Las Vegas is quickly becoming an epicenter of sports with pro teams flocking from all over and events like the Super Bowl having future dates in Sin City. This is no different in College Football as Las Vegas hosted Notre Dame's Shamrock Series and the PAC-12 Championship in the past few years.
Who can blame front office personnel and athletic directors from seeking the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas? Michigan hosts UNLV this week, but there will be no return trip, which is a big mistake.
In a complete juxtaposition, next week mighty Alabama travels to Raymond James Stadium to play a USF squad that has compiled a 4-29 record since 2020. Seeing the Crimson Tide travel to such a lowly opponent is shocking until you realize Alabama is likely only doing this because USF plays in an NFL stadium. Add in the fact that Alabama has made only three regular season trips to the state of Florida since 2011, and you can also see that the Crimson Tide also want to give their fans an opportunity at a fun excursion to see their team win.
Michigan's athletic department could have done the same for their fans. Michigan fans will likely never have a reason to go to Las Vegas on a whim, and a return trip to UNLV would have been a rare opportunity to do so. UNLV also plays at Allegiant Stadium, the home of the Las Vegas Raiders. The chance to play in an NFL stadium besides Lucas Oil Stadium would have given them a distinct recruiting advantage over their Big Ten counterparts.
There are reasons not to visit UNLV, mainly money and home field advantage, but the logic is shaky. If a program like Michigan is scared of leaving its home stadium to play against a program with poor attendance, its standing as a national power needs questioning. The crowd for a Michigan-UNLV in Las Vegas would likely have been very pro-Michigan as UNLV only managed to attract a little over 22,000 fans to 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium last season.
Also, if the powers that be in Las Vegas could bring the Oakland Athletics and Oakland Raiders to Sin City, they certainly could have come up with the money to bring Michigan to Las Vegas. Michigan is a national brand that would have brought tourism to Las Vegas and plenty of ticket, parking, and concessions revenue from locals coming to Allegiant Stadium for the rare chance of seeing the Wolverines.
Michigan's non-conference schedules the past two seasons are a summation of scheduling philosophy in college football during the Playoff era. Scheduling easy home games against Colorado State, UConn, Hawaii, UNLV, East Carolina, and Bowling Green allows Michigan to skate into Big Ten play with an unbeaten conference record and room for error to make the Playoff. These games also line the pockets of Michigan's athletic department.
Michigan had a chance to be like their fellow national power, Alabama, and reward their fans and players with a fun regular season trip to a rare destination and stadium. Instead, Michigan chose the easy and greedy way out.