URI football head coach Jim Fleming originally planned to use the upcoming weekend as the perfect opportunity for his Rams to enjoy a respite from game competition and get healthy before gearing back up for CAA play.
When athletic director Thorr Bjorn approached Fleming about filling the bye week with an opponent, accompanied by a significant financial component, the coach was quick to respond with a no.
“Originally, I wanted to keep an open date for the possibility to be a little fresher,” said Fleming. “If we can put ourselves in position to go into the playoffs, I thought that rest would be necessary.”
Eventually, Fleming warmed up to the prospect of lining up a game that would require moving up several weight classes. The reason: Rhode Island will receive a significant payday that specifically benefits the program in behind-the-scenes areas with an eye towards a better tomorrow.
Fleming and the Rams are signing up for a 4 p.m. Saturday road game at FBS member Virginia Tech. Regardless of the final outcome, URI will walk out of Lane Stadium with a strong feeling of satisfaction. After travel expenses – as is customary, the Rams are chartering a flight to Blacksburg, Va. – the take home is expected to be roughly $375,000. That’s a pretty significant amount of coin that, per Bjorn, will be put to extremely good use.
In other words, it’s a game that just keeps on giving back … filling the coffers with much-needed funds.
“When coach Fleming and I sat down to talk strategy, we said we could play 11 games or try to play 12 and take the proceeds from [the Virginia Tech game] and reinvest it back into the program,” said Bjorn. “We discussed it for 2-3 days and we felt it would be an amazing experience for the players to go down and play in front of 65,000-plus people. Second, it would provide the program with funds that would help with some one-time costs.”
For example, the URI football office and team meeting rooms are undergoing renovations. In addition, new laptops were purchased for the assistant coaches affording them better access to the video editing system. All of these big-ticket items cost money, hence, Virginia Tech was added to the schedule.
“It’s things that we think will make us better in the long run,” said Bjorn. “It’s all one-time purchases, but things that definitely make a difference.”
Added Fleming, “We scheduled this particular game because we knew we had some significant things we needed to try to achieve. Financially, the only way to do that is to schedule someone like Virginia Tech.”
The contest against the Hokies marks the second time this season that URI is hitching its wagon to a game where a big impact will be felt off the field. Back on August 31, the Rams visited FBS member Ohio. URI lost 41-20 but came away with a check that would benefit the entire athletic department.
“When Jim and I talked about playing a second bye game, we wanted the net proceeds to benefit football. Otherwise, you’re probably not going to want to play it. That’s why [this coming Saturday] is such a unique experience,” said Bjorn. “We’ve never played two bye games in the same season and it’s not our intention to do it again in the future. Our aspirations are to get to the playoffs and you want to put yourself in the best possible position to achieve that.”
Shifting gears from the dollars and cents that will be presented from a school that hails from a Power Five conference, Fleming called the upcoming matchup with Virginia Tech, “a great challenge for our kids and our coaches. We’ve got to figure out a way to slow them down a little bit. It’s going to have to be the perfect storm in order for us to win.”
The Hokies had a devil of a time with FCS member Furman before grinding out a 24-17 win back on Sept. 14. Fleming referenced Furman’s ability to keep it close but not close it out while sizing up the tall order that awaits the Rams.
“Anything is possible if you practice hard,” said Fleming. “This is a team that’s embracing this challenge. They’re very excited to play and want to pit themselves against a team from a higher level. They want to challenge themselves, but this will be a special deal for them. I’m looking forward to the experience and I know they are.”
Added Bjorn, “In the long run, the players are going to love having pictures from this game hanging in their offices for the next 30 years. It’s something to be proud of and I’m sure the guys will appreciate the experience.”
2019 YurView URI Football Broadcast Schedule:
- Sept. 7 – Delaware, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 – Stony Brook, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 26 – Elon, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 2 – Merrimack, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 23 – James Madison, 12 p.m.