Rand: Badgers AD says Big Ten won't schedule FCS teams in future

  • Updated: February 14, 2013 - 6:08 AM

2DAY'S 2 CENTS Big Ten football

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who has seldom been shy about speaking his mind, made news this week when he went on the radio and announced that Big Ten football teams, down the line, would not be scheduling opponents from FCS (formerly Division I-AA) schools.

"The nonconference schedule in our league is ridiculous," Alvarez told a radio station in Madison. "It's not very appealing. ... So we've made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools. It will not be FCS schools."

The Big Ten hasn't officially announced anything about this yet, classifying talks as ongoing. ESPN.com reports that the new agreement would start in 2016, possibly with some wiggle room for schools that have already scheduled FCS opponents beyond that.

Should the agreement actually become reality, it would at some point impact Minnesota's scheduling. The Gophers have FCS opponents on the schedule in 2013 (Western Illinois), 2014 (Eastern Illinois), 2015 (South Dakota State), 2016 (Indiana State) and even 2019 (South Dakota State).

The true Gophers cynics -- and the comments section of StarTribune.com suggests there are plenty out there -- might say this rule could save the program from itself.

The Gophers crushed FCS school New Hampshire 44-7 last year, but before that the recent history against the Dakota schools, who play in the theoretically lower FCS level, was quite poor: two close victories (over North Dakota State in 2006 and South Dakota State in 2009) as well as three losses (two against North Dakota State and one against South Dakota, all since 2007).

But in theory at least, scheduling an FCS opponent -- one such victory over an FCS team per season is allowed to count toward a team's bowl eligibility -- puts a "should win" game on every schedule and helps teams get to that magic six-win number.

Jerry Kill's Gophers went 6-6 in the regular season in 2012, with that New Hampshire win helping pave the way for a berth in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

That was the program's first postseason appearance since 2009, when the narrow late-season victory over South Dakota State made Tim Brewster's squad bowl-eligible.

The greater impact of a Big Ten agreement on scheduling only Division I teams might be on FCS schools -- most notably those Dakota schools. Their rosters are often full of Minnesota natives and their fan bases love traveling to games in Minneapolis.

Their only hope now is that Alvarez not only spoke his mind, but also spoke too soon.

MICHAEL RAND

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