Rather than play a big-time opponent on the road every other year and make no money, Alabama picks up a home-game-sized check every year. The Tide earned $3.2 million for playing West Virginia. The university nets about $4 million per home game.
So who loses? The fans in Tuscaloosa lose. When Penn State came to Tuscaloosa four years ago, and Alabama went to State College the following year, each side reveled in the other's traditions. There was no enmity, none of the "good ol'-fashioned hate" that curdles a conference rivalry.
Let's not forget the empty seats in the Alabama student section. In 2012, the student paper The Crimson White wrote, "For a school whose victories have come at an average margin of 31 points per game, it's easy to see why students could become lethargic toward sitting through a blowout game."
If Alabama is to return to home-and-homes, Saban wants a ninth conference game. In stressing the importance of playing Tennessee, a traditional rival despite being in the SEC East, Saban said, "These longtime rivalries ... are important to the fans, and the fans are important to the game. Because when the fans quit coming to the games, we all got problems. The coaches have problems. The players have problems. Everybody has financial problems."
The league refused to add another conference game, adopting a policy earlier this year that each team play at least one game against an opponent from one of the other five biggest revenue-producing conferences. For the Alabamas and LSUs, that may mean a neutral-site game. For Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina, that means continuing their home-and-homes with their in-state ACC rivals.
The suggestion by the College Football Playoff brass that strength of schedule will be an important component of a team's résumé has prompted some significant home-and-homes. Washington-Michigan, North Carolina-California, Texas A&M-UCLA, and here's a blast from the past: Oklahoma-Nebraska.
If the playoff doesn't provide enough incentive to revive the home-and-home, maybe the answer is a compromise. LSU and Wisconsin played last week at NRG Stadium in Houston. They play in 2016 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
That's a home-and-home disguised as neutral-site games. That's meat-and-potatoes disguised as new cuisine.