FCS playoffs and bowl games? It's a thought
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - There are people in the FCS who feel the three-week gap between the playoff semifinals and the national championship is about a week too long.
It includes some of the participants who have ventured to the bowl-like week in early January in Frisco, Texas.
But Football Gameplan, whose video previews and podcasts are part of the STATS coverage of the subdivision, has suggested a way to fill the gap. Considering another FCS postseason game - the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl - has been so successful for the MEAC and SWAC champions, Football Gameplan co-hosts Dave Hashagene and Emory Hunt want to see bowl games between the best teams that don't qualify for the 24-team FCS playoffs.
It's not far-fetched when considering about 20 percent of FCS teams play postseason games compared to more than 60 percent of teams on the FBS level.
Last season, there were 34 FCS teams that had winning seasons yet didn't play in the postseason. Included were four teams from the eight-member Ivy League, which doesn't participate in postseason games.
In their hypothetical, Hashagene and Hunt say FCS bowls could be held during the bowl season, which begins four weeks after the end of the FCS regular season and takes place during the three-week buildup to the FCS championship game. It would feature regional matchups that would bring more playing time and exposure to teams. Last year's suggested matchups included McNeese (9-2) versus Southern (7-4), Howard (7-4) versus Western Carolina (7-5), and if the Ivy League changed its postseason stance, Columbia (8-2) versus Colgate (7-4).
Or, if a pairing was more national, there could have been a bowl matchup such as Austin Peay (8-4) versus Eastern Washington (7-4). Both teams felt worthy of a playoff bid.
"You get rid of the whole 'we got snubbed'," Hashagene said. "OK, you did, fair enough. But you've got a bowl game to play."
There are problems with the Football Gameplan concept. Not surprisingly, it starts with money. Teams would be practicing for nearly a month leading into the FCS bowls, and athletic budgets at many FCS programs are stretched enough already. The layoff may hurt interest in the games, but playing them soon after the regular season will have them overwhelmed by the playoff games (and there's not a lot of fan attendance at playoff games over Thanksgiving weekend).
Hashagene and Hunt want to see neutral sites used for the bowls, but they most likely will have to be played at campus sites - like the FCS playoffs - to attract meaningful crowd sizes.
Television coverage? The games would likely be relegated to conference digital networks considering the saturation of FBS bowls. They wouldn't be ratings draws, but the conferences involved would be interested.
So while the FCS "consolation" bowls are supposed to bring an NIT-type vibe to the FCS postseason, the reality is, they may more resemble the CBI or CIT, which fall below the NIT in college basketball.
In short, the bowls probably won't come to fruition, but the growing interest in the FCS at least creates the conversation.
Updated June 6, 2018