By Jesse Wood
Feb. 14, 2013. On the Madison, Wis., radio station WIBA-AM yesterday, University of Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said Big Ten officials agreed to stop scheduling football games against FCS (Division 1-AA) programs.
This decision will have negative repercussions for the ASU football program – especially if other major conferences, such as the SEC and ACC, follow suit.
If this policy would have been enacted, say, 10 years ago, ASU wouldn’t have had the chance to beat Michigan 34-32 in 2007. ASU wouldn’t have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, and ASU football wouldn’t be synonymous with the upset that changed college football forever.
“Well, I think that if this is a trend that other BCS type conferences would follow, obviously, it would be detrimental to FCS programs – from both a competition standpoint, a fan standpoint and a financial standpoint,” said ASU Sports Informations Director Mike Flynn.
If a trend does take place, then Southern Conference teams wouldn’t get the chance to play higher-caliber teams; fans wouldn’t get the chance to see their team play household names; and FCS athletics departments wouldn’t receive that huge payday that comes with playing those household names.
Every year, ASU plays a big-time FBS (Division 1-A) opponent – whether it was Michigan, LSU or Virginia Tech like in recent years. Or, as is the case for 2013, it is Georgia, which had a top-five ranking in both the USA Today Poll and AP Top 25 Poll at the end of the 2012 season.
Flynn said that when ASU beat Michigan, Michigan paid ASU $400,000 to travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., and play in “The Big House.” ASU is scheduled to play Michigan in 2014, and its payday has increased to $850,000 – if it is still a FCS team on gameday. If ASU moves into a FBS conference before then, ASU will receive $1 million to play against Michigan.
According to ESPN, the FCS future ban for the Big Ten could start in 2016 because of several Big Ten games with FCS opponents scheduled for the 2014 and 2015 season.
Flynn added that the recent Big Ten announcement won’t encourage ASU football – any more than it already is – to find a Division 1-A conference home because “that decision has already been made.”
“We’ve been actively searching for a home in the FBS since 2011,” Flynn said. “This doesn’t change anything. That decision was made long before Barry [Alvarez’s remarks].”
While this change could have drastic effect on programs in the Southern Conference, ESPN reporter Adam Rittenberg wrote that it is basically a win-win proposition for Big Ten fans:
“The FCS schedule ban should be welcome news for all Big Ten fans. No one likes seeing Big Ten squads beat up on completely overmatched foes, or suffer embarrassing losses like Michigan did against Appalachian State. There are few if any pluses to these games.”
So the case may be – but there are plenty of minuses for ASU football and its fellow rivals in the SoCon.
Comment from ASU Athletics Director Charlie Cobb was sought before this article was published.
This afternoon Cobb responded with a statement similar to Flynn’s:
“I don’t think any one particular conference saying they won’t play FCS opponents will have grave effects. The bigger concern would be if other FBS leagues follow suit. Just like many FBS schools from the non-equity BCS conferences, FCS programs count on playing these games for unique fan opportunities, a ‘David vs. Goliath’ moment for their student-athletes and the attractive game guarantees that help make athletics budgets work on an annual basis.”