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The logic behind adding Duquesne to 2022 schedule

When Florida State scheduled Duquesne for the 2022 schedule, most Seminole fans reacted adversely. My first reaction wasn’t anger but curiosity: Why did FSU chose to schedule the Dukes? After serving 20 years in the Seminole Booster administration working with Athletics trying to strengthen home schedules, my bet was there was a damn good but nuanced reason for doing so.

So, I asked Jim Curry — who is the senior associate athletic director in charge of football scheduling — the obvious question.

To my way of thinking, the reason is solid and not quite like anything you’ve heard before. It’s creative and delivers a number of benefits that don’t immediately come to mind. 

The “why” came about because of a unique piece of NCAA legislation involving what is called “Week Zero” scheduling. The NCAA grants any team who plays at Hawaii the opportunity to play in Week Zero, before the regular season begins and to take an extra bye week, as a means of “compensating” them for the time and challenge of travel across so many time zones.

The benefit of playing the Week Zero game early also means you can start your summer camp a week early, so it’s a great benefit to those teams playing at Hawaii. 

Unfortunately, FSU isn’t playing at Hawaii, but Duquesne is and therefore Florida State is able to enjoy the following benefits by playing Duquesne:

1. Get a home game under its belt before playing LSU in New Orleans;

2. Gain an extra week of preparation before the LSU game by starting preseason camp a week earlier;

3. Gain the extra bye week, which FSU hopes to schedule right after the LSU game and before the start of the conference schedule;

4. Potential for television to agree to a night game as it will be one of only a few games played that week to kick off the 2022 season;

5. The NCAA allowed FBS schools to count two wins against FCS teams toward bowl eligibility. That will go back to one win in 2022, assuming no pandemic, but a win against Duquesne would count toward eligibility;

6. Held the cost of the game to $400,000, which is the same amount paid to teams that don’t have to travel as far to Doak, so FSU will incur no premium or cost increase to schedule Week Zero versus any other FCS team in any other week.

Give Curry credit for being aware of the Week Zero rule, which he had been looking for the right time to execute.

“There is a very-nuanced exception in the rule book, where teams that are playing at Hawaii in a given year have the opportunity to play in Week Zero,” Curry said. “It’s kind of something that I just have tracked for a little bit, just knowing the dynamic there but it’s hard to come to fruition because there’s so few teams that are eligible to play in Week Zero and then it’s got to just match up for everybody. You get the Mountain West Conference opponents that go out to Hawaii and a couple of non-conference opponents, so it’s only six or seven teams a year who are going out there.

“I’ve kind of always had it on my radar but never found the right time to get it deployed because we’ve always scheduled a really competitive Week 1 opponent. What’s really unique about it, in my mind, is that it occurred with an FCS opponent.”

Curry said this gave FSU an opportunity to consider whether to play a home game before going to New Orleans to play LSU in 2022.

“We were originally having some conversations with some FCS schools but then became aware Duquesne was looking for a guarantee game in that season,” Curry said. 

Playing Duquesne, rather than another FCS school, added the Week Zero benefits.

“So between the opportunities to get this game in at home, the manufacturing of a second bye, and the ability to be able to get the preseason summer camp started a week earlier than normal, without any type of additional cost increase in the guarantee, it had so many positives, it seemed hard to pass up,” Curry said.

All Curry needed was a thumbs up from above.

“I went to Coach Norvell and presented this and said, ‘Hey, you know, we have a really unique opportunity here. What do you think?’ ” Curry said. “He was really supportive of the idea.”

“Playing Duquesne in Week Zero really set up nicely by presenting a great opportunity for us to get on the field one week sooner and just get another game in at home before we played LSU in New Orleans,” Curry said.

Whether the bye will fall right after the LSU game will be determined by how the Atlantic Coast Conference scheduling works out. And whether the game can kick off at night will be determined by television but FSU will request it and likes their chances.

“We can’t dictate the second week bye entirely right now,” Curry said. “We still have some coordination going in the next year but our expressed intent is to try to get that bye after the LSU game, which is a nice kind of timing, knowing that you’ve got another bye week later in the year,” Curry said. “We also like our chances of a night game as it’s one of the few Week Zero games.”

Building better schedules

Curry and I were in joint Seminole Booster/Athletic staff meetings when the subject often centered on building a better home football schedule with seven opponents rather than six, one Seminole fans will buy. While the Duquesne game raises eyebrows, Curry does not see the signing of Duquesne as a deviation from Florida State’s effort to build a stronger home schedule as that 2022 home schedule already includes Florida, Clemson and Georgia Tech and Duquesne gives FSU a seventh home game in spite of playing LSU in New Orleans. 

Curry points to already signed home-and-home series coming with non-conference powerhouse programs Notre Dame (2021, 2026, 2029), Alabama (2025), Florida (2022, 2024, 2026, 2028, 2030), Georgia (2027) and conference opponents Clemson (2022, 2024, 2026, 2028, 2030), Georgia Tech (2022) and Miami (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027, 2029).

While not as desirable, I think most FSU fans see NC State (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027, 2029) and Louisville (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027, 2029) as competitive and attractive home games.

The emphasis on getting seven home games in Doak every year is also coming to fruition. “Beginning with the 2021 season, during the next 10 years (2021-2030), we will have more home games in Doak than in any prior 10-year period in program history,” Curry said. “Not only more games but the overall quality of those games will have improved.”

Here’s a look at the full schedule year by year: https://seminoles.com/future-football-schedules/. Please note many of the schedules after 2024 are not yet complete as Florida State is being patient about signing future non-conference opponents.

When FSU signed Louisiana Monroe and the University of Massachusetts, it was very much a seller’s market.

“The teams that were looking to buy those games across the Power 5 outnumbered the teams that we’re looking to sell so the price went up,” Curry said. “It’s just simple supply and demand analysis. And it limited us in terms of who was available. And two, it created a dynamic where we were gonna have to pay a little more. The market dynamics were really driving up costs. What’s interesting is as you start to look out into 2025 and beyond, you’re starting to see the market slip and so we do not have games scheduled that far yet because, we’re just letting the market fall. We’ve been very clear with folks that we are unwilling to pay the money that was associated with those games in the past.”

Duquesne Football 101

I’m not old enough to have seen Duquesne play in the Orange Bowl but I am enough of an Orange Bowl geek to gave poured over every page of the Orange Bowl programs as a kid, including the history pages which documented its early years. It was fun to go back this week to verify my memory of Duquesne’s part in that bowl’s history. The Bowl dates back to the Great Depression when, inspired by what Pasadena, Calif. was doing to promote its economy with the Rose Bowl, created “the Festival of Palms Bowl” which soon was renamed the Orange Bowl. 

The Festival of Palms pitted a selected team against the University of Miami. The Hurricanes defeated Manhattan in the inaugural game on January 2, 1933 and were beaten 33-7 by Duquesne — Go Dukes — in the January 2, 1934 game. 

Here’s a fun fact: the head coach for Duquesne was Elmer Layden, one of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.

The NCAA didn’t recognize those games as one opponent (Miami) was guaranteed a slot in the game, so the city created the Orange Bowl in 1935, which means only the Rose Bowl is older.

Duquesne beat Mississippi State 13-12 in the third official Orange Bowl (January, 1937).

Layden left to take the head job in South Bend, one coach after Knute Rockne, and led the Irish for seven winning seasons (47–13–3).

Another fun football fact: Duquesne was ranked No. 14 in the final AP poll, which was the first AP poll.

Duquesne won seven regular season games in 1933 with upsets of No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 7 Marquette, but think about this each of their regular season wins were shutouts. Their two losses were to West Virginia Wesleyan 0-2 and at Detroit 14-7, so the Dukes were only scored on twice in nine regular season games. 

Toss this into the Wiki history trivia bucket: head coach Layden came up with the system of hand signals for officials and for wearing different colored jerseys for home and away games. A Duquesne football manager came up with the idea for playing the first night game under the lights at Forbes Field. Duquesne waxed their opponent and were nicknamed the “Night Riders.”

We know football was interrupted at Florida State in 1905 by the Buckman Act — when Florida became just for men and Florida State College for Women just for women — before being re-started after World War II when the two institutions became co-educational. Duquesne’s elite status — the sixth-winningest team in college football from 1933-1943 — was interrupted by World War II as Duquesne cancelled ball after achieving a No. 10 ranking in 1939, when they turned down the Cotton Bowl, and a No. 8 ranking in 1941.

Duquesne played club football from 1969-78, became an NCAA Division III program, before returning to NCAA Division I FCS status the same year Charlie Ward led FSU to its first national championship.

The Dukes have suffered four losing seasons since going DI in 1993 with 16 Conference Championships, 11 in the Metro Athletic Association Championships (1994-2007) and five in the Northeast Athletic Association (2008-present). Seven times they’ve been ranked in the top 10 of the FCS Mid Major Sports Network. They’ve made the FCS playoffs twice (2015, 2018) losing to William & Mary in 2015, beating Towson State in 2018 in the first round before losing to South Dakota State in the second round. 

Want to know more about Duquesne click here.