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Spiders plan to examine football scheduling
UR may have lost more than a game when it played U.Va.; the Spiders may have lost out on a trip to the FCS playoffs
Say the University of Richmond in football had opened this season against a Patriot League opponent at Robins Stadium rather than at Virginia. Chances are, the Spiders would have finished 7-4, not 6-5.
That could have been enough to get UR into the FCS playoffs, which the Spiders missed after qualifying in three consecutive years and in four of the last five.
Scheduling philosophy is up for discussion at UR. Is it beneficial to annually take on an FBS team with 22 more scholarships and far more resources, as Richmond has done nearly every season in recent history? Or should the Spiders’ sole focus be on FCS playoff qualification?
“In light of our success in the playoffs, in light of the new structure in the playoffs - with 20 teams - I think it’s in our best interest to take a look at what our future schedules will be,” said UR Athletic Director Jim Miller. “We know that there are positives in playing FBS games. But there are also negatives.”
The Spiders are scheduled to play at Duke next season, at Virginia in 2012, at N.C. State in 2013 and at Virginia in 2014. With each of those games comes a guarantee of between $250,000 and $350,000 for UR.
The financial aspect is significant for all FCS programs, which don’t benefit from major television revenue, heavy ticket sales or bowl payouts.
But Richmond is 2-8 in its past 10 games vs. FBS competition, having defeated Duke in 2009 and 2006. UR coach Latrell Scott noted that the Spiders won the 2008 national FCS championship despite losing at Virginia that year, and have made the FCS playoff field in other years despite losses to FBS programs.
Scott believes his team’s 34-13 loss at Virginia on Sept. 4 revealed flaws the Spiders addressed, and that helped UR improvement.
“It’s great for us, great for our kids to be able to go and play in that environment,” Scott said. “So I’d like for us to continue to do it. Maybe I’m just hard-headed.”
The FCS postseason this year expanded from 16 to 20 teams and includes 10 automatic qualifiers that won league championships.
The FCS selection committee that chooses the 10 at-large qualifiers implements a formula created by the NCAA that lists “won-lost record” as the first consideration for at-large entry. Furthermore, the FCS championship tournament handbook states that “less than seven Division I wins may place a team in jeopardy of not being selected.”
A member of the Patriot League, or the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, or any other lower-level FCS team, would be a Division I opponent. To the FCS selection committee, strength of schedule is a secondary consideration.
“I think if you’re a legitimate playoff contender, you’re going to find a way to win seven games, even with that FBS game,” said Scott.
But in the evolving Colonial Athletic Association, recognized as the FCS’ top league, winning seven games with an 11-game schedule (eight-game league obligation) is becoming more difficult. That is especially true if a CAA team’s schedule includes an FBS opponent.
Following the 2009 season, the CAA lost Hofstra and Northeastern, schools that had struggled in the league and discontinued football. Rhode Island, which also has had very limited success in conference competition, will downgrade to the Northeast Conference in 2013. That league, and the Big South, gained automatic bids this year.
Old Dominion will play a CAA schedule next season, and Georgia State comes aboard in 2012.
By John O’Connor, Richmond Times-Dispatch