SoCon commish: “It’s getting harder and harder to chase big boys”


I talked to SoCon commissioner John Iamarino about a couple issues that have cropped up recently: The Big Ten’s proposal to stop scheduling FCS teams, which could spread to the ACC and SEC and deny vital paydays to FCS programs; and the NCAA’s move to deregulate recruiting practices, which could drive up spending in athletic departments.

Our talk:

Q: With recent developments, does it feel like FCS programs are being squeezed even further?

A: “If you look at everything that’s going on, the rules of the game are slanted to help power conferences do what they want to do. If it continues, the rest of us have to ask ourselves how much we are willing to invest to chase the big boys in some sports.
“No question, it’s getting harder and harder to do that.”

Q: What kind of impact would a decision by the Big Ten not to schedule FCS teams have, especially if it spreads to other leagues?

A: “If it’s isolated to the Big Ten or the Midwest, it’s not as much of an impact. If it includes the ACC or the SEC, it will have a definite impact on our finances. FCS schools generally get between $400,000 and $600,000 for playing a Big Ten school. The ACC and SEC can be a little less, since travel costs may not be such a burden, but generally guarantees are between $300,000 and $700,000.”  (Note: App State is getting $850,000 for a 2014 game at Michigan. S.C. State got $1 million last year for games at Arizona and Texas A&M).

Q: If FBS paydays go away, what changes could that mean for FCS schools?

A: “The only reason to have 63 scholarships is to be eligible to play FBS teams and count toward their bowl eligibility. If those games go away, the entire subdivision would have look at if 63 is the right number. Could we save expenses by reducing the number of scholarships? It would seem to me that’s one thing that would have to be looked at.”

Q: What is driving this move for FBS teams to stop playing FCS programs?

A: “Two things. The coming FBS playoff is clearly one of the conditions that is affecting this, and conference realignment. As conferences grow, there is a feeling that ‘We ought to be playing more games in our league.’ The ACC is considering going to nine games in the regular season. Media contracts are being signed, and they want to provide what they perceive as more quality games that viewers will find attractive. A conference game in the Big Ten will draw a greater viewership that a game against one of our schools, and that’s just a fact.”

Q: Will this spread to the ACC and SEC?

A: “That’s hard to predict. The SEC looks at everything the Big Ten does, no doubt, but they may also decide that they are strong enough that one game is not going to impact their ability to get teams in the playoffs. They already have killer schedules in their league, and maybe they will decide it doesn’t hurt them to play an FCS opponent. The other train of thought is that if this is something the competition is doing, then they need to follow suit. If that’s how it plays out, it would have a huge impact on FCS budgets.”

Q: What’s the case for continuing FBS vs. FCS games?

A: Look at what App State did to Michigan in 2007 and how that game resonated, and still resonates. You eliminate the David vs. Goliath scenario if you eliminate those games. And it’s a way for the larger conferences to keep college football healthy at the Division I level. We routinely play SEC and ACC foes in other sports, and we’d like to continue that in football.”

Q: What’s your reaction to the NCAA’s move to deregulate recruiting, allowing schools to hire extra staff and send recruits unlimited texts and mailings?

A: “There is a need to get rid of silly rules. But I think they over-corrected, and our schools are very concerned that it will be ‘anything goes’ in recruiting. We will not be able to compete in any way with the resources of the bigger schools.
“If Clemson is having to ask if it is a have or a have-not, I don’t know how optimistic the rest of us can be about the future. I hope (NCAA president) Mark Emmert and the board of directors will listen to some of the concerns being expressed by not just mid-major schools but larger schools, as well.”



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