FCS Playoff Selection Sparks Controversy
Note to FCS athletic directors. If you plan to schedule games against FBS foes, make sure those contests are ones you have a reasonable chance of winning.
Towson University (7-4, 6-2) learned that painful lesson today when the No. 17 Tigers were left out of the 20-team FCS playoff field. Two of the Tigers’ losses came against Kent State and LSU (those two schools have a combined 19-3 record).
North Dakota State (10-1, 7-1), the champions of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and defending national champion, was named the top seed for the playoffs that begin Saturday. The others were No. 2 Eastern Washington (9-2, 7-1) and No. 3 Montana State (10-1, 7-1) from the Big Sky Conference, No. 4 Old Dominion (10-1, 7-1) from the CAA and No. 5 Georgia Southern (8-3, 6-2) from the Southern Conference.
“There was a lot of conversation about strength of schedule,” explained Appalachian State Athletic Director Charlie Cobb, FCS selection committee chair, during the selection show televised on ESPNU. “We had 26 teams in contention for the ten playoff spots and nine teams for the last two spots.”
Cobb said South Dakota State and Stony Brook were the last two teams into the field.
"How much more do you want us to pile on?" Towson coach Rob Ambrose asked after his team’s 64-35 victory at New Hampshire on Saturday. "If we didn't play two (Division) IA teams, this isn't a conversation. We're already there (in the playoffs)."
No. 16 Stony Brook (9-2, 5-1), a member of the Big South and future member of the CAA, lost to FBS Syracuse 28-17, but the Seawolves beat Army 23-3. No. 22 South Dakota State (8-3, 6-2) lost to FBS Kansas 31-17 in the season opener. It was the only game the Jayhawks have won this season.
Meanwhile, No. 12 Illinois State (8-3, 5-3) beat Eastern Michigan (2-9) 31-14 in its one foray against an FBS school. Illinois State and South Dakota State, members of the Missouri Valley Conference, didn’t play each other this season. However, the MVC is home to defending national champion North Dakota State. Last year, the MVC received two berths. This year it got three as it appears North Dakota State’s presence helped the overall reputation of the conference.
Towson’s league, the CAA, fell in representation from five teams to three this year, and one could argue No. 21 Richmond (8-3, 6-2) should have received an at-large berth as well. But as disappointed as Towson and Richmond are, Lehigh, a member of the Patriot League, is in the same boat. The Mountain Hawks went 10-1 overall but didn’t make the field as Colgate got the league’s automatic berth.
Next year, the playoffs will be expanded to 24 teams. But that’s little consolation to Towson, Richmond and Lehigh.