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