Quick “Simpsons” story. Season Eight. The “Burns, Baby Burns” episode. Clad in a fur coat, Yale grad Montgomery Burns is holding a “Beat Harvard” pennant as he and Smithers walk to a posh private train car.
“Honestly, Smithers, I don’t know why Harvard even bothers to show up,” Burns says. “They barely even won.”
I thought of that quote after a record eight FCS teams upset their FBS opponents last weekend. (Seven if you don’t count Samford beating Georgia State, which is transitioning to the FBS.)
While the financial gap between college football’s “haves” (the top five FBS conferences) and have-nots (everybody else) is growing, the competitive gap continues to shrink in every part of the country that doesn’t air Golden Flake commercials.
When Appalachian State upset Michigan in 2007, it was the biggest story in sports. When James Madison beat Virginia Tech in 2010, it was still stunning.
But when North Dakota State beat Kansas State this weekend? Well, it can’t be considered a huge surprise when a national writer like Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel predicted it. The only surprising thing is that, after four straight wins over FBS teams, the Bison keep finding FBS teams willing to schedule them.
And yet, this is happening as the Big Ten pressures its teams to drop FCS schools in order to boost their strength of schedule, something that doesn’t seem to be bothering the SEC, which plans to keep scheduling FCS schools because it boosts its strength of schedule with (wait for it) league games.
“They’re [FCS schools] from another division,” Big Ten commissioner/golden flake Jim Delany told the Associated Press this week. “They have 20 less scholarships. It’s like a junior college team playing against a high school team or a high school team playing against a JV team.’’
Great point. Honestly, I don’t even know why NDSU bothered to show up against Minnesota in 2007 and 2011. The Bison barely even won.
Here’s the truth: Delany doesn’t want Big Ten teams scheduling FCS opponents because the Big Ten stinks. (Not you, Ohio State. You either, Michigan.) The conference looks bad enough when teams like Iowa loses to Mid-American Conference-member Northern Illinois or Cincinnati throttles Purdue by five touchdowns. (Both those things happened last weekend.)
But when Missouri Valley-member Southern Illinois comes within three yards of tying Illinois in the final minute — something that also happened last week — well, that just won’t do. So Delany gets on his high horse and bloviates about the Big Ten’s supremacy, so his teams can feel better about cashing their monstrous TV checks before losing to the SEC in bowl games.
The Big Ten’s no-FCS policy is good for lower-level FBS teams — Ohio State will pay Buffalo and San Diego State a combined $2.2 million to come to Ohio Stadium this year, a figure that will only go up when the Buckeyes drop FCS schools like Florida A&M (which gets $900,000) — but it’s bad for the FCS, which is increasingly fighting for relevance everywhere but on the field.
And for that you can thank Delany, who joins Mr. Burns as the only people in history who can remain arrogant about losing to FCS schools.