Could conference expansion bump any FCS schools to FBS?

The answer is: most definitely. We have gone into a lot of detail about the potential expansions of various conferences and realignments. What we haven’t seen and what one reader suggested we write about is the impact any expansion could have on FCS programs. There are a lot of forums out there for different FCS programs, and of course, each one thinks their school is prime picking for jumping up to the FBS. But what are the requirements? Which schools could even be considered? The answers might surprise you.

First of all, here are the requirements to become an FBS school:

An institution classified in Football Bowl Subdivision shall meet all the Division I membership requirements set forth in NCAA Division I Bylaws 20.9.1 through 20.9.5 and in addition, shall:

1. Sponsor a minimum of 16 varsity intercollegiate sports, including football, based on the minimum sports sponsorship and scheduling requirements set forth in Bylaw 20. Sponsorship shall include a minimum six sports involving all male teams or mixed teams (males and females), and a minimum of eight varsity intercollegiate teams involving all female teams. Institutions may use up to two emerging sports to satisfy the required eight varsity intercollegiate sports involving all female teams. [Bylaw]

2. Schedule and play at least 60 percent of its football contests against members of Football Bowl Subdivision. Institutions shall schedule and play at least five regular season home contests against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. [Bylaw]

3. Average at least 15,000 in actual or paid attendance for all home football contests over a rolling two-year period. [Bylaw]

4. Provide an average of at least 90 percent of the permissible maximum number of overall football grants-in-aid per year over a rolling two-year period. [Bylaw]

5. Annually offer a minimum of 200 athletics grants-in-aid or expend at least four million dollars on grants-in-aid to student-athletes in athletics programs. [Bylaw]

There you have it, more to it than you think. So its not about geography and who could best fit into a conference or who has championships. There are strict guidelines. The first and most obvious to check is the attendance. Since it is a rolling two year period, anyone who average 15,000 people or more per home game in 2008 or 2009 is eligible. Here they are according to NCAA attendance figures:

Appalachian State
Old Dominion
North Carolina A&T
South Carolina State
Georgia Southern
North Dakota State
Jackson State
James Madison
Youngstown State
Northern Iowa
Norfolk State
Southern University
Tennessee State

And that’s all she wrote. If your school isn’t on the list, I’m sorry, go to more home games. Any school not on this list simply does not meet the NCAA requirements to go from FCS to FBS. So even if UC Davis would be a good fit in the WAC, it ain’t happening unless they get 15,000 people per game at home.

Another interesting requirement is 16 varsity sports. Schools with nothing more than a football and basketball program are right out. I’ll leave it up to fans of each individual school named above to figure out if they qualify.

The last two are easy, just use your scholarships for all your sports. The one that’s not so easy? Schedule 5 home games a year against FBS teams. Here’s the predicament. You have to average good attendance. You have to get FBS schools to come play you. The only ones who will are usually bad teams. They don’t draw big crowds. Kind of a catch 22.

My guess is that currently, almost none of the schools there are meeting all of the requirements. Appalachian State certainly plays a lot of FBS teams, that’s for sure. But what other sports programs do they have? I don’t know. But with all this in mind, what are some likely scenarios?

Here’s likely scenario number one. It is more likely that the MWC invites Boise State into their conference than the Pac-10 inviting (and being accepted) Utah and BYU. They want to be a BCS conference. Boise State will get them there. But who else to help shore up the conference? Maybe Fresno State? Nevada? Who knows, but that leaves Montana ripe for the picking of either the MWC or the WAC.

And what about back East? The Big Ten will likely get at least one or two Big East schools. What do they do? Villanova can’t make the FCS to FBS jump. None of their basketball schools can. Do they snag Appalachian State? Delaware? Maybe Georgia Southern or South Carolina State?

There are certainly a lot of scenarios that can play out here. Just keep in mind, there’s more to getting into the FBS than winning games. Total athletics and attendance are crucial requirements to become FBS eligible, then there’s always scheduling to worry about. So with all that in mind, most FCS schools are not jumping up to the FBS anytime soon.

So if I had to make a prediction, here’s how I would see things going. The Big Ten is making the first move in this expansion stuff, hands down. When they do, everyone else will make their moves. Chances are some of the Big 12 is going to the Big Ten. That means either the Big 12 has all of its teams poached, or they try to stay alive by getting some MWC teams or an FCS team or two. In that instance, its definitely Montana or North Dakota State.

The MWC may just expand anyway, in which case its definitely Montana.

Should the Big Ten steal Big East teams, then Appalachian State will either get into the Big East or C-USA after the Big East robs them blind. We may even see Delaware get in to the Big East as a football school.

As for any other FCS programs, only Georgia Southern or Youngstown State seem to be likely candidates to make any moves soon. This because I think Temple will be going back to the Big East and the MAC could snag Youngstown State.

Either way, this moving around from FCS to FBS takes time. There are two year transition periods after you make the requirements anyway, which require advance time simply because of the scheduling requirements. So the earliest I see any FCS team in the FBS is 2014 and I see it being Montana and Appalachian State.

What do you think?