FCS conference plans for spring 2021 season
By CRAIG HALEY
(Stats Perform) - Many FCS programs are preparing to play the majority if not all of their 2020 schedule during the spring semester.
All 13 conferences opted not to play their league schedules this fall due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NCAA has approved an FCS spring playoff that is reduced from 24 schools to 16. Pairings will be announced on April 18 and four rounds of games will begin the following weekend and continue through a championship over the May 14-16 weekend.
A brief overview of FCS spring plans by conference (105 of 127 schools are expected to be participating):
BIG SKY CONFERENCE
* Six-game conference-only schedule, beginning Feb. 27 and ending April 10 (Montana, Montana State, Northern Colorado, Portland State and Sacramento State not planning to participate in spring conference season). The March 20 and April 17 weekends are open for potential rescheduling of games.
* The scheduling of opponents helps to reduce travel.
BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE
* Four-game conference schedule, beginning March 13 and ending April 10, with up to four nonconference games, which can precede the conference schedule (Campbell, Hampton and North Alabama not planning to participate in spring season).
* Robert Morris has been granted early membership to the Big South and will be one five teams competing in the spring schedule, eligible for both the conference championship and automatic qualifier to the playoffs.
* Six-game conference schedule, beginning March 6 and ending April 17, with up to two non-conference games, which can precede conference the schedule (Towson not planning to participate in spring season).
* North Division teams will face each other once: UAlbany, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Stony Brook and Villanova. South Division teams will play each other twice in a home-and-home series: Elon, James Madison, Richmond and William & Mary.
* The team with best conference record earns automatic qualifier to the playoffs. A tiebreaker will be instituted if divisional champs have the same conference record.
* New FCS members Tarleton and Dixie State have announced eight and six games, respectively, including a home-and-home series against each other and an FBS matchup at New Mexico State. Tarleton will kick off its Division I era on Feb. 13 against McNeese and Dixie State will do the same when it visits Tarleton on Feb. 27.
* Dixie State and Tartleton are Western Athletic Conference members in other sports.
* No spring football season.
* Undergraduates are granted a fifth year of eligibility.
MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
*Four-game divisional schedule, beginning Feb. 20 and ending April 3 (Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M and North Carolina Central not planning to participate in spring season).
* Northern Division: Delaware State, Howard and Morgan State; and Southern Division: Norfolk State, North Carolina A&T and South Carolina State. Each school will play a divisional opponent twice.
* Division champions to meet in a first-ever conference championship game on April 17. The winner will earn an AQ to the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2014.
MISSOURI VALLEY FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
* Eight-game conference-only schedule, beginning Feb. 19 and ending April 17 (Indiana State not planning to participate in spring season).
* Early games played either at domes or institutions in the southern-most part of the MVFC footprint.
* Four-game conference schedule on Sundays from March 7-28 (Central Connecticut State and Saint Francis not planning to participate in spring season).
* Nonconference games allowed prior to the conference schedule.
* Conference championship game to be played April 16 or 17 with the No. 1 seed hosting the No. 2 seed and determining the conference's playoff AQ.
OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE
* Seven-game conference schedule, beginning Feb. 21 and ending April 11 (Eastern Kentucky not planning to participate in spring season). Option to play one non-conference game on Feb. 13 or 14.
* Conference games will be played on Sundays except for Saturday during Easter weekend.
* Four-game conference schedule starting March 13 (Georgetown not planning to participate in spring season).
* Colgate, Fordham and Holy Cross in North Division. Bucknell, Lafayette and Lehigh in South Division.
* One game versus each divisional opponent with two non-divisional games. Championship game between division winners to be held April 17.
PIONEER FOOTBALL LEAGUE
* Six-game conference schedule, beginning March 13 and ending April 17, and including incoming new member Presbyterian (Dayton and Marist not planning to participate in spring season).
* Team are permitted to schedule nonconference games at institutional discretion.
* Eight-game conference schedule, beginning Feb. 20 and ending April 17.
* The Citadel played four fall games, but was granted an NCAA waiver to play 12 regular-season games in an 11-game academic year, and is eligible for the SoCon title after originally being deemed ineligible by the conference.
* Six-game conference schedule, beginning Feb. 20 and ending April 10 (Abilene Christian, Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist and Stephen F. Austin not planning to participate in spring season).
* Schools have option to play up to two nonconference games.
SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
* Six-game conference schedule, beginning Feb. 26 and ending April 24, with four opponents within the division and two in the other division.
* Schools can play one SWAC opponent that doesn't count toward the conference standings.
* Division champs to meet in the conference championship game (at the higher-seeded team) on May 1.
Updated February 1, 2021