SEATTLE — Washington is finally joining the majority of college football and scheduling a lower-division team.
The Huskies announced Tuesday they are canceling a future home-and-home football series with BYU and added Eastern Washington, a Football Championship Subdivision team, to their schedule in 2011. It will be the first time in school history the Huskies will play a team from the FCS.
Never playing a lower-level team has been a traditional source of pride for Washington and is included in its weekly football notes. But the streak is finally being broken.
“It was a great sense of pride that we haven’t had to do that,” Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said. “But the SEC and the upper-tier Big 12 teams have been running (up) the cost of the lower Division I-A schools so much that it’s gotten to be cost prohibitive. If you can schedule a team that is very competitive like Eastern Washington or Portland State it makes more economic sense.”
Washington also announced home-and-home series against Wisconsin in 2017 (Madison) and 2018 (Seattle), and Hawaii in 2013 (Honolulu) and 2015 (Seattle).
The Huskies will play Eastern Washington for the first time on Sept. 3, 2011, replacing a games against BYU scheduled to be played in Seattle in 2011 and Provo, Utah, in 2012. Canceling the series does not affect next year when Washington opens its season at BYU.
Washington is working to finalize its 2012 season opener, expected to be against Portland State, which would give the Huskies a sixth home game that season. Originally, Washington would have played five at home and seven on the road in 2012.
Both Woodward and coach Steve Sarkisian say they believe in an “A-B-C” tier of scheduling non-conference opponents with one game against a marquee BCS conference team, one against a midlevel team and a home game against a lower-tier program. Until now that last component has meant games against the likes of Idaho and San Jose State, among others, that has kept Washington one of four teams never to play a team from the FCS since the current division setup was created in 1978.
Come 2011, it’ll be just three: USC, UCLA and Notre Dame.
“It is a delicate balance to build schedules that provide the best opportunity for our team to be at peak performance. It is important to gain depth and experience as we compete for Pac-10 and national championships year-in and year-out,” Sarkisian said in a statement. “And, since our fans have such a great reputation for being loyal and loud, we want to have as many home games in Husky Stadium as we possibly can.”