MADISON — University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez likes the way the 2014 football schedule is evolving, especially as it pertains to Big Ten Conference assignments.
The league released its first 14-team schedule Thursday and Alvarez was pleased, though a little taken aback, by the fact UW drew both newcomers: Maryland and Rutgers.
“I like the fact we’re going to play two new teams right out of the chute,” he said of a home date with Maryland on Oct. 25 followed a week later with a trip to Rutgers on Nov. 1. “I was a little surprised, quite frankly. I thought we’d have one or the other.”
The Badgers won’t play four of the biggest brand schools in the Big Ten in ’14 — Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State or Penn State — which is sure to get more attention as that season draws near.
For now, a lot of national focus is on a hole in the non-league portion of the UW lineup that needs to be addressed. Alvarez on Friday outlined a plan to do so featuring a series of neutral site games with Southeastern Conference power Louisiana State.
Alvarez said the schools have discussed playing a game at Reliant Stadium in Houston in 2014 and one at Lambeau Field in Green Bay in either 2016 or ’17.
“There’s a lot of moving parts and that’s why we haven’t finalized anything yet,” Alvarez said. “I’d like for it (to get done). But you’ve got to get some people to agree on things.”
Both teams have openings in 2014 — UW lists Aug. 30 and Sept. 13 — so that matchup doesn’t appear to be a problem. It’s the second piece of the series that’s complicated.
“The only thing blocking it is when we’d like to play another neutral site game,” Alvarez said.
To that end, UW wants the Lambeau Field game played in 2017. According to Alvarez, LSU wants it to happen in 2016.
Alvarez said he’s reluctant to play the Tigers in ’16 in part because it would require that he ask Virginia Tech to accommodate the Badgers yet again. The schools are currently scheduled to play in Blacksburg, Va.
“I’ve moved Virginia Tech four times,” he said, adding he would be “embarrassed” to call Hokies coach Frank Beamer or AD James Weaver to seek another change.
However, Alvarez noted that an ESPN representative told him this week that Virginia Tech might be flexible regarding its 2016 schedule.
UW previously had Washington State on its 2014 nonconference schedule. That appears to be in limbo as a deal with LSU is being discussed.
Alvarez said he would prefer to play neutral site games during seasons when the Badgers have only six dates at Camp Randall Stadium. The UW Athletic Department budget is driven in part by the need to have revenue from seven home games.
A neutral site arrangement would require some kind of financial guarantee. UW makes roughly $3 million off each home game.
“We’re going to try and work it out,” Alvarez said of the series with LSU. “You need somebody to cooperate with you to move a game or bump a game further out. So it’s not easy to just plug them in.”
Alvarez said he believes the Packers are flexible when it comes to accommodating UW and lauded NFL club president Mark Murphy for his efforts.
“They’ve been really good to work with,” Alvarez said. “They’d really like us to come up there.”