|Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said the Big Ten agreed to stop scheduling FCS opponents. (US Presswire)|
When the Big Ten announced plans to expand the conference schedule to "nine or 10 games," the nonconference schedule was going to see some cuts. According to Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, the league agreed to a conference-wide halt on scheduling against FCS programs.
"The nonconference schedule in our league is ridiculous," Alvarez said during his monthly radio show on Madison's WIBA-AM. "It's not very appealing ...
"So we've made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools. It will not be FCS schools."
At this point, there has been no official word from the league office to confirm or deny Alvarez's statement. But whether the agreement is official or unspoken -- like many "gentlemen's agreements" between school officials -- the end result will be the same and should not come as a surprise to anyone.
It has been no secret that strength of schedule will play a key role in the selection and seeding of the new four-team playoff when it begins in 2014. Expanding the conference schedule forces schools to trim their nonconference slate. And when you want to boost your strength of schedule, an FCS opponent is going to be the first game cut.
The "paycheck games" have come under fire in recent seasons, as schools like Savannah State suffered back-to-back losses at the hands of Oklahoma State and Florida State. Fans have wondered about the value of a game like that on the schedule, particularly when the Cowboys and Seminoles combined to beat their FCS opponent 139-0 -- and the Florida State game was called early due to inclement weather.
But there are other fans who point to Appalachian State's upset of Michigan, or James Madison knocking off Virginia Tech, as reasons why the loss of FBS-FCS games is unfortunate for the sport. Unfortunately for those fans, the games against FCS opponents could potentially keep a contender from earning a spot in the four-team playoff.
If there is a bigger payday for the teams -- and conferences -- that make the national semifinals, it would not be surprising to see more conferences take similar action. It might not be official, but as scheduling agreements are discussed between conferences and leagues continue to expand, you can see the days of the FCS upset fading into college football's history.
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