Jeff Kolpack, Published April 28 2013
Big Ten will no longer schedule FCS opponents starting in 2016FARGO – When North Dakota State fans left TCF Bank Field in the wake of a 37-24 victory in 2011, the hope for many was to book a return trip to the University of Minnesota as soon as possible. ASAP is quickly turning to no chance at all.
The Big Ten athletic directors passed a scheduling model that does away with Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponents starting in 2016, meaning the short matchup history with the Football Bowl Subdivision Gophers is now history. It also puts into question NDSU’s 2016 game at the University of Iowa.
Bison athletic director Gene Taylor said he’ll revisit the game with Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, a former NDSU football player. Taylor said the Big Ten move is “disappointing and concerning” for financial reasons and the prospect of losing potential good regional FBS matchups.
He also questions the Big Ten athletic directors’ strength of schedule argument.
“If you look at our strength of schedule last year, it was higher than a lot of FBS schools,” Taylor said. “And if I’m a Big Ten coach, I’m concerned about where I get my sixth or seventh win (to be bowl eligible) without a potential FCS opponent. The other thing is, are they concerned we’re getting too competitive? Not just us, but the FCS in general has had pretty good success recently against FBS programs.”
The fear for FCS schools is more conferences will follow. Bob Bowlsby, the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, told WDAY sports over the weekend that a major part of the new playing selection criteria is strength of schedule and that could impact FCS schools.
Many rely on the guarantee games that usually ranged between $300,000 and $500,000 with FBS opponents to help fund their athletic department.
Three teams – Nicholls State (La.), Austin Peay (Tenn.) and Western Carolina (N.C.) – are playing three FBS guarantee games next fall. NDSU is at Kansas State on Aug. 30 for a $350,000 pay day, at Iowa State in 2014 in addition to the ’16 Iowa game, which carries a $500,000 guarantee. There is no FBS opponent scheduled for 2015, the same year the Bison are set to play at the University of Montana.
The Gophers have fellow Missouri Valley Football Conference teams Indiana State and South Dakota State on the schedule – the Sycamores in 2016 and SDSU in 2015 and 2019. The new mandate means NDSU will take a 2-1 Division I record against Minnesota and sit on it for the foreseeable future.
The Gophers won 10-9 in 2006, but NDSU came back to take a 27-21 win the following season. A last-second blocked field goal prevented NDSU from a three-game sweep. Taylor said there were no discussions with Minnesota about a future game.
The no-FCS Big Ten topic first surfaced in February when Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez spoke in favor of it, saying the games are not very appealing.
“There’s still time,” Taylor said. “I don’t know if the coaches have had a chance to talk with their ADs. They might want to go, ‘can we rethink this?”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found