Big Ten Football: FCS Ban Has Unintended Consequences for College Football
One of the biggest gripes of fans and television executives in recent times has been the annual meetings and beatings between BCS schools and opponents from the Football Championship Subdivision—FCS for short.
In response to that backlash and wanting to get back in the national title picture, the Big Ten announced earlier this year that they would be banning their teams from playing games against FCS foes starting in 2016.
That move also corresponded to the Big Ten's move to a nine-game conference schedule.
It was seen as a positive for the conference's image and as a way to get better matchups on the field for fans.
However, if you care about college football and not just the big dogs of the hierarchy, this move has the potential to be anything but a positive.
Should the Big Ten Reconsider Banning FCS Opponents?
The reality of college sports these days is C.R.E.A.M (Cash Rules Everything Around Me), and that's particularly true for the programs at the FCS level.
While talking to coaches on the Ohio Valley Conference weekly teleconference (Yes, I am that sick of a college football guy), the majority of them saw this purposed move by the Big Ten as a negative for the sport in general.
Tennessee Tech head coach Watson Brown, brother to Texas' Mack Brown, was very blunt in what it would do to his program, saying these games are what has helped to build his program.
“We have built this program here, with these dollars,” said Brown. “I don’t know how many we’ve played, but it is a ton of them. We need that on this level."
On average these schools collect nearly $500,000 a game for their visit to a supposedly superior opponent.
“We’re a little different; we want to go find as much money as we can find," continued Brown. "We don’t care who it is. We’ll play anybody. We just want to put our kids in these nice atmospheres. They don’t get to do that on this level; it’s neat for them. Yes, that piece is important, but the money we get, everything we’ve done in this program has come from those dollars.”
For the majority of FCS schools, that one payday can be the difference between existence or extinction.
“It is very important for these type universities, in my opinion,” said Brown. “I just hope that isn’t the trend because I think we’re all in this together. I just love to see the bigger schools keep helping us guys because those few dollars that we get are very, very important to us.”
Now, if you are Jerry Kill and Minnesota, this move away from FCS games can only be seen as a positive, of course. Lord knows they've been victim to the upset enough to never want to play the little guys again, right?
But can you imagine a world where North Dakota State doesn't get a chance to upset four straight FBS opponents or where Appalachian State doesn't pull off the upset of the century over a ranked Michigan in 2007?
Aren't upsets part of the fun of college football? Well, in the future the chances for these historic events to happen will become less, especially if other big conferences begin to follow the Big Ten's lead.
One has to wonder if a short-term gain in image is worth killing the overall strength of the sport of college football from top to bottom.
Not only that, but for schools that are trying to get to bowl eligibility and gain some confidence before heading into the gauntlet of conference play, these games serve a big time purpose.
They can be the difference between 6-6 and 5-7, and the benefits of a bowl game can go a long way in helping a middling Big Ten team move forward into the next season, thanks to the extra practice time a bowl game affords.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is definitely not a fan of what this move could do for a number of reasons, including monetarily.
#qctimes Ferentz believes the Big Ten's plan to not schedule FCS teams will ultimately drive up the cost of scheduling non-conf games— Steve Batterson (@sbatt79) September 3, 2013
The future of FCS football may well be in jeopardy without these kinds of guaranteed games, and Big Ten teams may end up shelling out more dough for games that are more like putting lipstick on a pig and calling it pretty than the real challenge they are trying to project with this move.
Perhaps the Big Ten needs to think twice about their iron-clad policy?
*Andy Coppens is the lead Big Ten writer for Bleacher Report. Follow the Big Ten conversation with him on Twitter. (All quotes firsthand unless noted)
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