In 1978 the NCAA split Division 1 into 1-A (now FBS) and 1-AA (now FCS) to provide a line of separation primarily based on the number of athletic scholarships that each school offers. Since that split all but four FBS football teams have played down against an FCS opponent. Only Notre Dame, UCLA, USC, and Washington have taken the high road and scheduled strictly FBS competition.
Unfortunately my Washington Huskies are taking the plunge in 2011 and 2012 with games against Eastern Washington and Portland State. The UW staff defended the decision as an opportunity to establish "new regional rivalries"...which is a convenient excuse for a lighter schedule. Obviously the hope is that we can give the team more confidence and time to gel before going into the 9-game Pac-12 schedule, but to me it just makes UW part of a trend in college football that takes away from the competition that we love.
If any school deserves an easier schedule it is Washington, as their OOC schedule has been as brutal as any team in the nation has played over the past 5 years...54 out of 61 total games were against AQ opponents...the 7 non-AQs included Fresno State, Boise State, Hawaii, and BYU (2x). Only Idaho and San Jose State from the WAC could be considered cupcakes...most teams play 2-3 cupcakes each year.
2006: San Jose State, @Oklahoma, Fresno State, and 9 Pac-10 games
2007: @Syracuse, Boise State, Ohio State, @Hawaii, and 9 Pac-10 games
2008: BYU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and 9 Pac-10 games
2009: LSU, Idaho, @Notre Dame, and 9 Pac-10 games
2010: @BYU, Syracuse, Nebraska, and 9 Pac-10 games
Even with the cupcakes in '11 and '12 the Huskies still have better than average OOC schedules over the next few years (1 cupcake, 1 respectable non-AQ, 1 major AQ). Consider that they play a 9-game conference schedule and they will still be playing 10 AQs a year, which is more than most can say.
2011: Eastern Washington, Hawaii, @Nebraska, and 9 Pac-12 games
2012: Portland State, Nevada, @LSU, and 9 Pac-12 games
Part of me is glad that we slightly eased up on the schedule. We are going to our first bowl since 2002. We will not be competing for a BCS bowl for a few more years, so SoS is not a critical issue. Honestly we just need a few winning seasons and bowl appearances to boost recruiting and restore the culture of winning in Seattle. I can understand where the UW staff is coming from in wanting to ease up on the schedule by playing FCS teams...I just don't agree with it.
As a relatively objective college football fan (if there is such a thing) I think the FBS vs. FCS matchups are horrible for the spirit of competition. ESPN and CBSSports would have us believe that the gap between FBS and FCS has narrowed over the last few years. They use games like App St vs. Michigan and JMU vs. Virginia Tech to illustrate their point. But if they were to step back and look at the bigger picture they would clearly see that if anything the gap has become progressively larger over the past 15 years.
FBS vs. FCS (Source: Stats Inc)
Number of Games:
FBS W-L %
FBS Average Point Differential
*Through Sep 2010
The numbers tell the story. For the most part the games are non-competitive "scheduled wins". Look at how each conference has faired against FCS since 1996. Consider that the 3 traditional powers in the Pac-10 (USC, UCLA, and Washington) haven't played FCS teams and the Pac-10's 95% winning percentage is probably artificially low.
SEC 78-2 .975
Big 12 87-3 .967
WAC 74-3 .961
Pac-10 37-2 .949
Mtn West 48-3 .941
Big East 64-4 .941
C-USA 68-5 .932
ACC 82-7 .921
Big Ten 52-5 .912
Ind. 93-16 .853
MAC 95-27 .779
Big West 32-10 .762
Sun Belt 32-17 .653
The Sun Belt's struggles are understandable...only Louisiana-Lafayette played D-1A football prior to the 90's...FAU and FIU didn't even have football teams until the 00's. The MAC is really the only other weak sister as the Big West is now defunct and most of the losses by Independents were by teams that later joined the Sun Belt and MAC. Every other conference wins over 90% of the games played vs. FCS competition. Why does the NCAA allow these games count toward bowl eligibility?
Let's look at the current 2010 W-L records and see the effect that this policy has had on bowl eligibility.
6-win AQ Teams that are bowl eligible only because they beat an FCS team:
5-win AQ Teams that have not played a FCS team:
Why are Tennessee and Georgia bowl-eligible instead of Oregon State? Tennessee and Georgia combined for zero wins over teams with winning records, while Oregon State by themselves beat 2 AQs teams with winning records. While Tennessee was playing Tennessee-Martin, Oregon State was playing TCU. While Georgia was playing Idaho State, Oregon State was playing Boise State. I'm not saying that Oregon State should be in a bowl (I think the NCAA should reduce the number of bowls), but they are certainly more deserving than a lot of the 6-6 teams out there that only qualified because they scheduled an FCS opponent.
My solution: The NCAA require that all FBS schools play 12 regular season games against FBS opponents. Schools would be authorized to schedule a 13th regular season game against an FCS opponent at their own risk...a loss against the FCS team would make an otherwise 6-6 team ineligible for bowls.