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ESPN Dropped the Ball in the First Round of the FCS Playoffs

Unfortunately, after a difficult to find product all season, the FCS Playoffs didn’t make it to TV for their opening weekend, which continues to stunt the growth of the sport at that level.

NCAA Football: FCS Championship Game-North Dakota State vs James Madison Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this FCS season, there was an idea that this could be a great opportunity for the FCS to show off. After all, there is no other football to watch, and people are bound to be interested in meaningful football, right?

Well, maybe not. The pandemic continue to create havoc for teams, just as it did during the FBS season. Some teams, like James Madison, had multiple games cancelled. Holy Cross, meanwhile, made the playoffs with just a 3-0 record. Perennial power Montana only played two games, not enough to qualify for the playoffs. Plenty of other teams chose not to play at all.

So, you can see why people have been overlooking the FCS season for the NFL Draft to get their fill of football in the past few months. The thing is that the season was never truly given a chance to succeed the way that some people thought it might. The only FCS games you could commonly find on TV were the Jackson State games, and that wasn’t because they were the best team in the MEAC. Frankly, they were a .500 team, but hey, Coach Prime was fun.

Syndication: USA TODAY Mickey Welsh via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The point is that even if you wanted to watch a FCS game, or thought about getting into the season, it was very difficult because the games were always hidden. They’d be shoved on ESPN+ or ESPN3. In the case of the CAA, some of the best teams in the country like James Madison and Delaware hidden in FloSports.

Now, there was a chance to correct this, and let people come to watch during the FCS Playoffs, which is a completely underrated tournament that many people would like to see the FBS start using as a model going forward. Instead, not a single game of the opening round made it to TV. Every last game was shoved on ESPN3.

They were shoved on ESPN3, during a time of year when there are no major sports in their own Playoffs and a week before the NFL Draft actually starts. They weren’t even up against other major forms of entertainment like the Oscars on Sunday night. They could have had Saturday to themselves, but were tucked into the corner like they didn’t matter.

How are people supposed to root for FCS football games if they’re not promoted or given the consideration they deserve? How are these teams supposed to grow interest in their level of football, when we don’t give them the opportunity?

The truth is that this is a season where we could have marveled at VMI’s rise and North Dakota State’s fall. We could have enjoyed Spring football in 2021, but even into the FCS Playoffs we haven’t been given the opportunity to do that with any amount of ease.

There will be a couple of games on TV next week, up against the NFL Draft. It’s doubtful many if anyone watches those games because of that competition that they’ll be up against. Maybe one day there will be actual effort put into supporting the FCS, but it clearly hasn’t made it yet.