OPINION: The All Dakota FCS National Championship Game Won’t Make Any New FCS Fans, Which Is Why Things Need to Change

I’m sorry. I’m not enthused.

This Sunday – idiotically slotted against the NFL – the FCS National Championship Game will feature North Dakota State and South Dakota State in what will likely be the least watched ABC National Championship game in our lifetimes.

A National Championship game should feature the two best teams in FCS, and while it’s hard to argue that the 13-1 Jackrabbits and the 12-2 Bison didn’t deserve it, one can speculate had Incarnate Word been able to play the Bison after a two week layoff in Frisco instead of a five and a half day turnaround in Fargo after a redeye flight back to San Antonio, Texas from Sacramento, California, we might have had a genuinely interesting matchup.

Instead, 99.5% of the country will be ignoring a Missouri Valley Conference rematch, already won once by South Dakota State, only this time happening in Frisco, Texas.

Why, pray tell, would a lover of HBCU football tune in? A CAA football fan? SoCon fans? Ivy football fans? There’s nothing drawing them in, and the NCAA isn’t exactly trying very hard to do so.

Quite bluntly, most football fans nationally don’t want to see a rematch of a Missouri Valley Conference game that they might have already seen YouTube highlights of earlier this year, won 23-21 by South Dakota State.

It might be a great game – a thrilling matchup between two great FCS football programs. But the 117th TV Market vs. the 115th TV market isn’t going to bring in viewers or advertisers – especially when it’s a matchup most of these people have already seen – and the NCAA and FCS more broadly hasn’t given anybody but degenerate gamblers a good reason to tune in.

If the NCAA cared at all about the FCS National Championship game, and the entire FCS playoffs as a whole, they’d take this game not as a time to talk yet again about Fargo or Brookings and instead take a long look in the mirror and ask some hard questions to themselves.

Like: How can we bring in more people to be invested in the playoffs?

The FCS Playoffs don’t appear to have made much outreach in recent years to HBCU’s or the Ivy League to try to integrate them into the playoff structure. Instead, conferences like the MEAC have opted out of the FCS Playoffs to pursue playing in the Celebration Bowl for their postseason for financial reasons. A rich, diverse FCS playoffs would spur much more interest simply due to new blood and different types of schools making runs in the playoffs instead of the same old state schools. But there seems to be no interest or effort being made to rectify this issue.

The NCAA, instead of pursuing sensible options to create fairness and excitement by having the semifinals hosted at neutral sites, instead rely on an antiquated home bidding process that seems designed more to soak the home team out of money they would otherwise earn rather than create any sort of financial incentive for schools to participate. The dirty little secret nobody will tell you is deep FCS playoff runs are expensive for the home seeds, and it’s only the schools that have the wherewithal to pay for them that seem to get them. When was the last time a school with a stadium that seats 10,000 or less hosted the FCS semifinals? Is that fair?

And for God’s sakes, who was responsible for scheduling the FCS championship game on an NFL Sunday? You couldn’t possibly do a more phenomenal job burying interest in the Championship game by putting it head to head against NFL games, which consistently have been the highest rated things on TV for all of 2022. It’s as if the ABC executives that were hired to promote The Dana Carvey Show were suddenly put in charge of the hype train for a Division I National Championship.

It begs the question – does the NCAA really care about growing the FCS National championship and putting it in the best light?

If they cared, they would try harder.

They would come up with a system that the MEAC, SWAC, and Ivy League would be dying to get into, because they’d feel marginalized and left out if they didn’t.

They’d make a bowl-like atmosphere with rotating hosts and multiple warm-weather venues for the semifinals, which would spur more interest – and would guarantee schools with smaller venues the chance to play in a big venue with bigger crowds.

They’d open up the TV rights for the FCS Playoffs, selling it separately along with, perhaps, an “FCS Game of the Week” during the regular season. Not only would it create amazing exposure for the entire FCS – not just one conference – it would make good business sense for the NCAA. They’d make much more money than with the terrible bundled ESPN deal they have today.

And they’d reform their entire home bidding system, no longer soaking home teams – what schools get in terms of attendance, they keep.

Do the powers that be truly want to create a special championship that all of FCS feels invested in, that pays for itself and then some? Or are they quite happy with yet another chapter of North Dakota State vs. South Dakota State, soaking the Dakota schools and their fans for all they’re worth, and who really cares who watches it on TV?

2 comments

  1. That is an opinion for sure. How about this one? Add them, all that you mentioned. What does that get you? It gets you NDSU vs SDSU, because they are hands down the two biggest baddest kids on the block.

    In 2010 NDSU raised the bar in the FCS and said play at this level or get run over. The MVFC stepped up immediately because they had to in order to remain relevant. All other conferences waivered, or plain failed to see the competition had exploded. So they lagged behind and are finally catching up.

    At the end of the season, it’s about the best of the best. The battle tested. The ones who bite down on their mouthpieces and focus. That’s NDSU. That’s SDSU. That’s Montana St. That was JMU.

    Don’t cry because the 2 best teams are playing. Rejoice that the NCAA didn’t pick 2 of the 4 best teams to play in the FBS Championship. That’s the college football embarrassment.

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