Football patsies paid to take beating

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Humiliation does have its price, at least in college football.

For Middle Tennessee State, it was a whopping $500,000 — the sum the University of Maryland paid the Blue Raiders to come to Byrd Stadium two weeks ago and, presumably, take a whipping.

That was a relative bargain for the Terrapins — even if they bought only a 24-10 victory, not a rout — considering the spike in the purchase price of a patsy.

“It is getting out of hand,” said Jim Weaver, the athletic director at Virginia Tech. “Something has to be done about it.”

These games between big-time programs and small-time foes commonly are known as “money games.” The transaction goes like this: The powerhouse gets a guaranteed victory, and the little team that probably can’t gets a big, guaranteed payday and, in all likelihood, a bad beating and a roster full of bruised egos.

Money games are at a premium this year because the NCAA added a 12th game to the regular-season schedule, one more than last season.

The move was intended to allow athletic programs to generate more revenue. Nebraska, for example, typically takes in about $3 million in tickets sales alone for one game in its 92,000-seat stadium.

The expansion prompted major-conference teams such as Nebraska, Wisconsin and South Carolina to fill that extra spot on the schedule with a home game against a weaker team, a contest promising both easy victory and easy money.

The result: A hot market for whipping boys — the low Division I-A programs such as Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic and Louisiana-Monroe and Division I-AA teams such as Northeastern and Eastern Washington.

This weekend is a prime example.

Troy University will receive $750,000 to play at 23rd-ranked Nebraska. Buffalo, meanwhile, travels to No. 2 Auburn as a 43-point underdog. The balm for the pain the Bulls surely will suffer? A $600,000 payday.

No school, however, has profited so much from indignity as Florida Atlantic, which currently is embarked on a four-week trail of smears that will leave the Owls in fine shape financially but in the poorhouse competitively.

Florida Atlantic opened the season with a 54-6 debacle against No. 19 Clemson, followed by a 45-0 trouncing by Kansas State and a 48-8 shellacking by Oklahoma State.

Another thrashing is in the forecast this weekend: Florida Atlantic on Saturday faces coach Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, and the Gamecocks are a 30-point favorite.

The cumulative damage reflected on the scoreboard is frightful — the Owls were outscored 147-14 in those three games — and the psychological toll … well, it can’t be good.

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