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Appears to be little opposition to expanding FCS playoff field

FARGO - It is no longer a matter of if the Division I Football Championship Subdivision tournament will go to 24 teams. A leading voice in the proposal said Tuesday it's a matter of when.

Jim O'Day
Jim O'Day

FARGO - It is no longer a matter of if the Division I Football Championship Subdivision tournament will go to 24 teams. A leading voice in the proposal said Tuesday it's a matter of when.

Jim O'Day, the President of the Division I Football Championship Committee, said there appears to be no opposition to the proposal. The committee meets in two weeks in Indianapolis with the biggest hurdle being financial.

"People think there's this unending pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that the NCAA controls," said O'Day, the athletic director at Montana. "There's a misconception that there are millions scattered everywhere that the NCAA can take. It's just not the case."

O'Day said NCAA President Mark Emmert gave his support to the proposal during the championship weekend in Frisco, Texas. It was a title game won by North Dakota State, which didn't have to worry about the number of teams in the playoff field this year because it was the No. 2 seed.

But the Bison were most likely the last team picked in the 2010 playoffs. They reached the quarterfinals that year.

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The proposal includes an automatic qualifier berth for the Pioneer League and three more at-large berths. That could only help the top leagues in the FCS, such as the Missouri Valley Football Conference, get more teams into postseason.

The team that felt left out this year was Illinois State, which finished 7-4 and ended at No. 13 in the FCS Gridiron Power Index rankings.

"I look at anybody in our league that gets to seven Division I wins would have an awfully good shot at the playoffs," said Missouri Valley commissioner Patty Viverito. "Then the standard becomes more like our FBS brethren, where a winning record in a top league gets you an opportunity."

This year, that would have meant Indiana State, which finished 6-5 but had a power ranking of No. 18 and a win over a Football Bowl Subdivision program, may have benefitted from an increased playoff field.

O'Day said possible sources of additional funding would be to increase the minimum guarantee to host a playoff game or for the NCAA "to get creative" in reallocating resources.

He said it costs the NCAA $180,000 per playoff game.

"We somehow have to meet that," O'Day said.

That could translate into more home games for bigger programs. The NCAA, for instance, made around $500,000 for the three playoff games at the Fargodome this season, according to NDSU estimates.

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On the flip side, Eastern Kentucky of the Ohio Valley Conference, outbid Colonial Athletic Association power James Madison to host a first-round game. JMU was second in FCS attendance this season at 25,002 fans per game while EKU was 73rd at 6,570 a game.

NDSU finished 10th at 18,143 fans per game, which included the three playoff games.

The minimum bid for a first-round game is $30,000. In 2010, NDSU submitted a bid of $100,000 when it hosted Robert Morris University (Pa.).

Quarterfinal games carry a minimum bid of $40,000 and semifinal games $50,000.

Viverito said she's still reluctant with increasing those figures.

"I hope we don't price too many people out of the hosting business," she said. "We all don't have North Dakota State's fan base, but certainly North Dakota State would stand to benefit from that."

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack's NDSU media blog can be found

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at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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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