Big 10 Decision Could Have Major Impact On FCS Schools

By JIM O’DAY

It’s hard to believe but a decision made more than a thousand miles away last weekend could have a major impact on the schools playing at the Football Championship Subdivision – including the Montana Grizzlies and the Montana State Bobcats.

In a ruling approved by Big Ten presidents and chancellors, the conference leadership unanimously accepted a recommendation by the league’s athletic directors to make some significant scheduling changes when the Big Ten expands its league schedule starting in 2016.

In addition to increasing the conference schedule from eight to nine league games to match the criteria of the Pac-12 and the Big 12, and approving new conference divisions for the 2014 season, the presidents and chancellors supported a new scheduling model that includes each team playing at least one opponent per year from another major Football Bowl Subdivision conference, and no more games vs. FCS programs.

Initially, this move appears to immediately affect FCS schools such as North Dakota State, Youngstown State, Northern Iowa and others who annually play large financial pay-out games versus Big 10 members. However, if the decision is endorsed by other FBS schools looking to post impressive post-season resumes for the upcoming FBS four-team playoff structure – which is expected, it will hurt the ability to attract much-needed money guarantee games for most schools playing at the FCS level.

UM Grizzly FootballSuch a decision by major FBS schools (primarily those from the BCS conferences) has been rumored for some time.  Last weekend’s action may just put into the motion legislation that may appear popular to others. Most likely, it will follow into the SEC, the ACC, the Big 12, and the Pac 12. Thus, games against schools such as Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Colorado, Utah, Texas A&M, Iowa and Tennessee may be a thing of the past for the Grizzlies and Bobcats.  It would also mark the end of annual rivalries Northern Arizona plays every other year with its other two state schools – Arizona and ArizonaState.

At a time when finding revenue streams is at a premium, this is not good news for FCS schools.  In fact, some moving up from the FCS to the FBS considered just that in part by making the decision to jump to a higher level of competition. If Appalachian State is to get a rematch with Big Ten foe Michigan, it figures a leap to the FBS level and the Sun Belt Conference was probably necessary.  Other factors were also considered in App State’s recent decision, as well as that for Georgia Southern, Liberty and Old Dominion. Who knows how this latest news will impact the decisions of other FCS schools.

Already, North Dakota State is concerned about its 2016 game at Iowa for a guarantee of $500,000. Youngstown State has also played Ohio State in the past, and that intrastate rivalry would go away.  Should the Pac-12 adopt similar standards, the status of Montana’s 2017 game at Washington could be in question. What will become of other Big Sky Conference schools that annually play the likes of California, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Utah or Colorado?  It is concerning, that’s for sure. It is also a little disheartening!

… In other Griz-related football news, it was impressive to have NFL teams recognize the talents of four UM players following the NFL Draft last weekend by offering either free agent contracts or mini-camp opportunities.  Although Montana didn’t have anyone drafted for the first time in four years, three Griz off last year’s squad – Dan Moore (Indianapolis Colts), Gerald Kemp (Seattle Seahawks) and Greg Hardy (Washington Redskins) – will attend NFL camps in the next few weeks.  Also, Jon Opperud, a senior one year ago, was signed by the Houston Texans.

… Another student from The University of Montana has already made an NFL team.  Danae Rokstad, a senior on the UM Dance Team, was selected as a member of the Seattle Sea Gals cheer/dance squad on Sunday after an intense competition for one of only a few spots on the Seahawks’ cheerleading roster. Another senior, Hilary Randles, was a finalist for one of the coveted positions.  Congratulations to both of them on representing UM and the state of Montana so well.

…And congratulations to UM Grizzly Baseball!  The team clinched UM’s first-ever conference title with a couple of wins over Boise State this last weekend finishing the year 16-3 overall and 11-1 in the conference.  The team is headed to LaGrande, Oregon to play in the Northern Pacific Regional Tournament May 10-12. As most club sports, the team is raising funds to pay its own way to the tournament.  If you can help with a donation contact Ryan Sharkey at 370-6544 or umt.baseball@gmail.com.

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Jim O’Day was Director of Athletics at the University of Montana from 2005-2012. Prior to that, he served as the Assistant Director of the Grizzly Athletic Association and later as the Director of Development  for Intercollegiate Athletics at UM. Prior to returning to his alma mater in 1998, O’Day was the owner and publisher of the family-owned Western Breeze newspaper in Cut Bank, Montana. Jim currently works for The Farran Group, a real estate development/ investment firm based in Missoula, MT.  In addition, Jim serves as a consultant for Epio Solutions out of Seattle, a sports based agency primarily focused on monitoring social media platforms for various colleges and universities. Jim and his wife Kathy have three sons: Chris, Kevin and Brian.  Chris and Kevin are graduates of The University of Montana, while Brian is currently a senior atUM.