Now let's talk about upgrading conferences.
Schools like the upper half of the Division II Lone Star Conference, whose communities only really care about football, could probably scrape up 30 full scholarships and play FCS, but keep their costs down by being a D2 member in everything else.
I used to live in the Texas Panhandle and can tell you that only part of reclassifying West Texas to D2 that really still haunts panhandle residents is the idea that they will never host a game against schools like UNM, NMSU, UTEP, Tulsa, Air Force, or Texas Tech as a member of D2.
That is just a bummer.
WT has a 20,000 seat stadium and would likely be able to fill it for a local FBS opponent, meaning their gate payouts could match say any sunbelt school's. The problem is WT and most of the schools of the LSC simply do not have the enrollment to support DI membership.
Playing PSD (FCS) football in Texas would help them and all of the other strong football schools in the Lone Star conference schools a lot in attracting more students. Having that kind of flexibility in scheduling (playing D2, FCS, and FBS schools) combined with the lower scholarship costs an FCS football /D2 other sports scholarship load would have, could potentially make all of those schools' athletic programs regularly self-sufficient.
That should be the point, right?
Rule 21: All DII conferences that are deemed likely to be able to develop 6000+ average attendance shall be immediately reclassified to the Partial Scholarship Division (PSD) football classification with full football membership privileges, including automatic playoff berths.
The NCAA should push D2 football conferences up that appear to play FCS-level football. The play of recent upgrades UND, USD, SDSU, NDSU, and UCA strongly suggest the top DII programs can compete with the top FCS programs.
They should elevate these conferences up immediately on a 10 year trial period. These conferences could then vote at any point to adopt the PSD (FCS) minimum of 30 scholarships and immediately become full members of PSD (FCS) --- but would not be obligated to do so as this is designed to be a trial period.
The conferences that would be forcibly upgraded would have a lot of flexibility as the point would be to reduce travel for PSD (FCS) schools and increase attendance by adding more well supported members with large enrollments and fan bases, not potentially harming the upgraded football only conferences.
A whole conference could vote to stay at the PSD (FCS) level, down to 5 members could vote to stay at the PSD (FCS) level as a new conference, or individual members could vote to stay at the PSD (FCS) level while their conferences moved back down.
The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference, The Gulf South Conference, The Lone Star Conference, Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference would all be great candidate conferences for upgrading for football.
(One DII conference that could easily do the upgrade and be quite successful at the FCS level that I have not listed is the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). The SIAC is a group of tiny public HBCUs (only 2 of them have enrollments over 3000 and none of them exceed 4200) that draw very, very well at the DII level. I am not convinced that tiny publics should play at the partial scholarship level, even though the SIAC's fan support is certainly strong enough to make it.)
Subtracting the downgrades and adding the GWFC/NCC, the America East Football Conference, and the HBCU Southeastern Athletic Conference would amount to 11 autobids.
The GLIAC, GSC, LSC, MIAA, and PSAC are conferences with large memberships. It would make sense to have their larger enrollment members move up as a PSD (FCS) football-only conference and have their smaller enrollment members continuing to play in a LSAFD (DII) football-only "lesser" conference.
You might see the following football conferences moveup:
Greater MIAA: Neb-Omaha, UCM, Fort Hays St, Washburn, Pittsbugh St, NW Missou St, & Emoporia St.
Greater GLIAC: Wayne St, Ferris St, GVSU, SVSU, N. Michigan, & Michigan Tech
Greater GSC: Ark Tech, Harding, N. Alabama, Valdosta St., & West Georgia
Greater LSC: ACU, Angelo St, OCU, WT, MWSU, NEOSU, Tarelton St, & "the school formerly known as Texas A&I"
Greater PSAC: Slippery Rock, Shippenburg, West Chester, Millersville, California, IUP, Edinboro, Kutztown, & East Stroudsburg
Schools that are regionally displaced outliers like Samford and Georgia St. could be reassigned to the Greater GSC for football as could Youngstown State and possibly Dayton to the Greater GLIAC and Duquesne to the Greater PSAC for football.
Teams from the upgraded part of the conferences could continue to play teams in the lower classification part of the conference (if they desired) in "Out of Conference" play.
Those 5 upgraded partial conferences would bring the total automatic conference slots up to 16.
This balances out the level of play increasing PSD (FCS) from 100 members to 135 members and would increase DII from 218 members to 173 members.