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MVFC commissioner reiterates FCS playoffs becoming less regional

North Dakota State's Tre Dempsey and and Northern Iowa's Deiondre' Hall shake hands Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, after the FCS quarterfinals at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum1 / 2
North Dakota State's Darrius Shepherd grabs a 33-yard touchdwn reception in the fourth quarter against the University of Northern Iowa Saturday, Oct.10, 2015, at Gate Gity Bank Field at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO—If five Missouri Valley Football Conference teams make the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs this season, there won't be a repeat of last year, commissioner Patty Viverito reiterated Tuesday, Aug. 2.

The five MVFC teams that made the postseason a year ago were placed in the same side of the 24-team bracket, causing an outcry from the league's fans, coaches and administrators last November.

"This will not happen again," Viverito said during the annual MVFC media teleconference. "We really want the playoffs to be more national in scope rather than regional."

Viverito said the NCAA approved two FCS bracketing policies that should help spread out teams from the same conferences and also avoid rematches in the early rounds. The playoff committee will now be allowed to add a flight in the first or second rounds to avoid placing four or more teams from one conference in the same side of the bracket. The committee also has the license to avoid matchups in the first round for teams that played during the regular season in a non-conference game, providing that change doesn't result in an additional charter flight.

"Every person on the committee would love to see a truly national championship playoff bracket. Where the rub comes in is the money," Viverito said. "We've been able to carve out some exceptions now. ... We're still a long way from the kind of bracket that would put national matchups as the norm in the early rounds."

Viverito expects those exceptions to receive final approval from the NCAA Division I Council well in advance of the 2016 playoffs.

North Dakota State played conference rival Northern Iowa in the national quarterfinals last season, earning a 23-13 victory, which was the Bison's closest winning margin on the way to a fifth consecutive national title. NDSU played South Dakota State in the second round in both the 2012 and 2014 playoffs.

"They tried to make the changes to correct that," Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley said of stacking one side of the bracket with teams from the same conference. "It's a year late, but at least they looked to the future and they saw the problems of regionalization and playoffs. ... We should stay ahead of the game in that way."

South Dakota State head coach John Stiegelmeier also likes the approved bracketing changes.

"I think it's the way it should be," Stiegelmeier said. "I'm excited about it."

Viverito added the league is currently not contemplating expansion beyond its 10 teams. Each team plays an eight-game league schedule that includes four home games and four road games.

She also said the MVFC is against the FCS having the ability of playing a 12th game on an annual basis. There are some years where the calendar allows for a 12-game schedule.

"At this time, to be quite frank, it's really a non-starter for our league," Viverito said. "We are not in support of a 12th game annually."

Viverito cited player safety as one reason for not wanting a 12-game schedule in the regular season every year, when teams potentially can play as many as five playoff games. She also pointed out teams would either have to get rid of a bye week or start the season earlier to accommodate a 12th game in most years.

However, Farley is in favor of having the option to play a 12th game.

"I believe in a 12-game season," Farley said, citing revenue and being able to have six home games every year. "I think it's good for UNI for a lot of reasons in my opinion. ... The option to play the 12th game is important and let the schools make the choice."

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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