For the FCS, focus now shifts to at least 50% of schools playing football

North Dakota State and James Madison, who played for the FCS national title last January, are two schools still intent on playing football this fall. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — Picture this. All 111 programs that make up the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision have one seat at the table, with the following vote: Are you in or are you out?

That’s what it may come down to if the FCS will move forward with some sort of a season and some sort of playoff structure. The latest mandate from the NCAA Board of Governors is requiring at least half of a division to be playing for a fall championship.

As of Wednesday, in the FCS, that is 70 of 111 playoff-eligible teams, or 63%, that are still in.

The 50% rule and the required testing protocols were the two biggest takeaways from the Board of Governors mandate for Bison athletic director Matt Larsen. The first take is obvious; if any more FCS conferences decide to close shop (it’s already six of 13), getting to that 50% level could be tough.

And going from recommended testing requirements to now being mandatory could be a financial stress some schools may not be able to afford.


“We’ve already had six conferences push to spring, we’re close to that 50% already,” Larsen said. “You lose another conference or two and you quickly fall under that. The other piece is the testing piece. There are a lot of elements to that, from cost, availability or being able to meet the 72-hour turnaround time for positive tests. In different parts of the country, there are probably different results for all three of those things.”

Are you in or are you out?

The Missouri Valley Football Conference Presidents Council is meeting Thursday morning, which was an originally scheduled meeting. All of the Valley schools appear to be in with Southern Illinois and Missouri State having already begun practicing.

NDSU begins Friday. A couple of Bison players took to Twitter on Wednesday to express their frustration over the process.

“The delays on these decisions are getting ridiculous,” said NDSU backup quarterback Noah Sanders, “they need to stop playing with the players heads, we have zero control, it’s like we are zoo animals. It’s not even about physical health at this point, they are messing with our heads.”

It’s a response Larsen said is understandable.


“Uncertainty has been the word of the last five months for a lot of things,” he said. “I get their frustration. I’m frustrated. I know the coaches are frustrated and the fans are probably frustrated too. That’s why we try to keep pushing forward in hopes to be able to compete at some point this year and that’s our plan for now.”

Larsen said the schedule for Bison football fall camp is not changing, meaning the hope is to try to find replacements for the three nonconference games that were canceled. NDSU was to play at Oregon on Sept. 5 and host Drake University (Iowa) on Sept. 12 and North Carolina A&T on Sept. 19.

He said the university and the Fargodome anticipate releasing a plan in 10 days to two weeks that will address attendance at Gate City Bank Field. That protocol is a conglomeration of the dome, the university, the city of Fargo and Fargo Cass Public Health.

“There are going to be some expectations on the fans as well to make sure they’re helping us with as safe of an environment as possible in there,” Larsen said.

Larsen said NDSU is checking on the possibility of two more student-athletes testing positive to COVID-19 in addition to the 14 that were announced last month. A bulk testing of all student-athletes on campus was conducted Wednesday.

“That’s gone really well,” Larsen said. “We feel good about all the protocols and safety things we have in place so until somebody comes and says you can’t play, or there aren’t enough teams to play, we’re going to try and move forward with the season.”

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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