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Big 12 Commish Against Anti-FCS Mandate
Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby will not try to mandate that his schools no longer play football games against lower-division schools like the Big Ten did last week, but he’s strongly in favor of such practice.
“I don’t think those games make your team better,” Bowlsby told the Tulsa World on Thursday morning after addressing an Oklahoma State University Spears School of Business breakfast gathering at the downtown Summit Club.
“And I don’t think it’s a good thing for the FCS school who gets blown out like that,” he continued. “And quite frankly, it’s not FBS football programs’ responsibility to fund FCS football. I just think we can do better than that.”
Last week, the Big Ten decided that its members would phase out “guarantee” games — a guaranteed huge financial commitment, a guaranteed victory — against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). Such games, Bowlsby said, are generally a bad idea for teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A).
FBS teams grant 85 full scholarships. FCS teams can apportion no more than 63 scholarships (some fall well short of that). The result is often a painful mismatch. Last season, Savannah State lost its opener 84-0 at Oklahoma State, then lost the following week 55-0 at Florida State (that game was mercifully ended early in the third quarter after lightning passed through Tallahassee).
Betting lines for games between FBS and FCS teams are seldom available, but an exception was made last fall: Savannah State was a 67 ½-point underdog to OSU, and 70 ½ to FSU. Each apparently set a record for such nonsense.
Savannah State did benefit, of course, getting $385,000 from OSU and $475,000 from FSU. That $860,000 represented nearly 20 percent of the school’s entire athletic department budget for the year.
But like Bowlsby said, such charity shouldn’t be on the minds of FBS teams serious about their football.
“The months of October and November are the best in all of college and professional sports, in my opinion,” he said. “September does not share that distinction.”
For his part, Bowlsby will not try to institute a rule that teams from the Big 12 can no longer feast on FCS cupcakes. But, with college football’s postseason landscape still under construction, he will advise anyone who asks to steer clear of the buffet.
“It isn’t my prerogative to mandate it. I’m here to manage what the athletic directors and the presidents vote on,” he said. “But if they ask me for my recommendation, I’ll recommend that they strengthen it in some ways that would keep them from being left out.”
It is widely expected that a future selection committee for the four-team playoff and postseason bowl configuration coming in 2014 will strongly consider a team’s non-conference resume.
Some Big 12 teams will still play FCS opponents. The ones who have national championships expectations will avoid it. At least, they’d better.
“I think it’s gonna be buyer beware,” Bowlsby said. “If you don’t think you have any chance of being in a playoff, the strength of your non-conference schedule may not be material except for … a derivative effect of who you play and then who they play. So if you play somebody that’s weak at one school, then it affects in some fractional way the strength of schedule of everybody else.
“It’s gonna largely be an institutional decision. But if you think you have a chance to play in the postseason, you’d hate to get there and then say, ‘Well, I played four FCS schools,’ or two FCS and two low-level FBS schools, and all of a sudden you get left out because your non-conference schedule is too weak. It’d be a terrible way to get left out, and that could happen.
“You get two institutions that have the same record and same sequence — they look just alike — well, the one that took control of their non-conference schedule and played some people is gonna be favored over the one that didn’t. That’s the way the basketball committee works.”
As for the selection committee itself, Bowlsby said the metrics of such a body still are on the table for discussion.
One school of thought is that a smaller committee (6-10) would be a more informed committee, whereas a larger committee (15-30) would allow for a greater margin of error and bias.
Bowlsby doesn’t necessarily agree with that thinking. The way things are leaning now, it’s go big or go home.
“I think a larger committee spreads the responsibility,” he said. “We haven’t given any consideration to a smaller committee. It’ll be some place between 15 and 25, and we don’t believe we’ll have to compromise on expertise in order to do that.”