One of the hot topics today at the annual SEC Spring meetings is the scheduling of Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams.
FBS schools typically schedule FCS opponents for a few reasons — to ensure a home game without a return visit, to bring in additional revenue, and to notch a win for bowl eligibility.
Most SEC schools are scheduling FCS teams for the first two reasons. It’s primarily a money-making decision because an extra home game brings in $1-3 million in revenue, depending on the school. A few others need that extra win to qualify for a bowl.
But playing the SEC and other FBS schools helps the FCS teams add around $300-500K to their own coffers. Plus there’s always the chance that the little guy will rise up to defeat the big school, as 16 FCS schools did last season.
All of those factors have resulted in a divide over whether or not to continue scheduling FCS teams. Here’s a look at the position of each SEC school as stated at the Spring meetings this week (others will be added as necessary).
Nick Saban was the lone head coach that was for the SEC playing a nine-game conference football schedule. He has also proposed the power five conferences only play each other, meaning no games against the FCS and the other FBS conferences (AAC, C-USA, MAC, MWC, and Sun Belt).
Today Saban told reporters on playing FCS schools “We try not to do it now, but sometimes it’s all that we have left to schedule 12 games. It’s not by choice that we want to do it. The first people that need to be taken for consideration — who get no consideration — are the fans and people who support the program.”
Alabama hosts Western Carolina this season on Nov. 22, but future games against FCS teams have not been announced.
Head coach Will Muschamp said today that the Gators will “move forward” without scheduling FCS teams. Muschamp added that “I think more than anything that (the College Football Playoff) is part of it, and our fan base, as much as anything, wants to see better opponents.”
The last non-conference game that Florida currently has scheduled is Nov. 22, 2014 vs. Eastern Kentucky.
Georgia will continue to schedule FCS schools, according to comments made today by head coach Mark Richt. “I’m for doing it,” Richt said.
“What I’m learning is if we as BCS teams – or whatever you wanna call us these days – if we don’t have those games with the FCS schools a lot of them have a very difficult time making their budgets,” Richt said. “I think college football is too important at all levels to hurt them by setting criteria that would not allow you to play them.”
Georgia hosts Charleston Southern this season on Nov. 22 and is scheduled to open the 2015 season vs. Southern on Sept. 5.
Les Miles said Tuesday that he is in favor of continuing to play FCS opponents.
The Rebels will continue to schedule FCS programs, head coach Hugh Freeze said today. “Our plan is to continue to (schedule FCS schools),” he said.
“Me coming up through the route of smaller school ball to this point, I know the value it adds to those programs (to play BCS schools),” Freeze said. “I find it hard to believe that one game like that, along with the conference schedule we play and one other game against a BCS conference opponent, would really hinder you if you perform well in those other games.”
Ole Miss is set to host Presbyterian this season, and has future games lined up against UT Martin in 2015 and Wofford in 2016.
Steve Spurrier would like to continue playing FCS teams, particularly if they are in-state.
“They are very appreciative when they get to come to our ballpark because they go home with a bunch of money,” Spurrier said. “And they always say, ‘Coach, we really appreciate you playing us because it really helps our budget throughout the year.’”
Kevin Sumlin echoed Saban’s statement that it is sometimes hard to schedule 12 games without an FCS team.
Clear message from #SEC (Saban, Sumlin, ADs): Sometimes FCS games will be inevitable because getting to 12 FBS games is difficult
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 27, 2014
The Aggies open the 2014 season vs. Lamar and then face Western Carolina in 2015. No other FCS opponents have been announced.