Is It Worth It for Small Football Schools to Move Up to FBS?
Absolutely, it is.
Unless, of course, it actually isn't.
Yes, and no, are the appropriate answer here because "worth it" is such a remarkably relative term. There is a very palpable "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" feel to these situations. Thus, as the Sun Belt adds FCS and SoCon stalwarts Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to their FBS ranks, both the yes and no boxes were checked.
Some folks looked at the move and immediately called it stupid. Others were thrilled that the Mountaineers and the Eagles would be moving up in the ranks.
The truth, with respect to whether or not the move is worth it, is centered on what is important to you.
If title talk and being highly ranked are what drive you, then no, this is certainly not worth it. The move is going to be stressful on their win totals and moving into the Sun Belt is like hopping into the fringe of college football.
The fringe is not a term bashing the quality of football, and the athletes, in the Sun Belt. Rather, it refers to the conference existing on the outside of the major radar in college football. Teams in the Sun Belt don't finish highly ranked. Teams in the Sun Belt do not get the benefit of the doubt. Teams in the Sun Belt, even going 10-3 with a bowl win, don't end the season ranked in the Top 25.
Thus, it stands to reason, that not only will the sledding get tougher on the field, but even if the wins come, don't expect the respect to come with them. Such is the plight of the outsiders, with the exception of Boise State, when it comes to getting opportunities to rise in the ranks.
Do you think Appalachian State and Georgia Southern moving up to FBS is a good idea?
However, if getting more cash and chasing the dream is the goal, then making the step up is no doubt "worth it" to people. While student fees, and perhaps ticket prices, may go up, so will the cash flowing into the program. Between the television deal, donations and bowl money, the immediate opportunity for an increase is strong.
Throw in the higher payout through the coming playoff, and the increased asking costs for one-off games against bigger schools, and the athletic department will be getting a true shot in the arm. The type of shot that can help with facilities, non-revenue sports and increase travel and recruiting budgets.
While the move does not ensure a rising net profit, it does mean more revenue will be pumped into Boone and Statesboro via the football programs. In addition to the tangible pluses of money, there is the fire that drives many schools into these decisions: pursuit of the dream.
Not the dream of supplanting college football's power-brokers in the pantheon of history, but rather running down that goal of being recognized at the highest level. Until now, most of the success garnered by the Mountaineers and the Eagles came with the "at their own level" caveat.
Sure, beating Michigan earned Appalachian State the spotlight for a bit. Yes, winning titles in bulk brought both App State and Georgia Southern some recognition in their areas. But, nothing like what success at the sport's highest level would do for them. Win here, at FBS, and there is no way for the masses to discount what you've done. The chip on the shoulder for being a "lesser division" is replaced with pats of the back, because you're one of the guys now.
That is everyone's goal; from UTSA and South Alabama, to the Mountaineers and Eagles, chasing down that dream provides considerable motivation. It also makes it worth it (for them) to make that jump to the next level.
Your reference point is what determines whether these moves are worth it. What's more important than assessing worth, is going to be watching how folks motivated by chasing the dream remain motivated as their expectations are forced to be adjusted.
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