Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher passionately defends his practice of scheduling an annual game for his Seminoles against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent. FSU has played Chattanooga, The Citadel, Bethune-Cookman, Murray State and Savannah State out of the FCS ranks in recent years, and this year will host Charleston Southern. Fisher doesn’t maintain the practice out of a desire for an easy win.
“If you don’t play FCS, how do they make their budget,” Fisher asked the media rhetorically after a recent practice during fall camp when asked about scheduling philosophies. “Playing a big school. How does a Division II make its budget? Playing an FCS school.”
Fisher is right about that.
Total revenues and expenses for FCS member institutions across their entire athletic department rarely top $20 million. A $500,000, $600,000, $700,000 dollar or more “guarantee” game at an FSU, Alabama, or Tennessee goes a long way toward FCS programs balancing their budgets. Conversely, for Power 5 schools which are seeing increasing revenues related to growing conference distributions thanks to new media rights deals and the College Football Playoff, they find their revenues regularly approaching and topping $100 million annually, which makes a mid-six figure payout for a sure home win economical.
Many of these same P5 schools will also pay a higher fee for a “guarantee” game in the same season against a Group of Five school – often over seven figures. In order to qualify for a bowl game, a Football Bowl Subdivision team must have at least six wins over FBS opponents. This provision prevents teams from essentially being able to “buy” bowl eligibility playing a schedule filled with inferior competition. As money at the G5 level is stretched thinner and thinner, those paychecks from the P5 schools are just as important to their budgets as they are the FCS teams.
The Big 10 as a conference as a conference has set a policy forbidding its schools from playing FCS opposition.
"We're all caught up in these big games,” Fisher, whose team will be playing one of those “big games” when his Seminoles open the season against Ole Miss, continued. “We had better take care of the sport of football. We had better be careful — real careful.”
I agree with Fisher that all levels of college football from the P5 on down are valuable. I agree with him that the wealthier P5 schools should feel an obligation to support them. I disagree with Fisher that playing games against them is the best method to achieve this.
While “guarantee” games against FCS opponents sustain that level of college football, those same games degrade the P5 level. The P5 level is the most important level of college football and what is damaging to P5 football will trickle down and prove damaging to the lower levels.
Take the next to last week of the regular season in the SEC when Chattanooga, Alabama A&M, Presbyterian, Austin Peay and Western Carolina will invade our Southern football cathedrals to take a beating and a paycheck. These farcical games damage the entire product of major college football.
If Fisher feels charitable toward his FCS colleagues – and I’d be on board with all P5 schools doing this – I’d suggest he simply write them the check and skip the game. I propose for the P5 schools to agree on a set amount of money annually to “donate” – essentially – to the FCS schools as a subsidy.
This would serve the dual purposes of sustaining FCS budgets while also not forcing P5 fans and TV networks to spend their time and money enduring uninteresting blowouts.
(You can follow Chadd Scott on Twitter @ChaddScott)
© 2016, Chadd Scott. All rights reserved.
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