This week the University of Louisville will take on Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Samford of the Southern Conference. The gaps between resources and profile between UofL & Samford are vast. Samford has a beautiful campus in a well-to-do section of Birmingham, AL and is Alabama’s highest rated private university, while UofL is an urban public university . In 2014, Samford’s Athletic Budget was $18.5 Million. Louisville’s in 2014 was $88.9 Million. The schools might be different but Louisville may find some familiar faces at Samford with University of Kentucky’s former Athletic Director C.M. Newton’s son, Martin Newton is the AD and former Kentucky basketball player, Louisville native, and former Rick Pitino player Scott Padgett is the Head Coach of the Samford Bulldogs basketball team.
FBS schools are 2028-423-18 (.824) all time vs. FCS schools. Despite that some FCS programs have recently done well against Power 5 FBS schools. Most notably this year when Jacksonville State (another Alabama FCS school) took Auburn to Overtime. In 2013 Eastern Washington beat AP #25 Oregon State in Corvallis, in 2010 James Madison took down #13 Virginia Tech and everyone remembers Appalachian State beating #5 Michigan in 2007. Florida, Kansas State, Pitt, Ole Miss, Miss State, Arkansas, Stanford have ALL lost to FCS schools in the 25 years.
Notre Dame, Southern Cal, and UCLA are 3 programs who have never scheduled an FCS program. Recently the Big Ten announced that beginning in 2016 its conference membership would no longer be permitted to schedule FCS schools and it is expected that other conferences will soon follow suit.
So what’s the incentive? Why do programs continue to schedule FCS programs? Why does UofL?
The incentive for FBS programs is: A win. What we at TheCrunchZone.com call “Scheduling Around the Myth”. FBS programs schedule the FCS school to notch that extra W, some programs do it to make boosters happy, to ensure a bowl appearance, or in the case of a young FBS program they play an FCS school to get the jitters out of the way early and get game experience in their home stadium before getting to the meat of the schedule. Oh and FBS schools pay for the privilege to play an FCS opponent often with values exceeding several hundred thousand dollars which ends up making up sometimes to as much as 25% of an FCS team’s overall team budget.
For Louisville, it would have greatly benefited to play Samford between Houston & Clemson as originally planned, but Television had other ideas. As it happens though Louisville needs a game like Samford to re-group and everyone goes home happy (even Samford) as long as the Cardinals win the game.
Must Have 7 Home Games
Athletic Departments (Like Louisville’s) rely on 7 home games in a season to fund the entire athletic department. As we’ve seen in recent years, sometimes it is difficult to find an FBS opponent willing to travel and play a home & home match-up and risk traveling to another venue. Kentucky, for example, plays 8 home games in 2015 and is only traveling to opponents who play in the Cats’ SEC schedule.
An extra home game with 55,000 seats can net UofL an extra $2.75M on ticket sales alone, not including the extra revenue from parking, concessions, signage, or any other stream of revenue that may exist. Louisville this year only has 6 home games, but the Chick-fil-A Kickoff netted a sum actually greater than a home game so the Cards are OK financially like other years when UofL has a 7-home game schedule.
FCS schools rely heavily on the payout to fund their athletic departments from FBS schools for playing the game. Not to mention the exposure (radio, TV, internet, print) associated with playing the game that the school and athletic departments receive that they would not ordinarily. So we should provide solutions that keep the FCS in the money:
The Spring Game:
Amend the Spring Game rules and play the FBS vs. FCS in the Spring. Sell tickets (include in season ticket packages), 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.
Same as above, but do this like the NFL. Give the fans something to cheer about in the pre-season and include a practice session with the FCS school during Fall Camp. Allow freshman who intend to be redshirted a chance to prove their value before the season and gain experience playing in a game inside their home stadium. College Football is the only MAJOR sport (College & Pro) that does not have a pre-season. Playing a single FCS game before the season would essentially be a dry run and there is less downside for the FBS schools.
Currently an NCAA rule does not allow either of these options. But 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 to 8-teams. Either way, 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.
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