By Chris Carlson
© September 11, 2012
Norfolk State athletic director Marty Miller stepped forward, holding a green-and-gold jersey, thinking briefly that he was posing for an individual picture.
He looked back toward ODU athletic director Wood Selig and paused, waiting for Selig to join him, the two combining to figure out the best way to hold two jerseys and a football among four hands.
After all, the schools are officially in this together now.
The athletic directors from ODU and NSU announced a new two-game football contract on Tuesday during a press conference at the Norfolk Sheraton Waterside.
The Monarchs will play at NSU on Oct. 26, 2013, a game that fills a vacancy in a difficult-to-fill schedule for Old Dominion and promises to fill Dick Price Stadium. In return, the Spartans will visit Old Dominion two years later on Sept. 12, 2015.
"What we're trying to do is create goodwill," Miller said. "Goodwill between the schools and in the community. Our fans are excited and our student-athletes are excited. It's an asset to the city of Norfolk."
Besides goodwill, the home-and-home agreement is anchored in good business, with each team keeping the ticket sales from its home game.
The game at NSU provides Norfolk State the potential to sell out its first home game since the inaugural game at Dick Price Stadium in 1997, a result that could bring in as much as $600,000.
Old Dominion, meanwhile, won't have to pay a six-figure guarantee to bring in an opponent in 2015, a common practice in college football.
"After Wood and (associate athletic director) Bruce (Stewart) and I discussed it, we just felt like it was a good thing for both universities and a good thing for the city of Norfolk," ODU head coach Bobby Wilder said.
The announcement was a diplomatic solution to continue a series that didn't tie the teams to a six-year home-and-home contract they'd signed before Old Dominion jumped to the larger, more prestigious, FBS.
ODU officials felt they had to break that deal because bigger programs rarely travel to smaller programs, due to both prestige and because FCS games are used to ease into the season.
Selig said that after 2014, when ODU becomes an FBS program, the Monarchs won't go on the road to play Norfolk State, William and Mary or any other FCS program.
"It would be impossible for us to do that," he said. "It's not done anywhere."
Miller said he remains hopeful something will change to make another game at Dick Price possible.
Before the press conference, Miller and Selig chatted amicably. Each thanked the other for making the new agreement work. They hope to schedule more games between the schools.
"Wood and I have worked very well together," Miller said.
The initial contract included a $100,000 buyout, one that Norfolk State didn't attempt to pursue because the amount was insignificant when compared to a mutually beneficial relationship.
"There's always a clause that says unless you change classifications or drop football," Selig said. "This was one of those departures. To Norfolk State's credit, maybe other schools would have said you've got this six-year deal, you're going to honor it. It's in writing. But they never took that approach. It was always, 'We know the six-year is not viable. Let's see how we can work this out.'"
The series also represents a significant change in scheduling philosophy for Norfolk State.
The Spartans will pause their series with Division II Virginia State, an annual rivalry that has been played every year since 1963, in order to play three FBS opponents in 2015, a rarity for schools like NSU.
"I'm not saying we're not going to play them again, but we're not going to play them that year," Miller said. "It's been a great series, but we have to keep in mind that we're a nationally ranked program, and you don't get the same points for games like that."
Norfolk State already had contracts to play both Marshall and Rutgers that year, and the Spartans are currently scheduled to play the three FBS opponents within a four-week span. The Spartans have played FBS opponents four times in the last five years, losing by an average score of 46-4 to Rutgers (twice), Kentucky and West Virginia.
While most FCS schools play one or two games against bigger opponents, trading an assumed loss for a paycheck, they do not usually play three games against bigger competition.
No MEAC team scheduled three games against FBS opponents this season. Four scheduled two.
"It's a very ambitious schedule," Miller said. "We want to make a statement that this is a fine football program. We want to get our players on the national stage, experiencing what that's like, as often as possible. We have some of the most outstanding players in the country. I think we have a chance to win them all."
Regardless of who wins the two scheduled games between Old Dominion and Norfolk State, Miller and Selig said both schools, their athletic departments and their fan bases come out ahead.
Last year's playoff game between the two generated one of the more festive and passionate crowds South Hampton Roads has seen, one that the schools hope to duplicate at least two more times.
"You have two top-25 programs 5 miles apart," Selig said. "It was the right thing to do for both schools and for the community. The atmosphere was electric last season when we played Norfolk State in the playoffs. The chance to get the teams together again two more times, it just makes sense."
Chris Carlson, 757-446-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org
Harry Minium, 757-446-2371, email@example.com
For original article, click here.
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