By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Some Ivy League football programs can look down the road and know their schedules already are completed for quite a while.
Princeton, for example, is booked through 2017, with some of the following seasons not far behind in the planning stage.
But some teams in the Ancient Eight might be double-checking to see if their schedules are marked in pencil and not ink. Monday's announcement by the Patriot League that it will start to offer football scholarships with the 2013 season will have some affect on scheduling with its sister league, the Ivy League, over the long term.
It's not that the non-scholarship Ivy schools are going to cut the cord on the Patriot League competition - far from it. But Ivy programs no doubt will look elsewhere for opponents a little more, especially when the maximum of 15 scholarships per recruiting class start to add up at Patriot schools and they get markedly better.
In future years, perhaps Princeton will schedule two Patriot opponents and look toward the Pioneer Football League, the only other non-scholarship FCS league beginning in 2013, or perhaps a scholarship school from a league lower in stature than the Patriot League, like the Northeast Conference or the Mid- Eastern Athletic Conference.
San Diego, from the PFL, already has built a relationship with Ivy competition, while Marist and Columbia are a strong geographical fit and have built a relationship.
PFL members like Butler (it has a home-and-home with Dartmouth over the next two seasons), Jacksonville, Dayton, Drake, Davidson, Campbell, even Mercer or Stetson when they begin play in 2013, could become more attractive to the Ivies. Such games would satisfy wide-spread alumni and develop more recruiting bases.
Ivy teams held their own this past season while going 3-3 against scholarship programs, but they were a combined 6-21 in the five prior seasons (2006-10), and that is not a welcomed trend to them.
Just looking to the past, Brown got out of its series with Holy Cross when the Crusaders had scholarships in the late 1980s and early 1990s and only renewed the relationship once the Patriot program dropped the scholarships.
Harvard, like Penn a perennial Ivy power, has avoided playing scholarship opponents under veteran head coach Tim Murphy, enjoying rivalries with schools like Holy Cross and Lafayette. Of course, those Patriot League teams have scholarships on the way.
Georgetown will be in demand with more Ivy programs if, unlike the rest of the Patriot League, the Hoyas decide to keep offering only need-based financial aid and not the merit-based financial aid that is football scholarships.
Changes in scheduling between the Ivy and Patriot leagues might be subtle in upcoming years, but greater change is out there when future schedules start to have openings again and the Patriot scholarships keep adding up.
The two academically elite leagues have been great playing partners. Keeping the same relationship just may not be smart for the Ivy League.