The USD football team will be playing national powerhouse Oklahoma University in 2019.
The game, scheduled to take place Sept. 7, will be USD’s second game of the season.
USD will be paid $575,000 to play OU in Norman, OK. These so-called “cupcake games” allow smaller schools, such as those in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), to play bigger schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The games are called cupcake games because bigger schools almost always defeat the smaller schools, and by a large margin, according to the Bleacher Report.
Cupcake games have many pros for the smaller schools, said David Herbster, USD’s athletic director.
“Part of it is monetary,” he said. “If you look at it in this case, $575,000 does help our budget. That’s part of it. I wouldn’t do it solely for the dollars.”
These games also help put the program and school on a bigger stage by playing teams with bigger TV deals and more fans, Herbster said.
“When you play the schools from the FBS program, especially in the Midwest, we get a wider audience in, too,” he said.
Herbster said there’s also a recruiting element to these games.
“When you’re recruiting players to come in here and you tell them that we’re going to be playing Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma, they want to know what type of competition they’re going to be playing,” Herbster said.
Bob Nielson, head coach of USD’s football team, said recruits respond positively when USD plays bigger schools.
“We want to recruit guys that want to play at the highest level, and with the schedule over the next five years and who we’re playing, not only are we playing a very good Missouri Valley Football Conference, we have a very strong flavor of FBS programs,” he said.
USD isn’t always the smaller school in cupcake games. In 2014, USD paid William Penn University to come to Vermillion, Herbster said.
“The last time we paid a team to come here, it was William Penn University,” Herbster said. “Some of those NAIA or Division II teams we played while we transitioned to Division I.”
The prices were small, at about $20,000 to $40,000 a game, Herbster said.
Teams in different divisions will have different prices, he added.
“That’s the market price for someone like an Oklahoma, in the BIG 12, paying an FCS team to come in,” Herbster said. “Now let’s say Oklahoma is playing Louisiana Tech, which is an FBS program. They’re probably paying Louisiana Tech closer to a million dollars.”
While smaller programs often are beat by a wide margin, Herbster said that wasn’t the case when USD visited Minnesota in 2010.
The game was close, but USD led the whole game and ruined the Gophers’ home opener, winning the game 41-38.
Nielson said Oklahoma will add to the quality of USD’s football program.
“We play a quality schedule, and adding Oklahoma to the mix gives you the opportunity to play one of the best football programs historically in the country,” he said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for our young men and something that I’m sure they’ll look forward to.”
Herbster said to never count on what’s going to happen in these games.
“You could say, ‘Well, we’re supposed to lose,’ but there comes that time when you beat a Minnesota,” he said. “There comes a time when a North Dakota State beats an Iowa. It’s becoming more common, especially in the Missouri Valley (Conference), where we have two or three teams beat FBS teams. On any given day, especially early in the season, it gives you an opportunity to pick one off.”