Aug. 2, 2013
By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Earlier this week the Missouri Valley Football Conference held a teleconference with all of the league's head coaches. As they prepared to open training camps across the league, the coaches discussed the outlook for their respective teams.
Perhaps the hottest topic of the call, though, was the current state of the Football Championship Subdivision and the future of Division I college football.
First, there are a few changes at the FCS level for the 2013 season, the most notable being the expansion of the playoffs from 20 to 24 teams. The expansion will include one more automatic conference bid and three more at-large bids, for a grand total of 13 at-large slots.
To go along with this expansion, the selection committee will now consider teams with at least six Division I wins for the postseason. In previous years, seven Division I wins had been the cutoff to be considered for the playoffs.
In addition, the selection committee will add the Simple Rating System (SRS) as one of the tools to determine playoff teams. Of course, simple is a relative term when it comes to college football ratings formulas. All you need to know is that the SRS is similar to college basketball's RPI and is calculated using only strength of schedule and margin of victory.
These adjustments certainly figure to benefit Valley teams. The conference is loaded with top tier teams, so its strength of schedule should be among the best in the nation. As MVFC schools beat each other up throughout the season, one or more highly rated teams may emerge from the conference season with only six wins.
Last year, the Salukis were a team that had playoff hopes heading into the final month of the season before finishing with six wins. The expanded playoff format should create more excitement for late-season games as more teams remain alive to fight for those last playoff spots.
When the playoffs do start in November, two perennial FCS powers will not participate. Both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, which have combined for nine national titles in the last 28 years, will be ineligible for this year's FCS playoffs as they prepare to join the Sun Belt Conference and FBS football in 2014. This year will mark the first time since 2003 that neither App State nor Georgia Southern is in the playoffs.
"Once you get past those five high-resource conferences," Viverito said, "I think that we could fare very well on the field. I think we look a lot like those other five leagues. Valley teams should get an opportunity to play the lower FBS leagues in the next few years, since the Big Ten has stated it will no longer schedule FCS schools starting next season. That opens the door for more MVFC teams scheduling schools from conferences like the Mid-American.
Youngstown State head coach Eric Wolford said he is in favor of that possibility.
"That would be something that we would encourage," Wolford said. "We have so many Division I teams here in Ohio that I wish we could play more of those teams on a regular basis."
No matter what changes may come to redefine Division I football in the next few years, the common sentiment among those around the Missouri Valley Football Conference is that the conference and FCS as a whole are as strong as they have ever been.
"I think anybody that says they have a clear, concise vision of what is going to happen in the next couple years is misrepresenting their opinions because it's a pretty fluid field," North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl said. "I do know that the Missouri Valley Football Conference is very competitive, and there's stability in that."