When June Jones offered his suggestion that the have-nots in College Football should move their seasons to the Spring, it caught the attention of many around college sports. The idea is instantly attractive -- leave the five conferences with the most money to duke out their National Championship in the Fall, since no school outside that group is likely to win the title anyway, and let the other half of Division I play in the Spring, where football-hungry fans might take more notice.
Jones coached professionally for the USFL's Houston and Denver franchises. That league was a competitor to the NFL that played a Spring schedule between 1983 and 1985. The idea was similar -- play when the NFL is on a break and hopefully avoid the established league's shadow.
The Jones plan was relayed via WDAE-AM, a Tampa, Florida talk radio station.
For FCS football, having the lesser five FBS conferences move to the Spring would be just fine, of course. It would be easy enough for the FCS schools to sit back and allow that split to occur and then reap the benefits.
There is no shortage of interest in college football on television in the Fall, currently. While Jones is correct that much of the attention is fixated on the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC schools, the lesser conferences still seem to have relatively robust coverage of their games and ratings for even lower-ranked FBS contests are often still high compared to other non-major sports. Should the AAC, MWC, SunBelt, MAC and CUSA decide to move to the Spring, that attention, and the demand for football content could be shifted to the smaller schools of FCS to some degree.
The CAA already has football games being broadcast nationally and regionally through three broadcast partners, and if a sudden shift to Spring football caused Fall television inventories to sag, it wouldn't be surprising to see that coverage expand more.
Further, such a move would all-but-end the discussion of power conferences banning FCS teams from their schedules. If the other five conferences were to play a Spring schedule, it would severely challenge the power conferences' ability to schedule non-conference games. Big Ten teams can say goodbye to games against MAC schools like Eastern Michigan and pick up more games against schools like the Missouri Valley's Youngstown State -- it would be either that, or playing brutal schedules against each other.
The difficulty in scheduling would be tougher for the power conferences than for the "Group of Five" leagues, because those big-time programs are practically all used to scheduling more home games than away in any season. They need at least seven home games to hit the right revenue numbers, but in a world where everyone needs a 7th home game, there won't be many out there to buy -- unless you schedule the FCS.
That would be a boon for FCS schools, who would continue to get plenty of big-time exposure by playing in front of tens of thousands of fans and likely on national television. It also keeps a vital source of revenue in place for those FCS programs, from the fees they get paid for traveling to those games.
June Jones' fantasy would be great for the subdivision-formerly-known-as I-AA, but it may just be that -- a fantasy.
The Mountain West commissioner, Craig Thompson, called the proposal "preposterous" yesterday. Mike Aresco of the American and Jon Steinbrecher of the MAC also rejected the notion at media day events.
A Spring schedule would create challenged in recruiting players -- the recruiting schedule that coaches currently revolve around would be turned on its head. It would also force schools to change the dates of major football-focused events like Homecoming, and would put the Spring football up against the highest-interest (and highest revenue) part of the NCAA basketball season -- March Madness. For athletes, it may complicate their ability to participate in the scouting events leading up to the NFL Draft that takes place in May -- would the professional league make moves to accommodate such a shift, or would the likely NFL prospects prefer to play for Fall-league schools?
That isn't even touching on the Bowl system, which would be completely blown up by such a move.
Despite the initial reactions of non-power conference officials, discussions on measures such as those proposed by Jones won't likely die soon. College sports are approaching a new world order that has many pundits and power-brokers discussing the possibilities.