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Monday, February 25, 2013

Another Big 10 (plus 2) Farce Cuts Out the FCS

Well, praise the Lord for Barry Alvarez!

The Citadel and Furman and Wofford can all fall prostrate before him and shout in adoration, "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" Because that's exactly what Alvarez thinks of FCS opponents for his Conference of the 1%, otherwise known as the Big 10. He and his fellows athletic directors have declared that they will no longer play FCS opponents.

We'll ignore the fact that the ADs were playing video of the AppSt/Michigan game while they made this decision. Barry has saved us from the embarrassment of watching our little guys from around South Carolina from having to play the "mighty" Big 10 teams.

Thank you, Big 10, for solving a problem that wasn't a problem. Unfortunately, it could become a big problem FCS schools just trying to make budget, particularly FCS schools that are near and dear to the Palmetto State.

Small schools have been playing "money ball" against big schools for decades. The objective is a nice, fat paycheck. Mix in the occasional upset and it's not a terrible system.

Yet, writers and pundits are suddenly concerned that someone is going to get "hurt" in one of these games. I don't know of a single instance of an FCS player losing a limb or severing an artery just because their opponent had Buckeyes on the back of the helmet.

I've argued on the air on ESPN Spartanburg about these FCS schools "prostituting" themselves in this way, and I still don't get it. It gives these smaller schools a chance to play in a setting and on a level of which they normally just dream. It offers them an opportunity to play David in the Goliath passion play and see if their best may just be good enough against a big-time program.

Here's the thing:  Some fans and bloggers believe this will mean better regular-season match-ups for Big 10 schools. I dare you to check in two years for the replacement schools for these FCS games. You won't be seeing Texas or 'Bama or Southern Cal. But I'm betting you'll see a lot of Marshall and Toledo and Middle Tennessee State.

They may be FBS (artist formerly known as Division I), but does anyone think MAC Conference USA teams are that much better than Wofford or The Citadel or Furman?

There is legitimate concern around the Southern Conference that other conferences may follow suit, although this is not set in stone. Southeastern Conference schools have plenty of tough games in their own league, and certainly don't need to ramp up the schedule. Unlike the Big 10, they play real football. The ACC might be more likely, especially since they've been embarrassed more than once against the FCS. But that could create some scheduling nightmares and end some long-standing connections.

Besides, the SEC seems content with their "SoCon Challenge" each year. Here at home, both Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier support the idea of continuing to play "home grown" FCS opponents. Death Valley was full last season for Clemson-Furman, so this seems like a positive arrangement (although Spurrier might prefer to leave off the option teams in the future).

Still, it could all change very quickly. There is even some rumblings that the NCAA may try to ban games between FCS and FBS. (And we all know that things can only get better when the NCAA gets involved).

No matter what some people are saying, this really isn't about these schools "prostituting" themselves or safety or fair competition or better games for season ticket holders. This is, as always, about one thing:  Money.

The Big 10 believes that it would be more profitable for them to leave FCS opponents off the schedule, and they may well be right (particularly if they have another Mountaineer Fiasco on their hands). But this is also about an ongoing desire of the BCS-level conferences to keep their money and not share it with anyone, least of all FCS.

And that's okay. FCS will be fine and continue to play a more pure brand of football that is designed for the last remaining bastion of true student-athletes in the nation. It would just be nice if people like Alvarez and his Big 10 brethren would drop the charade and just speak the truth. They may not know how many teams they have in their conference, but they know that they want every one of their schools to keep every dollar available.

That's fine. At least our FCS teams know how to count. We'd rather play real football teams in the SEC anyway.

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