The Pac-12, lagging well behind the SEC in many areas (not the least of which is the Gulf of Mexico sized revenue gap from their television networks), is looking at a unique solution to catching up in at least one way. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reports higher-ups within the conference are warming to the idea of playing games against FCS opponents in the final weeks of the season.
The SEC has scheduled cupcakes late in their seasons for years; the week prior to Thanksgiving is often littered with uninspiring match-ups between the likes of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Chattanooga Mocs. As Wilner points out in his piece, it’s one of the ways the SEC has managed to optimize their schedule to ensure teams are in the best position possible for both the College Football Playoff and, previously, the national championship, along with other, high value bowl games.
Of course, the SEC also only plays eight conference games in a year, making things like scheduling your final non-conference game for the last month of the regular season a little easier. That’s something that, according to Wilner, the Pac-12 is not interested in moving to.
So instead, they’re at least considering the next best thing: an easy, winnable game late in the year. The change would also move the start of the conference schedule up by at least a week, perhaps resulting in openers between Pac-12 opponents.
As always though, this comes with complications:
-Rivalry games are almost exclusively scheduled for the penultimate or final week of the season. That scheduling has always been needlessly complicated due to the Stanford Cardinal and USC Trojans’ insistence on playing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on a yearly basis. That means any late season game against an FCS opponent would be have to be before the final two weeks of November so the change wouldn’t exactly mirror the SEC.
-Current scheduling conflicts mean this change is, at the very least, half a decade away. Looking only at the Washington State future schedule, they are full up through 2021 and only have one FCS team on the schedule beyond that (the Idaho Vandals in 2025). WSU can’t make the switch to a late-season FCS game until 2022 but I’m not sure the Cougs would be keen on opening with a conference game and then heading to Madison to play the Wisconsin Badgers.
-Regional FCS teams and conferences may not be willing to bend their schedules to play Pac-12 teams late in the season. The Big Sky (where most Pac-12 teams would find their FCS opponent in all likelihood) only plays eight conference games but that scheduling leaves teams with an open week before the FCS playoffs. Whether they would want to give up that week off rest for their schools to play the FBS opponents they already see in September now is up for debate.
Nothing is certain with his proposal, though. For now it’s just being discussed but, and this is a big but, it will likely be up for more serious debate around the time the conference is renegotiating their television contract.
So, what do you think? Yay or nay on late-season FCS games?