BY JEREMY HOECK
To kick off Monday morning’s Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason media session, commissioner Patty Viverito took the chance to again reiterate her belief that FCS football is alive and well.
Despite, of course, the continued shakeup of FBS football, with the top five leagues (Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Pac-12) starting to separate themselves from the bottom five conferences.
Saying that the FCS has not been “distracted by labels” or “crazy decisions,” Viverito pointed to the Valley’s success in sending multiple teams to the post-season, highlighted by North Dakota State’s back-to-back national championships.
A year ago, the MVFC sent three teams to the playoffs, North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Illinois State — two of which advanced all the way to the quarterfinals.
Also a topic of conversation Monday was the expanded FCS playoff field, starting this fall.
The total number of playoff teams increases from 20 to 24, which includes an increase to 11 in automatic qualifying conferences and 13 in at-large selections.
The NCAA football committee also modified its playoff selection process, Viverito said. The biggest change will be that teams with six Division I wins will be considered, rather than the previous seven victories.
“History tells us that this will put more playoff worthy Valley teams in the at-large mix,” she said.
The committee is also adopting what Viverito called an RPI-type rating system, which will measure strength of schedule — which, again, will naturally help potential MVFC contenders.
The issue of schedules also came up two other times in Viverito’s call Monday.
On a question about such FBS conferences like the Big Ten essentially eliminating non-conference ‘guarantee’ games against FCS schools, the commissioner said she is not in favor of such a decision.
“Our hope is that as the FBS playoff selection criteria becomes more solid, they will recognize that playing our teams in many ways makes more sense, both financially and competitively than some of the bottom FBS options,” she said.
South Dakota State, for example, had a 2015 game with Minnesota essentially wiped off the books when the Gophers replaced that contract for one with Texas Christian. The Jacks will also play at Nebraska this season.
Asked about Valley teams scheduling two FBS games each season, Viverito said she recommends against such a decision. Western Illinois has such a schedule this fall, with games at Minnesota and at UNLV on consecutive weeks.
“It hurts teams chances for playoff selection,” she said. “I understand the financial necessity. I empathize, but I don’t advocate.”
As the FBS landscape continues to change, a number of schools have decided to jump from the FCS waters to test themselves at the highest level. Traditional FCS powers like Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are leaving for the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
Viverito maintained, though, that the allure of more money and more prestige is not always financially feasible, according to a recent NCAA document she alluded to Monday.
According to the commissioner, schools that jump to the FBS ranks will see on an average their expenses out-weighing generated revenue by $1-2 million each year.
“All the folks that say they’re moving to FBS because there’s more money, yes, there’s more revenue, but these expenses are going to out-strip any gain in revenues,” Viverito said.
In the end, changes across levels does not deter the mission of the FCS, Viverito said. The new tagline for the FCS, as part of a new branding initiative, is “Every down, every day.”
“We all, in our hearts, believe that there are leagues within FCS that are nationally competitive with the bottom of FBS,” she said.
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