Let's see if I can help you with this one.
First of all, hello, it's in Hawaii.
Second, and equally as important, is the cost.
"We are fortunate that the trip will be financed by the University of Hawaii, as it is a single game at their stadium and not a home-and-home series," director of athletics Dr. Joel Erdmann said in announcing the game.
Recruiting is also important. Coach Joey Jones admitted having a game at Hawaii on the schedule doesn't hurt when on the recruiting trail, just as it doesn't hurt to show future schedules that include LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State, Southern Miss and Navy.
Scheduling is a tricky component to building a program. Officials at SEC schools and other major conferences wrestle to find a balance between tough league opponents and non-conference foes in order to get as many home games as possible while adding games of interest to fans.
When Troy moved up to Division I, it gained a national reputation for scheduling established programs such as Nebraska, Florida, Miami, Arkansas, Ohio State and Florida State. Most were played on the road. It gave Troy a bump it needed in making its move up the college football ladder.
South Alabama fans have enjoyed the fact the Jags haven't lost a game in two seasons, but the path the team has taken has some fans now calling for more impressive foes. After a first season of defeating prep schools and junior college teams, the Jags faced tougher opponents last season and played their first three road games. This season, the schedule jumps in competition and challenges.
Back-to-back road games at North Carolina State and Kent State after opening the season at home against Division II West Alabama and Lamar, a team it beat on the road last season, will mark the first Football Bowl Subdivision games for South Alabama. Cal Poly is on this season's 10-game schedule as well as Georgia State, Texas-San Antonio and Mississippi Valley State. There are four road games this year and two of the games (San Antonio and Atlanta) will be played in domes.
The Jags' trip to Hawaii not only offers what Jones termed a "bowl game for us" and a chance for fans to make a good trip, it pits the Jags against a good opponent. That's also true of 2012 games at Mississippi State and N.C. State and a home game against Texas-San Antonio. Eight games against Sun Belt teams will be added to that schedule.
The Hawaii game not only is a good opportunity and a good scheduling move, it's an indication the Jags program is moving in a good direction.