What does it mean for FCS football programs like Villanova?
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told the world that the Big Ten had agreed to change the way they schedule football games. Six years after an FCS powerhouse program knocked off the Big Ten's University of Michigan, the BCS conference has agreed to drop annual I-AA games from their schedules. There won't be another chance for Appalachian State to take down one of the upper-midwest's best football programs apparently, at least not once this rule comes into effect.
"The nonconference schedule in our league is ridiculous," Alvarez said on WIBA-AM. "It's not very appealing...
"So we've made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools. It will not be FCS schools."
Of course, FCS programs are considered Division I by the NCAA and by most of the athletes they recruit, and many of those FCS programs, including App State and most of the CAA football programs are traditionally stronger than bottom-feeding programs in the lesser FBS conferences.
The move by the Big Ten likely will replace those stronger FCS programs with weak sisters from the MAC or Sun Belt conferences in many cases.
Villanova hasn't traditionally played against many schools currently in the Big Ten -- though the Wildcats program did play a number of Big Ten programs while they were classified as a "major" program prior to 1980 (including eight games against Penn State before 1951 for three wins and a tie). Incoming Big Ten members Rutgers and Maryland, however, have been on both recent and past Villanova football schedules, and the proximity of those campuses made them ideal opponents for the 'Cats.
Those Rutgers and Maryland games will be no-more, and if other conferences follow-suit in an effort to beef up their schedules, the annual FBS game to open the season could ultimately disappear altogether. Even if it doesn't, the Big Ten's agreement takes at least 14 options off the table for the Wildcats, and will create a scheduling "crunch" for FCS teams looking to "play-up" against a big time opponent, since fewer FBS teams will be participating in those games. Teams like Youngstown State will now look east for an FBS opponent rather than staying in the midwest -- creating competition for the CAA programs.
The website FootballScoop.com suggested a different solution for the Big Ten's scheduling concerns:
Perhaps a better decision for everyone involved would be for the new playoff format to include strength of schedule components from all division 1 programs (FBS & FCS). Then, the Big Ten could have simply encouraged their member universities to schedule quality FCS opponents rather than simply banning them from playing any FCS opponents at all. Consider this past season, where do you think North Dakota State (FCS National Champion) would have fallen in an overall division 1 strength of schedule analysis? My guess is, they would have been in the top 100, well above a number of "FBS" programs.
Of course, many fans and media members have applauded this move based on the faulty reasoning that FCS is synonymous with "bad football." That may be true in some cases, but the view of FCS football is unfairly clouded by the non-competitive programs like Savannah State that get crushed by BCS-hopefuls while pocketing large paydays --- not every FCS team is as woefully over-matched as the SSU Tigers.
Savannah State pocketed almost $900,000 dollars last season by playing one-off games against Oklahoma State and Florida State last season. Both programs added SSU to their schedules despite having a 17-88 record as an FCS program since 2000.
UPDATED 2:09pmAccording to this tweet, the decision to ban FCS games is not yet finalized and will be brought to a vote this spring. The possibility, however, is a scary one for the FCS programs that play these games annually.
Alvarez's quote really took off, but the B1G has NOT formally approved no-FCS foes. It's in discussion. If proposed, they vote in spring.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) February 14, 2013