Citing scheduling flexibility the Ohio Valley Conference and the Southland Conference released a joint statement on Thursday announcing a proposal for a permanent move to 12 games for FCS teams. The proposal will be submitted into the upcoming legislative cycle and a decision is likely many months away.
With only 12 weekends between Labor Day weekend and the third week of November, the last of the FCS regular season, FCS teams are restricted to only 11 games during most seasons. The only exception are years where there are 13 weekends in that same time period, i.e. when Labor Day Saturday is either August 30th or 31st. In those years, FCS teams are permitted to play 12 regular season games, although not all choose to do so.
As the statement points out, the calendar irregularity will only happen four times in the next 15 years, the next being in 2019. The last such occurrences were in 2013 and 2014.
The FBS subdivision decided to move to 12 games in 2005, a move widely seen as a money grab for FBS teams as most of the extra contests are home games against FCS foes.
The only FCS teams who currently before Labor Day weekend are the two in the nationally-televised FCS Kickoff Game. The game will be in its third year this August, with the previous two featuring Eastern Washington knocking off Sam Houston State 56-35 in 2014 and a memorable 2015 game with Montana upsetting North Dakota State 38-35.
This year has Charleston Southern visiting NDSU on Saturday, August 27th live on ESPN. Despite having an extra week to their season, the FCS Kickoff teams are still limited to an 11-game schedule, just creating an extra bye week for those two programs.
The idea of expanding the FCS Kickoff weekend to an all-subdivision format is an intriguing one, giving the FCS a stand-alone weekend without FBS game overshadowing them. It also could lead to more FCS-over-FBS upsets as the FCS teams would have a head start on game experience and according to the old coaching adage, you see the most improvement in a team between Week 1 and Week 2.
Another potential boost to the idea is that it gives FCS programs more freedom to schedule games within their subdivision and create more interesting matchups. Currently under the 11-game slate, most teams only have three non-conference spots and the Southland, which went to a nine-game conference slate in 2014, only have two.
The otherside of having scheduling flexibility is that some FCS conferences could adopt a nine-game league slate. Seven of the 13 FCS leagues have more than nine members.
For those who profit big off home games, those programs need six home games per season and thus, all the extra OOC games are one-and-done games with lesser FCS members or sub-D1 teams. Add in a regular FBS game, then your'e severely limited in your scheduling.
Potential drawbacks to the idea is the extra toll it would take on the student athletes. It would be possible for a single team in 10 of the 13 playoff-participating conferences to play 17 games in a season, including five playoff games, with the first 16 of those coming in a span of 17 weeks. That's more than any non-playoff NFL team.
Then you have programs who depend on FBS games to fund their program. Even though the FCS weekend would be FCS only, that leaves three OOC spots that could be all filled by FBS foes and overall, increase the number of FCS vs FBS games.
It's unsure how many leagues would vote on the issue. The Ivy League would likely abstain as the Ancient Eight only play 10-game schedules beginning in Week 3 and do not participate in the FCS Playoffs or any football post-season.
Conferences with only eight of fewer members, like the Big South or Patriot League, could be against the idea as it would mean an extra OOC weekend and thus if they don't add on, could be at a disadvantage when it comes to being selected in the FCS Playoffs versus teams that did have 12 games.
It's not a slam dunk idea, but in a time where FCS is looking for any leg-up to get exposure, it's worth at least kicking the tires.