Posted by Adam Jacobi
One of the most immediately evident by-products of college football's switch to a 12-game regular season in the FBS is the proliferation of the FCS non-conference game as a legitimate scheduling tactic. It's been a greatly beneficial development for all programs involved: mediocre teams get a nearly automatic W en route to six wins, elite teams get glorified scrimmages to help tune up for the regular season, and FCS teams get giant payouts that are critical for investing in their programs. It's probably no coincidence that the gradual strengthening of FCS programs over the last 10 years has come as they've been readily accepted by FBS hosts for one or two games a year.
Naturally, this symbiotic relationship is something FCS programs want to preserve, as there are likely dire financial consequences if they lose their connection to the FBS. But with the Big XII going to a 9-game round robin schedule in 2011 and the Big 10 likely following suit in 2015, some FCS schools are wondering aloud if their annual beatings will come to an end:
Three Missouri Valley Football Conference teams take a step up this weekend when they go against Big Ten schools.
But those opportunities might go away in the future when the Big Ten goes to a nine-game conference schedule in coming years.
“Mathematically, that’s a possibility,” Western Illinois coach Mark Hendrickson said on Wednesday’s Valley coaches teleconference. “There may not be too many more chances for us to play those games.”
The Big Ten will have an eight-game schedule for 2011 and 2012, but there is a push to add an extra conference game. If that happens, that’s one less nonconference game to fill on schedules.
Hendrickson is technically right, as we're not about to argue the mathematical merits of "four is greater than three." But if FBS teams--especially ones in large conferences--drop one non-con game a year, it's highly unlikely that the FCS game will be the casualty. Like it or not, the SEC's comical scheduling practices have proven beyond any doubt that nobody actually cares about non-conference strength of schedule. And considering the financial consequences of an extra loss when it comes time for BCS consideration, there's far more risk than reward in making a schedule more difficult than it has to be.
So yes, Hendrickson and other FCS athletic directors are well within reason to want FBS teams to have as many non-conference games as possible. But in reality, they shouldn't expect to see any dropoff in invitations from their FBS brethren; it's just good business.