I’m not saying that FCS football is better than FBS football. I’m just arguing that FCS football is different than FBS, not lesser.
This summer I was visiting with my coach from my alma mater, Georgia Southern…who, by the way, was an FCS powerhouse not too long ago. Georgia Southern actually has the most national championships in all of FCS, at least for now.
|Georiga Southern||6 ('85,' 86, '89, '90, '99, '00)|
|North Dakota State||5 ('11, '12, '13, '14, '15)|
|Youngstown State||4 ('91, '93, '94, '97)|
|Appalachian State||3 ('05, '06, '07)|
|Montana||2 ('95, '01)|
|Marshall||2 ('92, '96)|
|Eastern Kentucky||2 ('79, '82)|
|James Madison||2 ('04, '16)|
When I was in school, we were playoff eligible, and then right before my senior year, we started our two-year transition to FBS. As much hype as there was to join the “Big Dawgs of Football,” there was a lot of apprehension from a lot of different people…including me.
Now going back to my visit with my coach this summer… he told me that there is absolutely no talk of FCS football on campus anymore. Which, trust me, I understand. There’s no going back any time soon, and you’ve got to get your program to be “all in” if you want to be successful. But my coach also told me that many students don’t even know the difference between FCS and FBS anymore! And that really struck a chord in me, because wow, are they missing out!
Like I said in the beginning… I’m not arguing that FCS is better…it’s just different.
So in an effort to get people excited about this FCS season and maybe to better explain what FCS football is about, I’ve decided to put together very “simplified” reasons why others should pay more attention to the Football Championship Subdivision.
If you’re already a FCS football fan, then much of this is already an old hat.
And with that I’m going to state the obvious^^^
FCS stands for Football Championship Subdivision
FBS stands for Football Bowl Subdivision.
Which brings me to my first point. Do you want to play for a Bowl or a Championship? Unless you’re a Power 5 school – a Clemson, an Alabama, a Florida State – I’d argue a championship sounds a little more enticing than a bowl.
FBS was also formally known as Division I-A, while FCS was known as Division I-AA.
Another big difference between the two divisions is scholarships. FCS programs only gets 63 scholarships that they're allowed to split/divide among players, while FBS programs get 85 full scholarships.
In 2014, Division I-A football finally brought us the CFP (College Football Playoffs) which was and has been great. And yes, there are still tons of opinions out there on how far they should extend the bracket instead of selecting the top four teams, but for the most part it brings a little more objective excitement to the FBS National Championship.
FCS football, however, has been giving fans a lengthy playoff bracket for some time now. A 24-team bracket that extends from the end of November to January. It’s gritty, it’s long, arguably too long, but it’s exciting and those that make it to Frisco, Texas, (where the championship game has been held since 2010) would agree it’s a test of endurance, passion, and teamwork.
Coaches and players give up most, if not all, of their Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks with their families. It also adds between 1-5 games to an 11-12 regular season schedule. Every weekend in the playoffs, it’s win or go home, and while other FBS teams are gearing up for their bowl game (where they might get a cool watch), there’s college football teams out there (other than Alabama and Clemson) competing for a national championship.
Again with the bowls. Yes, it was cool that Georgia Southern competed in the Go Daddy Bowl and beat Bowling Green 58-27 back in 2015, but at the end of the day… it was the Go Daddy Bowl, and nobody really remembers that except fans/players from Georgia Southern.
The arguments that FCS National Championships aren’t real championships is kind of ridiculous as well. If you asked James Madison, North Dakota State, or Eastern Washington their thoughts, I think they’d say their championship rings feel pretty real to them, and they’ve had to beat more teams to get them.
I’m not saying that Georgia Southern, Boise State, or the Appalachian State(s) of college football can’t compete with Alabama (Georgia Southern actually scored the most points of all their opponents in 2011). I’m just saying the likelihood of those programs making it to the College Football Playoff is pretty slim unless Nick Saban decides to take on a new challenge in the Sunbelt or the Mountain West.
Probably the biggest argument against FCS football comes in a four syllable word known as com-pe-ti-tion. Football fans that don’t pay attention to FCS football feel it’s not tough enough and that FCS football showcases some lackluster talent…but that’s just not true.
I think of it like this. I like watching NFL football, but for me it doesn’t quite compare to watching college football. There’s more heart in the game and less money is involved, and for me it’s just more fun to watch because it seems “purer.”
I love a good underdog, too—the teams that aren’t supposed to win but do. FCS football is kind of like that. Although many FCS programs would argue they do not feel like an underdog, the rest of the sports world views them that way, but for the past 12 years, they’ve been using it as fuel for the fire to take down some pretty well-known programs.
The first one many people remember is when Appalachian State (SOCON at the time) pulled one over Michigan 34-32 back in 2007.
Here are just a few upsets from over the years, but there's many more that could be could be added to the list:
|2005||UC Davis over Stanford (20-17)|
|2007||Appalchian State over Michigan (34-32)|
|2010||James Madison over Virginia Tech (21-16)||Jacksonville St. over Ole Miss (49-48 (2OT))|
|2012||Youngstown St. over Pittsburg (31-17)|
|2013||NDSU over Kansas St. (24-21)||Georgia Southern over Florida (26-20)|
|2015||The Citadel over South Carolina (23-22)||South Dakota State over Kansas (41-38)|
|2016||NDSU over Iowa (23-21)|
In 2013 alone, there were 16 FCS upsets over FBS schools. North Dakota State has won its last six games against FBS opponents which has led to articles such as, “FBS Teams Should Stop Scheduling NDSU” (CBS Sports).
As much grit and heart as there is in college football compared to the NFL, there’s that much more when comparing FBS to FCS. A reason for that? A lot of these guys have gotten overlooked by bigger schools, so it doesn’t mean they’re not talented; it just means they have to work twice as hard to get recognition.
FCS programs might not have quite the physical talent that FBS programs have, but that’s where true teamwork/culture come into play. These FCS programs don’t have star-studded rosters, so they have to take more pride in perfecting the fundamentals of football, which is why they can sometimes beat teams that maybe have more of what we call “natural athletic ability.”
There’s tons of arguments out there that will counter what I’ve put in this blog, but if it’s spawned some curiosity…keep up with some of the top FCS teams this season and pay special attention to the playoffs that begin in November. You might surprise yourself on how invested you get with some of the teams, and you, too, will agree that there’s enough room in your heart for both FCS and FBS college football.
Here are a few teams to watch from the STATS FCS Preseason Top Ten:
- James Madison
- North Dakota State
- Sam Houston State
- South Dakota State
- Eastern Washington
- Jacksonville State
- North Dakota
- Youngstown State