If you're a fan of a small-conference FBS team, and you are because you're reading this, your antennae should be up with news that the Big Ten has "committed" to new scheduling rules. From Land Grant Holy Land's Matt Brown:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany announced a new scheduling guideline for Big Ten schools in the future, which would require teams to play at least one "Autonomy 5" game (I asked if this included BYU and Notre Dame, and Delany said they count as well), and zero FCS games, to go with a new nine game league schedule starting in 2016.
On the surface that's some scary language about the reduction of games against smaller conference opponents. As we all know, G5 and FCS teams often rely on cash from "body bag" games to fund their athletic departments.
The schedule guidelines are an effort to boost resumes in order to quality for the College Football Playoff, apparently because the old BCS motto of "go 12-0 and you'll make it, nobody cares who you played" no longer applies. Big Ten big wigs have already begun promoting the beefed-up slates.
This could also be a symptom of, everybody say it with me, the growing divide between the haves and have-nots. But Brown isn't convinced the changes will make that much of a difference:
A geographically far flung FCS team might not be compelling for the fans or TV and should probably be avoided, but removing those games from the conversation, doesn't necessarily improve strength of schedule. It could make guaranteed home games even more expensive for Big Ten teams though.
The Big Ten schools who have lost to FCS squads know it isn't always an upgrade to trade one in for a MAC model. Also, more than half the conference already has an FCS team on the 2016 schedule, the first year the scheduling plan goes into effect. If they're serious enough to cancel contracts and schedule G5s this late in the game they will need to write some nice checks.
The P5 requirement isn't a huge deal either as many Big Ten teams have power conference opponents lined up several years down the road.
But Brown's most compelling sentence is that last one, the one about making guaranteed home games even more expensive. Putting on our economics cap we note the supply of body bag opponents has just been greatly reduced. Therefore, the price must rise.
Yes, that's equaled out partly with the reduction in non-conference games, but the result I see is a nice increase in payouts even if there are slightly fewer of these games. If you're a G5 that can get the same or close to the same money while scheduling less guaranteed beatdowns, that's a win-win. If you factor in extra home games and an easier path to bowl eligibility that's four big Ws.
With 10 games a year coming against peers, you can bet those last two will be against G5s:
Pat Fitzgerald said Big Ten coaches voted 14-0 AGAINST going to nine league games. "But hey, we do what we're told."— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) July 31, 2015
Most of the Big Ten has a P5 out of conference in 2015, and a few have two non-con dates against power opponents. Eliminating FCS will be the bigger adjustment. For bottom-dwelling Big Ten teams, the ones who need guaranteed wins the most, there should now be more opportunities for G5s to come in and pull the upset.
It will be interesting to see how this shakes out going forward, especially if a one- or two-loss B1G champ misses the playoffs in favor of an undefeated one from a soft scheduling conference.
Lastly, I wonder if we could see mammoth schools like Michigan and Ohio State schedule sacrificial lambs in the form of low-level P5s. The Buckeyes have already done this, paying Colorado $1.4 million to come lose a game in 2011.
What do y'all think?