LITTLE ROCK — A move to upgrade the football schedules of Big Ten schools by eliminating Football Championship Subdivision schools has the attention of the athletics director at the University of Central Arkansas.
For one road trip per year to a BCS school from 2012-2014, UCA will bank about $1.2 million, a significant amount for an FCS school. If the Big Ten proceeds with the exclusion and other conferences follow suit, UCA and other FCS schools — formerly Division I-AA — would have to find other revenue streams.
UCA banked $375,000 for playing at Ole Miss last year, said UCA athletics director Brad Teague. This Sept. 7, a trip to Colorado is worth $390,000. In 2014, Texas Tech is paying UCA $425,000.
The Big Ten is moving toward a nine- or 10-game conference schedule, partly to accommodate new members Rutgers and Maryland and maybe others, but also to improve the strength of schedule of conference members. Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez has described the non-conference schedules in the league as ridiculous.
Repeatedly, those involved in the four-team playoff that begins after the 2014 season have said strength of schedule will be a major factor in the selection process. With unbeaten Ohio State ineligible for the BCS standings last year, the Big Ten’s highest ranked team was Nebraska — No. 16 before losing to Wisconsin in the conference championship game. The last time a Big Ten team ranked in the top four was in 2007 when Ohio State was No. 1.
Already, the Pac-12 and the Big 12 play nine-game conference schedules and expansion of the Big Ten schedule might prompt the Southeastern Conference to adopt a nine-game league schedule. SEC schedules for 2014 and beyond will be discussed this spring.
This fall, each of the 14 teams in the SEC has an FCS opponent. Arkansas plays FCS member Samford in the second game of the season. Other teams in the Western Division have Western Carolina, Furman, Alcorn, Southeast Missouri, Sam Houston, and Tennessee-Chattanooga.
" … I can assure you as long as one FCS game counts toward bowl eligibility, the majority of coaches in every league will want to play FCS contests …," Teague said.
The 2013 schedules back him up. Pac-12 schools have more than a half-dozen games against FCS teams in September and scheduling is similar in the Big 12 where more than half of the 10 teams in the league play FCS schools during the first two weeks of the season.
Sure, Teague said, expansion of conference schedules could squeeze the number of opportunities for FCS schools. "We will just have to see … but the other side of the coin could say that coaches want FCS games, and there are fewer non-conference opportunities due to more conference games, we have to pay FCS schools more," he said. "We are certainly paying attention."
If FCS schools are off-limits for schools in the Big Ten and other major conferences, UCA and other FCS schools might wind up playing teams from mid-major conferences. The going rate for an FCS team to play at at mid-major is $200,000-$300,000.
"I would anticipate these opportunities to become more available as BCS conferences would have fewer non-conference opportunities for these mid-majors," he said. "Games have to be played. So FCS would play guarantee games for fewer dollars yet the gap wouldn’t be insurmountable."
Although there is the once-a-decade Appalachian State over Michigan, the FCS schools travel for a check and the FBS schools are in a no-win situation since they are expected to name the score. Arkansas 49, Jacksonville State 24 last year was typical. Five of the other six teams in the Western Division of the SEC scored at least 47 against their FCS opponent. Erratic on offense all year, LSU managed only 38 vs. Towson.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.