Seitz 'hopeful' that JSU, Tide eventually could agree to a football game

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Aug. 3—JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State athletics director Greg Seitz confirmed he has contacted Alabama about scheduling the Gamecocks, and he did so because of comments Tide coach Nick Saban made last month at SEC Media Days, when he expressed a willingness to play in-state schools in football.

Alabama hasn't played an in-state school in football, other than Auburn, since 1944. That year, the Crimson Tide traveled to Samford, then called Howard College, and won 63-7.

"I've always been an advocate of playing in-state schools because I think it sort of helps them raise their level and their ability to compete, which obviously if you do that, you also contribute to how successful the players in those organizations can be," he said. "So, I would be very much in favor of that."

Saban gave that answer in response to a question about FBS teams scheduling Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the coach was asked about scheduling schools such as Alabama State and Alabama A&M. Still, Seitz pounced on the opportunity.

"I sent Greg Byrne an email and just told him that as they're looking at future football games, that because Coach Saban is now open to playing in-state schools at Alabama, that we would certainly be more than happy to look at possibly being on one of their future schedules," Seitz said Wednesday morning. "Greg said he would discuss that with Coach Saban and as they look to build future football schedules, that he would keep us in mind."

If Alabama were to extend an offer to play Jacksonville State in football, count first-year Gamecocks head coach Rich Rodriguez as more than willing to take his team to Tuscaloosa.

"Yeah, for $2 million," Rodriguez said with a smile after Wednesday morning's practice in Jacksonville. "Because, they're going to beat the brains out of you. They're such a great program. If they would give us a good payday, heck yeah. I think we're getting 1.3 million from South Carolina (for a game in 2023). If you play Alabama, I think they can afford $2 million."

Byrne hired Rodriguez as Arizona's head coach in 2012 when Byrne was that school's athletics director. Byrne left Arizona in 2017 to serve as Alabama's athletics director, and Rodriguez said they are still good friends.

"If we can get $2 million out of them, we'll be in Tuscaloosa," Rodriguez said.

Before Saban came to Alabama, he appeared willing to play other in-state schools. When he coached at Michigan State during 1995-99, the Spartans played Eastern Michigan twice and Western Michigan and Central Michigan once each. When he was at LSU in 2000-04, the Tigers faced Louisiana Lafayette, Louisiana Monroe and Tulane

Seitz said he's "hopeful" a game could be worked out with Alabama.

"Obviously, I'm going to take Coach Saban at his word," he said. "It looks like he does have a track record of (scheduling in-state games). When he was at Michigan State, they played in-state schools. At LSU, they played a lot of the in-state schools. I'm hopeful that we would get the opportunity to do that."

Alabama and Jacksonville State have not met in football, but a game in Tuscaloosa would be worth a seven-figure check to the Gamecocks. Last year, Alabama paid New Mexico State $1.7 million to play at Tuscaloosa without asking for a return visit.

In 2020, as an FCS school, JSU got $300,000 to play at Florida International. The Gamecocks also received $400,000 per trip to Florida State in 2020 and 2021.

As JSU prepares to move to the FBS in 2023, JSU can command a larger price to play a large school on the road without expecting a return trip to Jacksonville. The Gamecocks will receive $1.3 million to play at South Carolina in 2023.

"The opportunity to play Alabama would be really big for a couple of reasons: our fans would enjoy it, but also we're keeping the taxpayer's money in-state and helping a fellow FBS school just across the state," Seitz said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to get it worked out, if they choose to, down the road. I'm certainly very appreciative that Greg responded to my email and that they would keep us in mind."

Even without Alabama, Seitz said scheduling is easier now as a rising FBS program than as an FCS school.

Seitz said that JSU recently agreed to play Eastern Michigan at home in 2023 and at Eastern Michigan in 2024. He added he is in discussions for other potential series and games, but no contracts have been signed.

"We're looking at future football games," he said. "I can tell you that scheduling has become much easier now that we're making that move to Conference USA and becoming an FBS school. It's opened a lot more doors."

Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.