At Tuesday’s SEC meeting in Destin, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp suggested he’d rather not schedule opponents from the Football Championship Subdivision. Per George Schroeder of USA Today:
Will Muschamp says “We’re probably going to move forward without playing FCS opponents,” but said up to each SEC school to decide.
— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) May 27, 2014
Of course, the snarky retorts virtually write themselves.
FWIW, Florida's decision to no longer schedule FCS opponents doesn't preclude them from getting a rematch with Georgia Southern #FunBelt
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) May 27, 2014
Florida’s catastrophic 2013 season hit rock bottom when, in the SEC’s annual week-before-rivalry week bodybag game, the Gators lost to FCS program Georgia Southern, 26-20.
Behind head coach Jeff Monken’s triple-option, Georgia Southern famously went 0-for-3 passing for 0 yards, but racked up 429 yards on the ground. The only famous moment from the Gators that afternoon was more like infamy, as teammates Quinton Dunbar and Jonotthan Harrison blocked each other.
But it wasn’t too long ago that Florida was on the other, more likely end of the FBS vs. FCS equation. Opening 2009 and coming off winning a BCS championship, the Gators hosted Charleston Southern.
The Tim Tebow-led Gators were 73-point favorites over the lowly Buccaneers. Seventy-three points. That’s more than the Florida basketball team managed in its final four SEC games that same year.
By falling on both extremes of the scenario, Florida offers a compelling case-study both for why FBS (and particularly power-conference) programs shouldn’t schedule FCS, and why they should.
Last season, there were a record 110 games pitting FCS programs against FBS counterparts. Predictably, there were a lot of FBS wins: 94, to be exact.
But those 16 FCS wins were also a single-season record. Georgia Southern’s defeat of Florida and the Week 1 wins for Eastern Washington and North Dakota State over Oregon State and Kansas State respectively were the high points.
For FCS programs, these matchups are typically the biggest stage on which they’ll play all year. And though the odds may not necessarily be in their favor, all it takes is one magical moment to become nationally recognized.
Take Appalachian State. Its 2007 season-opening defeat of Michigan remains the definitive FCS upset over a power-conference FBS team. The notoriety that followed helped Appalachian State build the momentum to become an FBS member; the Mountaineers join the Sun Belt this season, along with Georgia Southern.
Appalachian State returns to Ann Arbor to open its new era. While another upset is highly improbable for myriad reasons—one of which being the 2014 Mountaineers have no one comparable to the incomparable Armanti Edwards—Appalachian State will get another big payday.
Win or lose, FCS programs get an economic boost from these games. The payouts help subsidize entire athletic departments in certain cases, as Jack Carey’s 2009 feature for USA Today details. These schools lose not only the opportunity to make history, but also a sizable portion of their athletic budget.
Michigan and the rest of the Big Ten are ceasing scheduling of FCS opponents in the near-future. If SEC coaches heed Muschamp’s suggestion, that’s two of the five power conferences furthering the division between football’s big-time, big-money players and the rest of the sport.