The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team will open its 2014 season in a place it has never been: Mount Pleasant, Mich. And it's doing so for one reason, to generate money for a planned football building.
UTC will play the Central Michigan Chippewas on Thursday, Aug. 28, the first in a 12-game schedule for the Mocs that has undergone major revisions in the past year. It will be the first meeting between the schools and UTC will receive $350,000 for the game.
"The way I figure it, that's our little part as a football team to help get us a football building," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "I asked [athletic director David Blackburn and senior associate athletic director Matt Pope], 'If we do this, can that money be put away for the football building?' And they said yes. We're going to get a building, and I want to make sure that we're doing our part, too."
Central Michigan, 2-4 so far this season, plays in the Mid-American Conference. This will be the Mocs' first game against a Bowl Subdivision team outside of a power conference since UTC visited Memphis in 2006.
Unlike the Memphis game, for which the Mocs were paid just $150,000, UTC will get a significant payday from the Chippewas. Blackburn has said he expects the football building to cost around $15 million.
The Mocs also play Tennessee next season, on Oct. 11, and will receive $450,000 for the trip to up Interstate 75. UTC hasn't played two guarantee games in a season since 2008, when the Mocs opened at Oklahoma and visited Florida State two weeks later.
"It's early, there's a separation between it and the Tennessee game and we have a chance of getting the thing on ESPN," Blackburn said. "That's at least a possibility. ... Russ wanted to play them and the fact that we're getting some money out of it, that made it attractive for us."
Central Michigan found a hole in its schedule recently after North Carolina State opted out of a trip to Mount Pleasant, and the Wolfpack paid CMU a$350,000 buyout.
The Mocs' 2014 schedule woes began with the announced departures of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to the Sun Belt Conference next season and Elon to the Colonial Athletic Association. Two of those vacancies on the schedule were filled with SoCon additions Mercer and VMI, but there was still an extra date to fill.
It appears the Mocs aren't yet done looking for games. The website FBSchedules.com reported Tuesday that Georgia State has cancelled its game with UTC and scheduled Abilene Christian instead. Blackburn said Wednesday that he hadn't heard anything official from Georgia State.
The Panthers have moved up to the Sun Belt and it is rare that an FBS team visits an FCS program, even when it's a school that recently changed divisions. The Mocs routed Georgia State 42-14 at the Georgia Dome in September,
UTC is working on a replacement for the Georgia State game, but nothing has been finalized.
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.