The Arizona Wildcats’ non-conference football schedule was made up of Northern Arizona University, the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the University of Texas San Antonio.
None of the three are regarded as football powers, and none of the three did much to challenge Arizona, which won by scores of 35-0, 58-13 and 38-13.
Arizona’s strength of schedule is a paltry 158th, and the lack of a marquee opponent has disappointed some people. The immediate future does not look much better, with games against UNLV, UTSA and Nevada scheduled over the next two years. The schedules are set up years in advance, and UA Athletic Director said there are many things that go into making a schedule.
“What you want to have is a combination of things,” he told ArizonaSports.com’s Bearing Down with Adam and Jarrett. “One, you want to have a game or two where you can get a lot of guys some experience and have the ability to kind of see what kind of progress they’ve made and what kind of team we’re looking at.
“And then on top of that, you want to try to balance that with some teams that your fans will be excited to see, from a non-conference standpoint.”
All that said, Byrne noted that the Wildcats will always play nine Pac-12 games, which means the team’s entire schedule will not lack for tough games and big opponents.
“You don’t want to necessarily play 11 of those really challenging BCS games,” he said. “I think we’re something in that nine to 10 range is what you’re looking at.”
A series with Brigham Young University is scheduled to begin in 2016, and Houston will join the fray starting in 2017. Hawaii and UTEP are also on the docket for later this decade.
“I am having some conversations with some of the other BCS leagues, some that make some sense for us,” he said, adding that part of making the schedule is looking at what road trips make sense financially. After all, heading to the ACC, for instance, may not make much sense given the distance everyone would have to travel. That’s not to say it would never happen, but as Byrne noted, whether it’s about setting up a series with a school from the ACC, SEC, Big Ten or wherever, the ultimate goal is to be balanced with the schedule.
“But we want to get some teams in here that will be a good test for our team, and at the same time too be something that our fans want to see and be a part of,” he said.
Plus, Byrne added, that with the College Football Playoff on the way, schools are still a little unsure of where things like strength of schedule and marquee wins will fit in.
“At the end of the day, I think if we can go have a good Pac-12 season, I think our fans aren’t going to be too worried about who we played in September.”