A Former FBSers' take on being an FCSer now

Idaho FCS.jpg

Chris Hammond, FCS Fans Nation Contributor

A few housekeeping issues to get out of the way before we start. The first and most important is this is obviously all my opinions are based on my experiences alone. Idahos season, games I attended, games I watched and followed is all I have to judge my observations off. It is impossible in one year to know everything about every school and every fan base. Secondly, Congrats to everyone and their seasons. Despite how you may interpret some of my comments, I truly enjoyed this season, getting to know you all and learn about your teams. I am happy to be a part of the Football Championship Subdivision! This is merely to provide maybe a different take then some of you are used to. Someone that was on the outside looking in and and fully embracing the FCS. My take is what I have noticed after the first season rooting for my Idaho Vandals in the Modern FCS.

Explaining FCS:

The thing I found the absolute most annoying was to explain to just about everyone that the FCS is not Division 2. This I had to explain to many Vandals and just about everyone I ran into. It started off as an educational moment for me to help people better understand college football. By week 6 however, I would just grow angry and frustrated about how little people understood the concept. I imagine some of you run into this more than others, I doubt that no one has yet to run into this scenario. Drove me insane.

Away games:

I am 26 years old. I have been a Vandal my whole life. I had only attended 6 away games until this year (not including 3 bowls in Boise, ID and multiple games against Boise State). I was fortunate enough to attend 3 away games in 2018 season (ISU, Montana State, Eastern Washington). I have already booked travel to 5 games for 2019(Montana, Portland State, Penn State, Northern Colorado & Frisco Texas). Turns out getting around the Northwest is easier then Northwest to Southeast, who knew?

Ivy League:

The Ivy League not participating in playoffs is ridiculous. It hurts the division in many ways. The Ivy League schools are some of the most recognizable brands in the FCS. Having the Ivys in the playoffs would drum up more outside eyeballs. They also possess some of the largest alumni bases and are by far the most nationally spread out alumni bases. This year you had two very good teams in Princeton and Dartmouth that would have changed the Playoff picture entirely.  I understand the academics are what the Ivys are about; if that is the case then give up your March madness auto bid! Otherwise, show some consistency and quit being hypocrites. Also don't comment below on my grammar, we get it you are smart and I didn't go to an Ivy League school.

Celebration Bowl:

This goes right in with the Ivys argument. NC A&T was considered a playoff caliber team that probably would have changed the playoff picture by being in. I am sure it is also not the first time an HBCU team would have been dangerous in playoffs but had to fulfill the obligations of its conference to this bowl. I think the bowl is a great event and awesome exposer for the teams in it.

I think it is currently backwards. You should not have to, not qualify for the bowl to be playoff eligible. If you are playoff eligible, you should get to choose bowl or playoffs and then the celebration bowl works down a list to where playoffs teams stop. The Pac 12 and Big Ten LOVE the Rose Bowl. They do not turn down a spot in College Football Playoffs to play in the Rose Bowl, however. If they do not qualify for CFP it is a fantastic alternative.

Out of Conference Scheduling:

First fix, no more DII, DIII, NAIA games. It is not the same as FBS playing FCS (which on its own is being phased out by many conferences). FBS v FCS is D1 v D1. I do not think D1 schools should play anyone less than D1. Now exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis, need a replacement game due to natural disaster, traditional rivals, programs moving up etc. Without offending anyone's team, multiples teams are as good as or worse than some DII programs. Tune up games are there to be found without diving into lower divisions.

On the other side of these issues, more marquee out of conference games. The FBS does a great job of scheduling legit Top 25 out of conference games to start the year. I know a couple of years ago Montana and NDSU had a fantastic showdown on week 0 on ESPN. A FBSer at the time I knew these two programs and tuned it. We need more matchups like this. Once a year or every couple is not enough. I know Missouri Valley and Big Sky are working on this by scheduling a large amount of out of conference games against one another, but we need more of this.

One last sticking point. Less FBS Money games. I believed this when Idaho was a lower FBS too. I understand the financial need. I feel if possible home & homes with peer institutions is a better arrangement. Although, those upsets are exciting when they happen.

Montana_Chris_P_Hammond.jpg

Conferences:

The current conference structure needs some help, there are too many. 13 conferences is a lot when you consider only three are considered power conferences. You have too many good programs, not in a power conference. Some conference gems should force the hand to get some conference merging. The FCS would benefit in my opinion from like a Sam Houston State, Jacksonville State, Nicholls, McNeese, Furman, Samford, Chattanooga, ETSU, Kennesaw, East Kentucky & Murray State… or something similar. That Sounds like and would be a Power 4 type of conference.

In addition, no conference should have less than 9 teams. For competitive, financial and entertainment purposes this just does not make sense and is unnecessary.

Attendance (Especially during playoffs):

I will say some schools that may or may not have won 7 championships or are located in the Treasure state can ignore this section. For everyone else, Idaho included, I saw a ton of sparsely populated stadiums. In the playoffs, this is unacceptable to me.  This is not just on cold game days in November & December. I watched teams in domes & warm climates fall victim to this as well. I know the casual sidewalk fan may not care to go. What about the Alumni? We have some proud institutions in the FCS with strong Alumni bases. Where are they? Sometimes I feel there are more fans of a team on FCS Fans Nations Facebook group than in the stands.

Playoffs:

This we got right! 24 teams seem to be the perfect amount. Some tweaks could be made sure, and the who gets to hosts first round seems a little off. I would like to see 1-16 seeded for a better shot of balanced sides of the bracket. Without having been to a Playoff game for my school (did go to Frisco though) I will not comment on the difference between a Bowl Game and a Playoff appearance. I can tell you it is hard for me to imagine topping the feeling of any of Idahos 3 bowl wins except with the national title. I will have to wait and see until I can actually experience it to comment. I will say watching other teams' playoff games is more exciting than random bowl games as non-rooting interest observers. I do miss having something to fight for with 6 losses in a season though, kept fan base engaged for at least half the season.

NDSU:

Yes, they are that good. So sit back and enjoy that you get to watch something that may never be replicated.

The Fans:

This community is world class. For the most part, everyone is generally happy when others teams succeed and are interested and excited in learning about all the schools. I can honestly say I have enjoyed interactions with schools’ fans from all over the country now as being a fan of a WAC, Independent, Sunbelt and now Big Sky school. There is a noticeable difference in how a UL-Monore fan interacts with me compared to a McNeese fan, or an Ohio fan compared to a Youngstown. The respect is so great amongst FCS fan bases. Thank you!

Chris Hammond

@Chris_P_Hammond









Three UNC Football Players Looking to Play Professionally

Previously run by The UNC Mirror all rights reserved.

The University of Northern Colorado football team had a rough last two seasons in the wins column, but that has not deterred them from breaking UNC records and producing talent. Last year, UNC had two players in the NFL, Kyle Sloter as a backup QB in Minnesota and Frank Stephens as a practice squad receiver in San Francisco. Jacob Bobenmoyer, Zach Wilkinson and Alex Wesley look to join the former Bears. This season Alex Wesley became just the second UNC Bear to record two 1,000 yard seasons since Vincent Jackson who went on to be drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft. While Wesley may not be recorded that high on mock draft boards he did attend the Senior Bowl and  is participating in the NFL combine this weekend. 

A unique advantage to Wesley is he is not only a football player, but also ran the 400m for the Bears. Wesley was a Big Sky Champion in the 400m sprint three times in his career and last year went to nationals. Wesley placed as the 14th best collegiate runner at the 400m event.

This season Wesley had the 19th most receiving yards in the FCS. His career total yards of 2,716 yards and 14 total touchdowns should have scouts attention. Then looking at his highlights Wesley has the spectacular catch trait. In the practices for the Senior Bowl Wesley showed great route running and athleticism despite a lingering groin injury. Wesley is the best chance for a Bear to make it into the NFL via the NFL Draft, but he will not be alone. 

Jacob Bobenmoyer played long snapper for the Bears this season and received a unique honor. Being a long snapper is one of the least thanked and most under appreciated positions in football. Despite that challenge, Bobenmoyer was noticed  as one of the top long snappers in college football with an invite to the NFL Players Association Bowl game to showcase his talents and network with scouts. 

Looking at various scouting reports Bobenmoyer is listed as anywhere from top five long snapper to second best long snapper in the nation. That may not translate into a draft pick, but free agent signings directly after the draft is not out of the question. Bobenmoyer played well in the NFLPA Bowl where there were scouts from numerous teams present. The NFL Draft is April 25-27 with free agency opening following the conclusion of the draft. 

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The third Bear looking  to go play professionally is offensive lineman Zach Wilkinson. He has a unique situation where he did not hear from the NFL, but instead received an invite to the Canadian Football League combine. Wilkinson will compete in the National CFL Combine on March 22-24. The CFL Draft will take place on May 2.

The reason Zach was invited to the CFL combine is although he is an American football player he also has Canadian citizenship as he is from Vancouver, B.C., Canada. American players can play in the CFL, but only those with Canadian citizenship can be drafted. There is also a quota of how many Canadian players must be on each roster to keep the league true to its roots. 

Wilkinson has the advantage of playing at a Dvision I American school that allows more opportunity and chance for press than other options. In the August, CFL rankings  had Wilkinson listed as the eighth best prospect for the CFL Draft. In the December CFL rankings, Wilkinson stayed in the top 20 coming in at 17. While teams draft according to need, if the draft happened according to the prospect rankings Wilkinson would still be drafted in the second round since there are nine teams in the CFL and eight rounds in the draft. 

The Mirror had a chance to ask all three about their time at UNC in individual interviews. The following is a written description of the interviews abbreviated for clarity.

Jacob Bobenmoyer. Photo via UNC Athletics.

Jacob Bobenmoyer. Photo via UNC Athletics.

Jacob Bobenmoyer

Q: How did you decide to come to UNC?

A: I chose UNC since it was close to home for me. They also value academics since I knew I was coming to college for more than just football. Coach Collins really made it feel like home and I respected that a lot. 

Q: What was your favorite moments at UNC?

A; Beating #25 Montana was one of our biggest on the field victories that we were proud of. I also really enjoyed all of the community service events that us players helped out with. 

Q: How are you preparing for the NFL potentially?

A; Right now I have an agent and am working out to increase my speed and accuracy, but I am also finishing up my degree in nursing in case the football route does not happen right away. 

Zach Wilkinson. Photo via UNC Athletics.

Zach Wilkinson. Photo via UNC Athletics.

Zach Wilkinson

Q: How did you decide to come to UNC?

A: I chose UNC since I believed the coaching staff could help me develop into the player I wanted to be. I actually chose UNC over going to University of North Dakota.

Q: What was your favorite moments at UNC?

A; Beating #25 Montana was huge for all of us. I also loved reading to kids at local elementary schools and coaching youth kids. 

Q: How are you preparing for the CFL? 

A; I am strength training with some help from coaches. At UNC I am finishing up a double major in philosophy and communications with a minor in business.

Alex Wesley. Photo via UNC Athletics.

Alex Wesley. Photo via UNC Athletics.

Alex Wesley

Q: How did you decide to come to UNC?

A: I was not highly recruited in football, most of the offers were for track. I did not want to have to choose and the coaches at UNC made it possible for me to do both. 

Q: What was your favorite moments at UNC?

A; It was great to be a part of UNC’s first two winning seasons at Division I. I also cherish the two 1,000 yard seasons I had with the second one actually happening on my birthday. 

Q: How are you preparing for the NFL? 

A; Right now I am in Pheonix training on strength and routes in preparation for the NFL Combine. 

Dates to watch for these Bears going onto the professional level.

NFL Combine March 2nd: Wesley

UNC Pro Day: March 8th: All

CFL Combine March 22-24th: Wilkinson

NFL Draft April 25-27th: Wesley and Bobenmoyer

CFL Draft May 2nd: Wilkinson

Being a Bear: Always

FCS Combine Participants Preview

The NFL Scouting Combine starts February 26 and runs through March 4.

FCS Football will have at least 14 representatives at the combine.

Here is the list of accepted invites as of now with preview grades if applicable:

Name, School, Position - Grade if applicable (out of 10)

Big Sky

Emanuel Butler, Northern Arizona, WR - 4.95

Sua Opeta, Weber St., OL - N/A

Alex Wesley, Northern Colorado, WR - 5.27

Keelan Doss, UC Davis, WR - 5.51

CAA

Nasir Adderley, Delaware, CB - 5.82

Ethan Greenridge, Villanova, OL - N/A

Oli Udoh, Elon, OT - 5.27

MEAC

Darryl Johnson, NC A&T, Edge - N/A

Joshua Miles, Morgan St., OT - N/A

MVFC

Jordan Brown, SDSU, CB - 5.72

Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois, DL - 5.60

Easton Stick, NDSU, QB - 4.95

SWAC

Tytus Howard, Alabama State, OT - 5.81

Southland

Jazz Ferguson, NW State, WR - N/A

NFL GRADES EXPLAINED

9.00-10

Once-in-lifetime player

8.00-8.99

Perennial All-Pro

7.50-7.99

Future All-Pro

7.00-7.49

Pro Bowl-caliber player

6.50-6.99

Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player

6.00-6.49

Should become instant starter

5.50-5.99

Chance to become NFL starter

5.20-5.49

NFL backup or special teams potential

5.01-5.19

Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster

5.00

50-50 Chance to make NFL roster

4.75-4.99

Should be in an NFL training camp

4.50-4.74

Chance to be in an NFL training camp

NO GRADE

Likely needs time in developmental league NFL

Dixie State to join the FCS, Who Else Follows?

Earlier this week we learned that Dixie State will make the transition to Division 1 with intent to join the WAC.

Dixie State will move 14 of 15 of their sports to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), while football will become an FCS independent.

With a 10,000 seat stadium, 7-4 record (5-0 at home) and 100 percent support from the university leadership Dixie State looks for a successful transition.

Dixie State is moving at a considerably quick pace as they were a JUCO in 2005 and prior.

In the 2006-2007 season they made the jump to D2 in the Pac West conference.

Last year, they moved to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) and are now moving once again.

Dixie State will land in the WAC in the 2020-2021 season to start play.

One downside to the move is Dixie State will serve a four-year probation from post-season play.

The first playoff eligible season will be the 2024-2025 season for the Dixie State Trailblazers.

Merrimack Warriors logo provided by Wikipedia.

Merrimack Warriors logo provided by Wikipedia.

Who Else is Coming to the FCS?

Bison and Southern Utah fans were able to witness the newest FCS addition of the North Alabama Lions.

The Lions will be the earliest full fledged FCS team by finishing their transition in 2022.

North Alabama will be joining the Big South in 2019.

Two new faces will be entering the FCS this season as members of the Northeastern Conference.

Merrimack College Warriors from North Andover, Massachusetts will be moving up from Division 2.

LIU has a more unique situation as they will be consolidating LIU-Brooklyn and LIU-Post.

The new nickname/ mascot has not been decided yet by the two school’s staff and students.

The LIU-Post campus will host the football team and games since they had Division 2 football, while LIU-Brooklyn did not have a football team.

Both new teams will join for the 2019 season, but Merrimack will be on probation until 2023.

WAC logo provided by Wikipedia.

WAC logo provided by Wikipedia.

WAC Rumors, More To Come?

There have been rumors and fan inspired conversations about the WAC sponsoring football.

Unfortunately, these are purely fantasy at least for the short term.

According to KSL.com of Salt Lake the WAC is not currently considering adding football to the conference.

There has been conflicting reports on whether or not that will be the case or not, but some fan theories definitely make sense.

Adding football programs to some feasible current WAC members and dropping down some unsuccessful FBS programs are certainly interesting to entertain for competition sake.

FBS New Mexico State and San Jose State could make sense to join along with other WAC members currently exploring the feasibility studies such as UTRGV and Chicago State.

Invites and considerations outside of those have been mostly speculation or unconfirmed.

One confirmed no has been Colorado Mesa out of Grand Junction, Colorado who deemed the finances were not right to move to Division 1, but they would consider a move up in the future.

Also, with increased teams in the West this could allow the WAC to form some members in-house, but also take pressure off the Big Sky that has 13 current members.

One last consideration geographically would be to invite San Diego to ditch the long travel and non-scholarship woes of Pioneer League membership.

2018 FCS Team Map provided via Wikipedia

2018 FCS Team Map provided via Wikipedia