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Opinion: CAA’s FloSports Deal Holds Conference Back from Being an FCS Elite

Earlier this winter the CAA announced a media rights extension with FloSports much to the chagrin of several FCS fans.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Richmond at James Madison Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last fall while making a guest appearance on a podcast for one of our fellow SB Nation sites I was asked, “Who is the SEC of the FCS?” The question sent my brain immediately to one of two options and, after a little thought, I came to the conclusion that the Missouri Valley holds that distinction right now. The Big Sky is close but they don’t have the titles (yet). My thoughts on that really don’t really matter, though. What does matter is who I thought about while pondering that question or... more importantly... who I didn’t.

If I’m asked that same thing five years ago there’s three legitimate contenders to choose from, not two; the aforementioned Big Sky and Missouri Valley but also the CAA. So why not consider the Colonial for that made up accolade now? Let’s dive into it.

The SEC does just about everything right and are thus the gold standard in college football. From filling seats to fielding the premier teams in the sport to taking home the trophies, the conference sets the bar. Love them or hate them, they are the goal for most leagues and programs around the nation.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the FCS. While it is a matter of opinion, almost every metric will tell you that the Missouri Valley and the Big Sky are the class of the subdivision. They have the venues, they draw the eyes and they play in Frisco most every year (often against each other). That’s not to say other leagues don’t compete (look at the Southland with Incarnate Word this last season) but buy and large it’s these two running the show right now. The CAA, while once also being able to say the same, just can’t right now.


The quick and lazy explanation would be to say that James Madison left and that’s the reason. Sure, the Dukes going FBS was a blow because... let’s be honest... they were the face of that conference for years and are still the last CAA team to play for a national championship. They had the best stadium and consistently represented the league in the playoffs year after year. They hold the ultra rare distinction of being the only team able to beat North Dakota State in Fargo in the postseason. But, for as good as they were, JMU’s departure is not why the CAA is falling behind.

James Madison v Appalachian State
James Madison left the FCS after the 2021 season to play in the Sun Belt Conference.
Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

It certainly isn’t a membership problem. The league added Hampton and Monmouth last year with North Carolina A&T and Campbell joining up this season. In fact, the CAA has the largest membership of any FCS conference at 15.

Let's go beyond the teams.

The biggest thing for any entity within the FCS, be it conference or program, is exposure. How many eyes can you draw? Everything in terms of recruiting and money will fall in line after that. Right now the Big Sky and the MVC are running laps around the rest of the FCS in that department and a lot of it can be boiled down to media rights.

Two years ago the Big Sky signed onto a big deal with ESPN for all league games ranging from football to basketball to volleyball to air exclusively on ESPN+, the network’s subscription based streaming service. For $9.99 a month you can watch any Big Sky game wherever you are. Part of that deal ensured that two regular season football games every fall would air to a national TV audience on ESPNU or ESPN2. It paid dividends last year when enough people saw what was going on in the conference to get College GameDay to make an appearance at the annual Brawl of the Wild. That’s a huge (and uncommon) showcase for the FCS.

The Missouri Valley, likewise, just extended its current contract with ESPN for the next ten years. Valley games can also be streamed on ESPN+ and what’s unique about this partnership is that students from the league’s campuses are directly involved in production. When you are watching the Dakota Marker game you are likely watching the work of North Dakota State and South Dakota State students in action. Again, that’s a big deal not only for the programs but for the academic communities as a whole. It’s a win for everyone involved.

Covering games from these two conferences has never been easier for a guy like me because of that access; an access I can’t say I have for most CAA games.

Now, if I wanted to drop an extra $149 a year (or $12.49 per month) I could sign up for FloSports, the service that is currently partnered with the CAA, to view their games. But with the quality I’d be getting, I’m not sure that would be worth it. Take a look at the two highlight reels below and decide for yourself. The top is from last year’s Montana State vs UC Davis matchup which aired on ESPNU while the second is from Delaware’s bout with Delaware State streamed on FloSports.

FloSports isn’t horrible as some might like you to believe but it’s no ESPN and the numbers show us that. Montana’s regular season contest with Sacramento State on ESPN2 last October drew in 178,000 viewers per HERO Sports. In 2021 when Eastern Washington hosted Montana on the same channel, 263,000 people tuned in. The CAA hasn’t touched those numbers for a regular season game and Flo is a big reason why.

With all that in mind, it’s puzzling to learn that the conference opted to extend its media rights deal with Flo through the 2026-27 academic year. Earlier this winter the league announced it would continue its partnership with the service. It should be noted that that partnership also comes along with CBS Sports which will broadcast several CAA basketball games but for football Flo is still the only viewing option.

It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Fans have been vocal for a while about their dislike of Flo. With conferences like the Big Sky and MVC laying out the blueprint of how to bring in viewers, one has to wonder why the CAA isn’t following that blueprint. I certainly am.

It feels as if the conference is being left behind or... at the very least... not moving forward at the pace of others. Brand is a big deal in the world of college sports these days and the CAA’s is starting to go stagnant. It’s not an unsalvageable situation by any means but there’s certainly some work to be done.