Memo to everyone: FCS has some really good football. Really good. Think North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, James Madison, Eastern Washington, App State, Murray State, Villanova, Towson, Richmond, Lehigh, Eastern Kentucky, Youngstown State, etc... Everyone remembers App State's win over Michigan and James Madison's takedown of Virginia Tech.
Many, but not all, FCS programs rely upon a "revenue" game to help fully fund their football program (and sometimes their overall athletics department). Most of these revenue games come from FBS (and typically BCS conference) opponents. For the FCS program, the dollars involved are very important but the experience is also worth it's weight in gold.
Earlier this season LSU hosted FCS Towson University. As Armen Keteyian of 60 Minutes reported, Towson was paid $500,000 to come to Baton Rouge to face the Tigers. Towson played a great game on national TV. Towson athletic director Mike Waddell said, "There will be more people watching this game tonight then perhaps anything involving Towson University in our history going back 146 years." Waddell later added, "You couldn't buy this type of advertisement nationally."
There is no question in my mind that the level of play on the field has risen substantially over the past ten years at the FCS level. I don't know how they maintain that without the dollars and exposure associated with playing mainstream FBS opponents. There isn't an alternative avenue these programs could turn to if the money from these revenue games is gone.
Reduced revenue impacts the number of scholarships the team can provide, the salary pool for qualified coaches and ultimately the quality of players the program will be able to attract. FCS programs will feel this, not only in terms of reduced game revenue, but also in reduced national awareness & publicity that came from "TV" games and ultimately could see enrollment decline as a result.
Perhaps a better decision for everyone involved would be for the new playoff format to include strength of schedule components from all Division I programs (FBS & FCS). Then, the Big Ten could have simply encouraged their member universities to schedule quality FCS opponents rather than simply banning them from playing any FCS opponents at all. Consider this past season, where do you think North Dakota State (FCS National Champion) would have fallen in an overall Division I strength of schedule analysis? My guess is, they would have been in the top 100, well above a number of FBS programs that found their way on to a number of Big Ten schedules.
Unfortunately, the decision by a major conference to stop scheduling FCS opponents looks like it will have a significant negative impact on FCS football and universities.
Update> Apparently some of the large media outlets don't share our concerns...