FARGO — College football is madness right now and that includes our beloved Football Championship Subdivision. And we're not even talking about the wacked-out spring season. No, the current insanity involves talk of expanding the 24-team playoff field.
Commissioners of the Power Three FCS conferences — the Big Sky, Missouri Valley and Colonial Athletic — are pushing discussion on making the postseason larger because the subdivision is adding two more conferences that will get automatic qualifiers to the playoffs. The Atlantic Sun Conference and Western Athletic Conference will each get auto-bids beginning with the 2022 season.
That would give FCS 12 AQs, half the field. And the Power Three commissioners are worried their multiple-bid leagues are going to lose playoff slots. A fourth-place Valley team, they believe, might get left out of the playoffs.
There is no kind way to say this, so we'll just get right to it: If the FCS playoff committee moves forward to expand the postseason field to assuage fourth-place teams, it would be the committee's dumbest move since "revealing" spring season playoff rankings during the seventh-inning stretch of a college baseball game on ESPN6.
Yes 15% No 41% Hell, no 44%
Should the FCS playoffs expand to 32 teams?
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But remember, the spring season was completely legit and not a tossed-together crapshow.
We digress ...
FCS has barely enough deserving teams to fill a 24-team bracket. Each year, the committee grinds and struggles to find the last two or three at-large teams to round out the field. And each year there are teams like the 2016 Cal Poly team, the 2017 Northern Arizona team, the 2018 Incarnate Word team or the 2019 Furman team that sneak into the field and get hammered in the first round by a team that often goes on to get hammered in the second round by a seeded squad.
There are sometimes multiple teams that meet such a fate.
You want scary? At Big Sky media day last week, commissioner Tom Wistrcill said an expanded field would have no first-round byes to keep the postseason calendar the same. There's only one way to do a bigger field with no first-round byes: a 32-team postseason.
For the love of Buck Buchanan, no.
You want to damage the FCS brand? Let's have a first-round game between No. 1-seeded North Dakota State and the fourth-place Southern Conference team. Or a matchup between No. 2-seeded James Madison and the sixth-place Big Sky team.
In addition to it being unfair to make the NDSUs and James Madisons go without a bye week, it would be unfair to send mediocre (or worse) teams to Fargo and Harrisonburg in late November. It would be beyond ugly.
If you can't fill a 24-team bracket with quality, can you imagine the job in trying to fill 32 spots? The committee would be scratching for the last 10 or 11 teams. Schools might turn down playoff spots because they wouldn't want to play one of the top seeds, citing "health and safety."
Truth is, the additional AQs won't take away anybody's spot in the postseason. The FCS didn't add teams; conference realignment just split the division into more pieces. If, for example, Sam Houston and Central Arkansas win the WAC and A-Sun respectively in 2022, the playoff field would remain essentially the same even with 12 at-large bids instead of 14.
A better case could be made for reducing the playoffs to 20 or 16 teams. That won't happen because at-large bids would be too greatly reduced. FCS could solve that problem by taking away the AQs for the leagues that don't offer scholarships or have reduced scholarship limits like the Pioneer and Patriot leagues, but that's a non-starter.
So the best scenario for FCS is to remain at 24.
NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen, an incoming member of the playoff committee, seemed lukewarm to the idea of an expanded playoff when he made an appearance on Dom Izzo's TV show "Hot Mic."
"I don't understand where the reasoning is," Larsen said.
He added, "I would be concerned that the more you add, does it water down the quality of the championship? So I think there is some concern there."
Will Larsen be able to sway the rest of the committee and the Power Three commissioners into maintaining some semblance of postseason integrity? This is FCS, so the odds might be 50-50 at best.