College football: FBS vs. FCS games need to be limited


A matchup such as the one between Ohio State (in red) and Florida A&M is the kind the NCAA should work to avoid. (Jay LaPrete/AP)
John Feinstein
Columnist September 22, 2013

The following scores from college football games played Saturday may not be suitable for family viewing. Please be certain small children are not allowed to see them:

Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0

John Feinstein is a sports columnist for The Washington Post and also provides commentary for the Golf Channel and National Public Radio. View Archive

Louisville 72, Florida International 0

Washington 56, Idaho State 0

Miami 77, Savannah State 7

Games like this have to stop. They have to stop because they are unfair — first and foremost — to the overmatched players who are publicly humiliated and beaten up playing against opponents who are much bigger, much stronger and much faster at every position. Florida A&M and Florida International combined for 100 yards of offense on Saturday against teams that totaled 148 points.

This is competition?

Savannah State has played three Football Bowl Subdivision opponents in the past two seasons to pad the athletic department’s coffers. The Tigers have lost 84-0 to Oklahoma State, 55-0 to Florida State — in a game that was called off with nearly nine minutes left in the third quarter because God decided he had seen enough and started a thunderstorm — and now 77-7 to Miami. That’s 216-7, and it could have been worse.

The excuse given by athletic officials at places like Savannah State is that the payout for allowing their “student-athletes” to get pummeled this way helps sustain the athletic department financially. That’s no excuse. If that’s the only way to maintain your athletic department, scale back — and start with football, which is always the most expensive sport to play because of the scholarship bill.

The others getting the shaft are the paying customers. Most college football fans, especially those at power schools, pay big money up front for the right to buy tickets. Then they pay for a season ticket package, not to mention parking (in most places), concessions and any gear that is proudly worn into the stadium.

It must be great to be a Florida State fan this season and get to fight traffic and pay big bucks to see the Seminoles play a nonconference home schedule that consists of Nevada, Bethune-Cookman and the traditional mid-November game against Idaho.

Louisville, which aspires to be taken seriously on the national scene this season, can’t help the fact the renamed and restructured American Athletic Conference is awful, but it didn’t have to schedule nonconference games against Eastern Kentucky and Florida International. Its game against Kentucky was the highlight of the nonconference schedule. The final was 27-13, and neither Rick Pitino nor John Calipari were anywhere in sight.

Some routs occur because reasonably good programs are having down seasons: Maryland-West Virginia is clearly a game worth playing even if it wasn’t worth seeing Saturday. The fact that Oregon put up 59 points on both Virginia and Tennessee was more a reflection of the Ducks’ mind-blowing speed than the notion the games shouldn’t have been scheduled. Even Baylor’s 70-7 embarrassment of Louisiana-Monroe wasn’t a game that should not have been played. Monroe was coming off a big win (for it) over Wake Forest and got down quickly, and the game got way out of hand.

But there are games that shouldn’t be played and should not be allowed to be played.

Sure, Football Championship Series schools occasionally pull upsets, and then everyone says — correctly — “this is why these games should be allowed.” There were seven FCS wins over FBS school two weeks ago, most notably North Dakota State’s win at Kansas State. But North Dakota State is the two-time defending FCS champion, and Kansas State, as it proved by losing to a mediocre Texas team Saturday night, is not very good this season.

The question then becomes how do you tell North Dakota State or other quality FCS programs they can schedule FBS teams but tell Savannah State, Florida A&M and Eastern Kentucky they cannot schedule them. All those teams have the same status in the eyes of the NCAA.

The answer is easy: Pass a rule that allows any FCS school that qualifies for the 20-team NCAA tournament to schedule one future game against an FBS school. Each time you make the tournament, you get the right to schedule another game. So if North Dakota State makes the tournament three straight seasons, it can schedule three FBS games. If it wants to play one a season, it can do that, or if it so desires — unlikely — it can use all three chips the same fall.

If you aren’t good enough to make the FCS tournament, you aren’t good enough to schedule an FBS school. Exceptions can be made for traditional games in which FBS and FCS schools play annually, such as Temple-Villanova.

What’s more, any FBS school that schedules an FCS team is automatically ineligible for that season’s four-team national championship playoff. You can bet Ohio State won’t have Florida A&M on the schedule anytime soon if that happens.

There will still be plenty of FBS schools that will play FCS schools. If schools like Duke, Vanderbilt, Tulane, Army, Navy, Air Force, Rice, SMU — and many others — don’t schedule an FCS school because they think it will hurt their chances to play for a national title, their athletic directors should be fired for being delusional.

Of course, Florida International is an FBS school. Schools like Old Dominion, Georgia Southern and Charlotte have all made the decision to transition into the FBS. Massachusetts, which won what was then the Division I-AA national title in 1998 and played in the championship game in 2006, is in its second season as an FBS team. The Minutemen are 1-15 so far and, to meet FBS stadium requirements, moved their home games 91 miles from campus to Gillette Stadium. On Saturday, an announced crowd of a little more than 16,000 watched U-Mass. lose 24-7 to Vanderbilt in the 68,000-seat stadium.

Clearly, there need to be stricter limits on who is allowed to move into the FBS. Expenses are going up, not down, and players who had a chance to compete in the FCS are being turned into cash cows so presidents can preen and say, “You know, we moved up to the FBS.”

How’s it working out at U-Mass. so far? Old Dominion, also a very good FCS program, opened its season by giving up 99 points to East Carolina and Maryland.

It is sickening enough to hear fraud presidents and NCAA executives talk about wanting what is best for the “student-athlete.” Games like the ones people had to watch Saturday need to go away. It shouldn’t take thunder and lightning to stop them.

For more by John Feinstein, visit washingtonpost.com/feinstein.

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