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FBS versus FCS

I’m referring in the title to the two types of Division I NCAA college football, the Football Bowl Subdivision, which includes the power 5 conferences, and the Football Championship Subdivision, which used to be known as 1-AA and which has always had a playoff to determine its champion. Those of you who are fans of FCS football will have to wait till spring to see any of it.

The NCAA’s second-highest level of football won’t crown a 2020 champion as more schools announced Friday they wouldn’t take the gridiron this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Universities comprising the Missouri Valley Football ConferenceBig Sky Conference and Pioneer Football League all said they won’t play this fall, which effectively pulled the plug on postseason play for the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

As FCS teams and conferences pulled out of fall play in recent weeks, the NCAA announced that FCS playoffs would be cancelled if 50 percent of eligible teams pulled out. When the MVFC, Big Sky and Pioneer all opted out of autumn football, that minimum threshold was breached.

Before Friday, a host of other FCS leagues had called off fall football: the Ivy LeaguePatriot LeagueColonial Athletic AssociationNortheast ConferenceSouthwestern Athletic Conference and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

The 2019 FCS title was won by North Dakota State University, which edged James Madison University in the final.

Lower levels of NCAA football, Division II and Division III, also had playoffs cancelled this week.

That’s an awful lot of college football that will not be happening this fall. And now some of the FBS action won’t be happening, either.

The Mid-American Conference has long been the home of Tuesday football, seven-overtime epics and the #MACtion hashtag that bonds together the most hardcore college football fans.

The MAC functions on the outer orbit of big-time college football, a key part of the food chain by providing early season buy games, midweek television inventory and early gambling opportunities for those who’ve endured lost weekends.

On Saturday, the MAC took over a new role in the college football universe — the center of attention. The MAC presidents met virtually Saturday morning and decided to cancel the fall football season, a source told Yahoo Sports. The MAC will focus on playing football in the spring. Stadium first reported the development.

All day Friday, athletic directors and coaches were fixated on the MAC as a potential harbinger for the sport. The MAC becomes the first FBS conference to cancel sports this fall, setting the table for a new question around the industry: “Who goes next?”

The Big Ten presidents are scheduled to meet on Saturday afternoon and discuss the league’s 2020 future, sources told Yahoo Sports. There’s some momentum among league presidents to cancel the fall season. But it’s unknown if there’s enough for a decision to be made immediately.

As noted before, the University of Connecticut, which now operates as an independent for football, cancelled its season as well. Optimism abounds elsewhere, with plans for mostly-full schedules and some fans in attendance. All I can say at this point is that it sure seems unlikely to me that “not playing football at all until spring” and “preparing to play football in the fall as if everything is more or less normal” cannot simultaneously be the optimal strategy. I don’t know at what point the FBS bubble bursts, but I feel like it has to sooner or later.

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2 Comments

  1. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Football will likely try to start at the FBS level for all but the MAC. The other small FBS conferences (SunBelt, CUSA, AAC, and MWC) will likely press forward.

    Its about money. The P5 schools (ACC, SEC, PAC, Big 12, Big 10) will lose 60 to 70 million per school without football. They arent used to financing their teams via student fees.

    For the other FBS schools (the G5), they have a bigger problem. They largely dont have significant TV revenue to lose, but theyve lost revenue from payday games. They ALL run massive losses in athletics. Most are around 30m per year (AAC schools run the biggest deficits). These are financed by student fees. Its hard to make students pay thousands a year when theres no product for those paying.

    By the way, Uconn had the highest deficit in the NCAA, combined with a relatively low enrollment to shoulder that loss. Thats why they left the AAC, and why theyll drop down to FCS soon.

    The hightened measures appear to have slowed down the latest peak, so there will be a period of lower (but still high) infections and hospitalizations for the next 5 weeks. That will end as more schools start their seasons and people start taking more risks in greater numbers.

    I predict that the season will disintegrate sometime around October 1 at the latest. That date mives forward if infections run rampant in college teams or a coach gets hospitalized.

  2. […] we know, all of the not-FBS conferences, as well as the MAC, have cancelled or postponed their fall sports. On Monday, the Mountain West Conference joined them. Today, the PAC 12 will have […]