This week the University of Louisville will take on in-state Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Murray State. The gap between revenue and resources between the University of Louisville and Murray (particularly in football) is vast. At least the Cards are playing an in-state school and paying to enhance the Racers athletics program.
So why is Louisville playing an FCS school? Why do other programs play FCS programs? Why is it Good/Bad? Let us examine some of the reasons why the Cards and other programs continue to play FCS programs.
Scheduling Around the Myth
A lot of programs don’t have the confidence to open the season on the road or in a neutral site against solid programs. This week College Football saw some outstanding football: Clemson traveled to Georgia, A&M traveled to South Carolina, Rutgers flew out to Washington State, UCLA traveled to Virginia, while Alabama vs. West Virginia, Boise St vs. Ole Miss, & Florida State vs. Oklahoma State were neutral site games. Heck, Penn State and Central Florida flew all the way to Ireland to open the season.
Other programs……….most other BCS conference schools play lesser opponents. We call that “Scheduling Around the Myth”. When a school like Louisville in 2013 could not find a decent game on its schedule while Oregon opens up with Nicholls State (as they did in 2013) that’s a problem. Florida hasn’t played an out of conference game away from the state of Florida since a loss in the Carrier Dome to Syracuse in 1991. That’s sad….and yellow.
In all, Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs lined up against FCS opponents 47 times during College Football’s opening weekend, that is 18 more than last season’s Week 1. Here is the list:
Georgia State v. Abilene Christian
Akron vs. Howard
Minnesota vs. Eastern Illinois
Northern Illinois vs. Presbyterian
Central Michigan vs. Chattanooga
Utah vs. Idaho State
New Mexico St. vs. Cal Poly
San Jose State vs. North Dakota
Arizona St vs. Weber State
Syracuse vs. Villanova
Michigan St. vs. Jacksonville St
Pitt vs. Delaware
Iowa State vs. North Dakota State <-Cyclones got crushed by Bison
Illinois vs. Youngstown St.
Indiana vs. Indiana State
Iowa vs. Northern Iowa
Kentucky vs. UT-Martin
Georgia Tech vs. Wofford
Ball St vs. Colgate
Air Force vs. Nicholls State
Nevada vs. Southern Utah
Maryland vs. James Madison
Buffalo vs. Duquesne
Old Dominion vs. Hampton
Missouri vs. South Dakota St
Wyoming vs. Montana
Oregon State vs. Portland St
Stanford vs. UC Davis
Virginia Tech vs. William & Mary
Duke vs. Elon
North Carolina vs. Liberty
Eastern Michigan vs. Morgan St
Toldeo vs. New Hampshire
Middle Tennessee vs. Savannah St.
Florida International v. Bethune-Cookman <- Wildcats beat the Panthers.
San Diego State vs. Northern Arizona
Memphis vs. Austin Peay
South Florida vs. Western Carolina
TCU vs. Samford
Texas Tech vs. Central Akransas
Arkansas State vs. Montana St
Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Southern
Texas St vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff
Kansas St. vs. Stephen F. Austin
East Carolina vs. North Carolina Central
Oregon vs. South Dakota
Scheduling Around the Myth has been in common practice for a long time. Getting to 6-6 and a bowl game is MUCH easier for programs with an FCS program on the schedule, than it would be if FBS programs would just decide to play each other instead of shelling out the 6-figure paycheck to these schools. Much of it is donor driven. Athletic Directors & University Presidents want to be able to claim the football program had success and point to a bowl appearance. That works in the middle just fine….but at the top when there could be as many as 8 teams with a claim to be in the Top 4 at the season’s end to play for the College Football Playoff that extra legitimate game could have been VERY helpful.
Must Have 7 Home Games
One of the reasons why the FCS game happens is because programs RELY on the 7th home game every season to fund their entire athletic programs. An extra home game for a school, like Louisville, with 55,000 seats can sell each ticket at an average of $50/ticket and earn an extra $2.75M on ticket sales alone. That doesn’t include parking, concessions, signage, or any other stream of revenue. This year, Louisville only has 6 home games as a result of traveling to Notre Dame later this November so even with the Murray (FCS) game the Cards are a game short.
Why Is It Good/Bad?
Playing the FCS game is good for the FCS school. Big-time programs often pay out 6-figures or more for FCS programs to travel paychecks to travel into FBS programs. The big checks help fund a HUGE part of the FCS budget and other sports programs. Also, a lot of the early season games get picked up on national or regional television and provide exposure for the school that they wouldn’t ordinarily receive.
Outside of the easy payday for both schools, the game is bad for the FBS program. FCS teams come to town with nothing to lose, a guaranteed payout, and a chance to beat a big-time program. If the FBS school doesn’t win by a HUGE score the fans are angry, if they lose……it’s worse.
Last week Iowa State was dismantled by North Dakota St and Florida International got edged out by Bethune-Cookman.
Do you think these programs were happy to wait an entire off-season of optimism to lose to a school (or play a close game with) that probably did not have a single athlete recruited by their program?
Personally, I think the FCS game needs to exit the regular season. But I do think there is still a way to get the payday for both schools, and do it in a way that is more interesting than it is currently. PLAY THE GAME IN THE SPRING OR AS A PRE-SEASON GAME. Everyone likes a little Spring Football, but lining up Offense vs. Defense just doesn’t get the blood boiling quite the same way as it does when your team takes the field against a real opponent.
Play the FCS game in the Spring. Sell tickets, concessions, put it on Television. Both programs get the the cash benefit, the fans get the benefit of getting to cheer on their school, and the programs can line up against another team that isn’t as familiar as its own. Losses don’t hurt FBS programs, and those programs can try and develop REAL game depth outside of practice before the season starts with some of the younger players.
Or play the game like the NFL handles the pre-season. 2 weeks into Fall Camp have a game where new players can go through the real game experience without burning red-shirts. Same idea as Spring, sell tickets, open concessions. It’s essentially a dry-run very close to the actual start of the season. FCS schools still get their money, but the FCS school isn’t harmed by a loss, and FBS schools aren’t penalized by tinkering with line-ups or getting new players up to speed. NOR are the FBS programs rewarded for beating a team that every FBS program would have inherent advantages over.
Currently an NCAA rule does not allow this. But I think a rule change would be fantastic. If nothing else FBS schools would have to play ALL 12 of their games against FBS schools OR possibly shortening the regular season and allowing for playoff expansion. Moving into a 4-team playoff in 2014 is a step, having that 12th legitimate game would be another in terms of clearing the way to finding a true champion and increasing the revenue of college football.