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Expansion has yet to pay off for Valley football
When the Missouri Valley Football Conference expanded into the Dakotas in 2008, it was seen as a clever move to turn an already-powerful league into a superpower.
Soon after, the Football Championship Subdivision playoff field grew from 16 to 20 — and this season to 24 — and it seemed a lead-pipe cinch that the Valley was going to have three, four, maybe even five teams some years in the postseason.
Or maybe not.
Since the Valley added North Dakota State and South Dakota for the 2008 season, and South Dakota in 2011, the league has averaged 2.3 playoff teams per season.
In the nine seasons prior to the expansion, the Valley averaged 2.3 playoff teams per season.
Bottom line: Being the best league in the FCS is not earning the Valley any additional juice from the powers that seed and select the playoff field, with this year being the most glaring bit of disrespect of all.
Only two Valley teams are in the 24-team field. Two-time reigning FCS champ North Dakota State is the No. 1 overall seed, but South Dakota State is the only other league team to make the field. The Jackrabbits are being shipped to Northern Arizona for a first-round game.
South Dakota State was part a four-way tie for second place that included Youngstown State, Southern Illinois and Missouri State. The Jackrabbits apparently got in because they finished on a four-game winning streak.
Youngstown State was left out despite an 8-4 record. But the Penguins, hitting the meat of their schedule, sputtered to the finish line by losing their final three games.
The crazy thing: Missouri State, had it defeated Northern Iowa in the season finale, really could have been in the playoffs with a 6-6 overall record. That would have left the Bears at 6-2 in the Valley with a five-game winning streak, alone in second place with wins over South Dakota State and SIU. They didn’t play Youngstown.
We’ll never know for sure, but it would have made for a fascinating case study to see whether the committee would have included a .500 team from a league that should get more respect than it’s been shown.
By Lyndal Scranton, News-Leader