The Montana Grizzlies announced a series of additions to their future nonconference football schedules, including a visit to FBS Oregon in 2019.
The Grizzlies will travel to Eugene, Oregon, for a Sept. 14, 2019 game against the Ducks. In the seasons before, Montana will host three newly added FCS teams in Missoula, including Saint Francis (2016), Valparaiso (2017) and Drake (2018).
Oregon, a Pac-12 Conference power and last year's national runner-up to Ohio State, has never lost to the Grizzlies in eight all-time meetings. Montana is 0-7-1 against the Ducks, their last meeting a 47-14 drubbing in Eugene's Autzen Stadium in 2005.
The Griz nearly pulled off an upset in 1993 when visiting Oregon, when Dave Dickenson came off the bench to rally Montana. UM fell 35-30 in that one.
Oregon's inclusion on the UM schedule marks the third FBS opponent lined up in the near future. Montana will also play two games at Pac-12 Washington in 2017 (Sept. 9) and 2021 (Sept. 4). The Griz are 1-16-1 all-time versus the Huskies.
The teams last played in 1951 when Washington won 58-7.
"If we're gonna play an FBS school, I like the idea of playing schools that are regional, makes sense, and ones our fans and student athletes can get excited about," Montana Athletic Director Kent Haslam said. "Certainly schools in the Pac-12 are fun for us to go play."
Despite three FBS programs on the schedule in the next six years, Haslam said matchups against college football's top tier are not a priority when putting together a schedule. Yes, they come with a payday, but Montana's ticket sales and gameday environment typically rakes in enough money to offset that.
It's really about timing.
"It's more about the art of scheduling and how it fits," Haslam said. "We've got to have six home games, so you can't paint yourself into a corner. You've got to make sure you can build home-and-homes and get other teams into Washington-Grizzly."
Montana will earn guarantees of $625,000 and $675,000, respectively, for its two matchups with Washington and the Oregon game will garner a $650,000 check.
That's $1.95 million in guaranteed money for just three games.
Guaranteed money helps defray travel costs and keeps most programs in line to make their annual budget. Montana is a rare exception among FCS institutions.
It'll be Montana paying out to bring in the three FCS schools, none of which has ever faced the Grizzlies before. As single, stand-alone games not tied to a home-and-home agreement, UM needed to sweeten the pot to get eastern-based FCS programs to come to the mountains.
Each game required a guarantee approaching $200,000, Haslam said.
For comparison, Montana will pay Northern Iowa $50,000 in 2018 when the Panthers come to Missoula on Sept. 1 as part of a home-and-home series. The Griz go to Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Sept. 10, 2016 for the first half.
Saint Francis (Pennsylvania) will be in Missoula on Sept. 3, 2016; Valparaiso (Indiana) visits Sept. 2, 2017; and Drake (Iowa) comes to town Sept. 8, 2018. The latter two are both from the Pioneer Football League while Saint Francis represents the Northeast Conference.
All of Montana's announced nonconference games are against Division I opponents and count to the required seven D-I wins needed for a berth into the FCS playoffs. Montana may still need to fill out its schedule, in 2016 especially, with a Division II squad.
The Grizzlies will continue to add to their nonconference slate in the coming months with one opening in each 2016, 2017 and 2018 still to go.
"We hope here in the near future, I don't want to say really soon because you never know, but in the near future we can announce additional home-and-homes, similar to what we did with Northern Iowa," Haslam said.