Albany State athletic director Richard Williams believes football teams are afraid to play the Rams.
ALBANY — Albany State’s 2012 football schedule is one of the toughest in recent years.
Before the Rams enter their grueling conference schedule, they will be battle tested with a trio of non-conference games against three teams that are no strangers to postseason success.
On Friday, ASU interim Director of Athletics Richard Williams said he has tried to make that schedule even tougher.
During the annual Quarterback Club Football Kickoff Reception, Williams said he has tried to add several larger schools — such as Division I Alabama State — to ASU’s schedule.
The only problem, Williams said to a room full of supporters, is that those larger programs are scared.
“I’ve been approached often with the (question), ‘Why don’t we play the FAMUs, the Bethune-Cookmans and the Norfolk States?’ ” Williams said. “If you can understand, because we have had such a rich tradition and rich history of Golden Ram football, to be honest they are scared. They are scared that someone from Albany, a smaller program but mighty in force, to come down and run the gamut on them.”
Williams later added: “We have called Alabama State. ... For these schools, it’s a travesty for a D-II to beat a D-I school. So again, that fear factor plays a part in it.”
ASU coach Mike White added that there are other issues to consider when playing a Division I team.
“Playoff-wise, when we play the D-I teams, it counts as a loss,” White said. “You can beat Savannah (St.) all you want and play any team, but they are going to punish you when it comes to playoffs. It’s just like you lost to a team.”
That scenario arose last year when the Rams were on the playoff bubble and could have used another win to improve their chances to make the postseason.
And even though they beat Savannah State in the season opener, 37-34, it counted as a loss in the eyes of the Division II playoff selection committee.
“I know you want to see different competition, like Alabama State and other teams. We would like it also, but that is kind of how that works out,” White said. “Even though we beat Savannah last year, it was like a loss for us when the playoffs came up.”
The Rams have made recent attempts to strengthen their schedule, adding Division II powerhouses Valdosta State and Wingate last year and North Greenville, Wingate and Elizabeth City State this season.
But still, the fans in attendance at Friday’s reception wanted more.
“It’s not just a matter of picking up the phone and saying, ‘I want to play,’ ” Williams explained. “A lot of times it’s a lot of background noise and information that we have to iron out prior to.”
Williams indicated that larger schools aren’t the only programs scared to add Albany State to their schedule.
With ASU’s conference divided into two divisions, this season will be the second in a row that the East Division’s Rams won’t meet up with West Division’s Tuskegee in the regular season.
The rivalry between ASU and Tuskegee goes back to 1970, and the teams share 19-19-1 records against each other in 39 career meetings.
One question Williams addressed Friday was if the two teams could schedule a game at the beginning of the season that would count as a non-conference game.
“It’s not forbidden,” Williams said about playing a conference team before the seven-game conference season begins. “Actually I made that call. Again, being the mighty Golden Rams that we are, even schools within the (conference), if they don’t have to play us, they don’t want to. To be honest, they don’t want to. We would love to have a Tuskegee game. We wanted that game, but the love that we want for that game is not shared.”
Valdosta State, another ASU rival, was left off the Rams’ schedule this season, but Williams implied that the in-state rivalry could be renewed in the near future.
“We are looking forward to meet soon. I can’t speak on that as of yet, but it’s something that we really, really want to do because you are asking for it. And we want it,” Williams said. “Again, this year was just a matter of schedules. The Gulf South Conference schedules differently than how we schedule it.”
Valdosta State coach David Dean told The Herald last month at the Peach State Pigskin Preview at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon that he sees the two rivals meeting on the field again soon.
“One day we will get (ASU) back on our schedule,” Dean said. “We would love to play them because of the proximity, but there are underlying issues of when you have to schedule and what you have to do.”
The two South Georgia teams renewed their 30-year-old rivalry last season for the first time since 2007, but it was just a one-year contract that didn’t carry over to this season.