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Indiana, Penn State to play at FedEx Field in 2010

8/26/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Indiana has decided to move its 2010 home game against Penn State to FedEx Field, a venture that will pocket $3 million for the school.

The Hoosiers and Nittany Lions will meet Nov. 20, 2010, in Landover, Md., according to an agreement reached between the schools, the Washington Redskins and FedEx Field, which seats 91,704, nearly 40,000 seats more than Memorial Stadium (52,692) in Bloomington.

Indiana still plans to play six home games next fall and could move a Sept. 11 road game against Central Michigan to Bloomington or replace Central Michigan with an FCS opponent.

This is the latest in a series of bold moves by Indiana's new athletic director Fred Glass, who announced last week that former basketball coach Bob Knight will be inducted into the school's athletics Hall of Fame.

Glass said in a statement that the game is "within an afternoon's drive of all our fans and tens of thousands of alumni that live along the eastern seaboard." He also likened the game to a "bowl-like experience" for the players and said it should help recruiting visibility in the Washington, D.C., area.

That's all true, but make no mistake: this is about money.

As The (Bloomington) Herald Times' reports, Indiana makes less than $1 million per home game.
"Obviously, it's very positive for us financially," Glass told the newspaper. "When you rank second to the bottom in the conference in money spent per sport, you have to color outside the lines and be open to new ways to generate revenue."The agreement states that Indiana must sell 7,000 game tickets, which seems reasonable. But this will turn into a Penn State home game. Penn State has a huge East Coast alumni presence and will pack FedEx Field. Nittany Nation loved traveling to places like Maryland, Rutgers and West Virginia when the team was a Division I-A independent, and fans should have no trouble showing up in force next year.

I have mixed feelings about this move. A football program that isn't making money can't compete in the Big Ten, so it's hard to fault Glass for securing a nice payday. But it will deprive some IU fans from seeing their team and put the players and coaches in a pretty tough spot to win a game. In essence, the Hoosiers will be playing a road game against Penn State for the third straight season.

If this is a one-time thing, fine, but moving conference games to NFL venues for big money sets a potentially dangerous precedent. It could happen again in 2011 if Northwestern plays a Big Ten opponent at Wrigley Field, though the novelty and the exposure of such a game would be bigger factors than the revenue.

I'm hoping to talk with Glass and other key officials later, so check the blog for updates.