The Big Ten has been in the news recently regarding changes to their schedule. As they look to increase the number of conference games, the conference looks to also be eliminating FCS non-conference games from the schedule. I dislike FCS games as much as the next guy, but the way that this issue is covered in the media today is irritating.
A recent post on the Dr Saturday blog is a prime example:
One of the lamentable things about college football is the lack of good non-conference games. There’s some, but most teams seem content to play a weak schedule to ensure bowl eligibility and a bump in the rankings before league play.
That is a great step, and hopefully other conferences (and by “other conferences” we mostly mean you, SEC) stop the practice of wasting a precious Saturday afternoon in the fall on FCS opponents. The FCS teams benefit with a large payday, and that’s great for the bean counters at those schools. It’s not good for anyone else.
It stinks for the season-ticket holders that have to pay for a sham of a game. It’s nothing worth watching on television. The FBS team has nothing to gain, because a win is expected but a loss goes down in infamy. And while the FCS team will get enough money to build a new weight room, the most common result is getting pounded by 40 or 50 points, which can’t be that enjoyable for those players.
Some Big Ten-Sun Belt game in September might not be a ratings bonanza either, but at least it’s better than a parade of FCS opponents.
What I find fascinating is how the same members of the media complain about FCS games also complain about teams getting left out of the BCS. As we’ve discussed before, these games are crucial for these small football programs to even exist. It’s not just a matter of funding a new weight room; rather, it’s a matter of funding an athletic program.
These cupcake games are going to decrease, and it will shrink the sport of college football and further widen the gap between the haves and have-nots in college football.
The other party that gets crushed in this equation is the local business owner in major college football towns. The extra home game is crucial to their business, and as conference games increase, many teams will lose that extra home game. The schools will still take in the money via television contracts, but that money won’t trickle down into local businesses without the 80,000 fans that come out on Saturday.
With the decade-long crusade against the BCS complete, the media seems intent on finding other controversies to fuel. The “FCS scheduling” controversy is also accelerated by the perception that the SEC is the main culprit of cupcake scheduling (as shown in the above excerpt). For many writers, a chance to poke at the SEC is too tempting not to take. The reality is that there’s hardly a difference between a bottom feeder division 1 school and an FCS team. They still get crushed by 40 points against any legit powerhouse.
Many members of the sports media believe it is their role of ensuring college football moves toward an NFL-like scheduling system. Schools and conferences shouldn’t be free to schedule as they wish, but instead some all-powerful individual or committee should be scheduling everything for the schools. The reality is that college football scheduling works because of its de-centralized nature. Schools that want another home game can get it, and schools that want to get paid to travel to Gainesville, FL can do so as well. If a team gets penalized in the polls for it, then that is for them to worry about.
The idea that the SEC schedules weak non-conference games more than the rest of the country is debatable at best. Even if it were true, does it matter? I’m pretty sure the SEC representatives in the BCS Championship the last seven years have handled themselves well on the field of play against the opponent.
We will be diving into this and many more issues in our upcoming future of scheduling report. Stay tuned…