|Northern Iowa collected $950,000 in guarantees from Iowa and Wisconsin in 2012. (US Presswire)|
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez piqued the interest of FCS schools everywhere when he suggested on his radio show that the Big Ten has agreed to stop scheduling FCS opponents in the future. Nothing is finalized, but if such an agreement becomes the standard for Big Ten scheduling, it will have a negative effect on the FCS schools that counted on those paychecks for their annual budgets.
Northern Iowa athletic director Troy Dannen spoke to the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Wednesday, explaining the other side of the Big Ten's proposed scheduling decision.
"I would tell you the loss of the Big Ten schools will be devastating, to UNI and to a lot of our peers," Dannen said. "Not just because we wouldn't play Iowa and have the guarantee, if you think this will stop at the Big Ten … I look at things happening in the equity leagues in fives, and so I have to believe this might lead to additional dominoes."
Dannen guessed that if the Big Ten elects to eliminate FCS games from the schedule, the league would not require the members to buy out their current contracts. Iowa, for one, already has scheduled games against Northern Iowa in 2014 and 2018, as well as future home openers against Missouri State (2013), Illinois State (2015) and North Dakota State (2016).
While paycheck games have become a highly debated subject in recent years, no one is denying the impact that they have on the budget for an FCS school. Just last season, Northern Iowa collected $950,000 in guarantees from Iowa and Wisconsin.
"To me, it's a $500,000 budget hit, and that is significant," Dannen said. "It impacts our ability to generate money in football. It closes the ranks. It closes us out a little bit more. I understand why it's happening. But at some point in time, the owners of these institutions -- not just stakeholders, I'm talking owners, the state of Iowa -- at what point in time do they step in and say, 'You know what, the interests of a few is such a disservice to the whole that we have to start thinking about the whole again.'"
The reason it is happening is simple: to improve the Big Ten's chances of sending a team to the national semifinals in the new four-team college football playoff. We know that the selection committee is expected to have "14-20 members" and will be instructed to use strength of schedule as a tool in picking the four most deserving teams to participate.
The Big Ten's decision to expand the conference schedule to "nine or 10 games" and eliminate FCS opponents should, in theory, help the strength of schedule for the teams competing for playoff spots. Selection for the national semifinals also comes with a financial bonus. In a year in which the Rose Bowl is not hosting the national semifinals, the Big Ten could benefit from sending its champion to the playoff and a representative to Pasadena.
After the Big Ten makes its divisions and future scheduling structure official in the next few months, expect some of the other conferences to follow suit. The Pac-12 and Big 12 are already playing a nine-game schedule, and the SEC could revisit the topic of expanded conference schedule.
The future landscape of college football is unknown, and that makes administrators nervous. The race to gain an advantage in that unknown future is going to have some casualties. Many traditional rivalries have already been thrown out the window, and it seems like the FBS-FCS matchup is the next item to become antiquated as we move toward that future.
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