FARGO — The NCAA left some room for COVID-19 pandemic implications when it comes to qualifying for the Division I FCS playoffs this spring. The Division I Football Oversight Committee approved a recommendation that teams selected at an at-large basis will be required to play at least four games.
Most schools, including North Dakota State and the Missouri Valley Football Conference, have scheduled eight games beginning in late February. Perhaps the rash of cancellations and postponements with FBS games this fall played into the decision.
Wisconsin, for instance, has had at least 27 positive COVID tests including its head coach and has canceled its last two games.
“Committee members believe that a minimum of four games should provide both maximum flexibility for teams while also producing adequate win-loss results for the committee to compare them against other deserving teams that played more games,” the NCAA said in a release.
That could be debatable, however. How would a 3-1 team stack up against a 6-2 team? The action does not apply to a conference automatic qualifier, of which there will be 11 this spring. That leaves the NCAA legislation affecting the five at-large berths.
The FCS playoffs were reduced from 24 to 16 teams beginning in April. A conference needs at least three teams to remain eligible for automatic qualifier status.
NDSU will take a 1-0 record into the spring by virtue of its win over Central Arkansas. The Bison host Youngstown State on Feb. 21, a Sunday, in their league opener.
Two other Missouri Valley teams played this fall. Southern Illinois is 1-0 and Missouri State is 0-3.
Of the teams that scheduled fall games to date, Jacksonville State (Ala.) appears to be in the best playoff shape with a 3-1 record, the only loss 41-24 to Florida State in a game where the Gamecocks held a 21-7 lead.