B10 won’t penalize schools that schedule FCS teams
If all goes according to plan, the possibility of one of those attention-grabbing FCS wins won’t exist much longer in the Big Ten.
The College Football Playoff is coming next season, and strength of schedule is part of the criteria the selection committee will use to determine the four teams. Playing FCS opponents wouldn’t help the cause.
That’s only part of the reason Commissioner Jim Delany is encouraging Big Ten schools to keep FCS schools off non-conference schedules. He said recently that games against FCS foes don’t create enough excitement for players, fans and television networks.
While FCS-FBS matchups usually result in lopsided games that serve as little more than scrimmages to the FBS teams, the chance for the upset offers some intrigue. It happened eight times last week, and fans in Big Ten country will long remember Appalachian State’s 34-32 victory at Michigan in 2007.
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said Tuesday it’s “an opportunity of a lifetime” for the FCS players. Andersen speaks from experience. When he was head coach at Southern Utah in 2003, his team went to Nevada and played the Wolf Pack to within 24-23.
“Those kids still talk about that,” he said.
Delany said in Madison, Wis., last month that conference members have made it a goal to keep FCS opponents off schedules.
“We don’t have any penalties for those that don’t,” Delany said. “It’s not like a violation of our rules. But everybody agreed when every game is televised, every game matters and the fans matter. Interest in those games is less. They’re from another division. They have 20 less scholarships. It’s like a junior college team playing against a high school team or a high school team playing against a JV team.”
Taking FCS schools out of the pool of potential opponents will add to the challenge of scheduling.
The Big Ten will go from eight to nine conference games beginning in 2016. That means each school will have four home conference games one year and five the next.
Athletic departments ideally need seven home games to make ends meet. To reach that threshold, FBS schools have turned to FCS programs. In return, the FCS school shows up to (usually) take a beating and goes home with a paycheck for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When FBS schools schedule non-conference games against each other, both parties typically desire a home-and-home series. Sometimes a lower-level FBS school will accept a two-for-one deal, and sometimes cash is involved.
But if a Big Ten team wants to schedule a fellow FBS opponent with no obligation for a return date, it’s going to cost big bucks.
“For the (FBS) teams that are available,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, “it’s probably a good thing for them. It drives the market up a little bit.”
Every Big Ten team except Michigan and Penn State is playing an FCS opponent this season. Three of those games are this week: Missouri State at Iowa, Indiana State at Purdue and Tennessee Tech at Wisconsin.