NCAA Division I Championship Football Game Moved From December To January
The Football Championship Subdivision title game that has been held in Chattanooga for the last 11 years will move from December to the eve of the Bowl Championship Series national championship game in January for the 2010 season, NCAA officials said.
The administrative committee of the Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet approved the Division I Football Championship Committee’s recommendation earlier this month.
The FCS bracket will expand from 16 to 20 teams in 2010. The additional round of the postseason spurred the football committee to explore ways to enhance the sport without starting the football season earlier or compromising the regular-season bye week for teams.
Under the proposal, the postseason tournament would begin Thanksgiving weekend and continue on a weekly basis. The semifinals would be on campus sites in mid-December, with the two winners receiving a break until the first week of January 2011 when the title game would be played on the eve of the BCS national championship game.
The site of the 2010 FCS title game hasn’t been selected.
“We think this has great potential for the championship and serves the best interests of the overall membership as well,” said football committee Chairman John McCutcheon. “The two teams will go through the holidays and get to finish finals on campus. It gives them a recuperating period as well.”
However, some in the membership thought the current system of having the FCS title game on the Friday before Christmas should have remained.
“We believe that there has been some substantial momentum and equity built in the current system where the championship is played now,” said Southern Conference Commissioner John Iamarino. “We feel fans and television viewers were starting to grow with the structure where you get the four weeks of the playoffs one after the other to where it builds for the championship game.”
There will be additional costs for the two institutions that reach the title game, such as housing and meals, but those issues are being considered by the football committee.
“There will probably be a supplemental request made that we find a way to give them some type of per diem to compensate for that,” said McCutcheon, who is the director of athletics at Massachusetts. “But when we looked at the other options like moving the entire season up a week, it would require every member to come in a week early and those costs across the board are a lot greater than the costs of two teams at the end of the season.”
Maintaining the bye week also was a priority, McCutcheon said.
“We didn’t want the student-athletes playing as many as 13 or 14 games in a row without a break,” he said.
Iamarino added: “Certainly there are some upsides to changing the date. Restoring the open week helps conferences solve some issues in regard to scheduling. But when the expansion was proposed, the coaches and most of the institutions in the FCS said they were willing to give up the bye week to expand the bracket.”
ESPN, the television partner for the championship, is on board with the decision to move the game to a later date.
“We felt it would be quite an attractive option for us,” McCutcheon said. “That time of year is during the bowl period. To link the FCS title game with the FBS championship seems natural.”
Iamarino said his conference members thought there were too many unanswered questions beyond the 2010 season, though.
“We are in a situation where a lot of variables are unknown and that concerns us a bit,” he said. “We don’t know what sites would be interested in hosting a game with a floating date. We don’t know what the television schedule will look like in 2010.”
He also had reservations about the competition for viewers and media coverage that the new date brings.
“My fear is we’re going to get swallowed up with all the advance stories about the BCS championship,” Iamarino said. “In early January, people are starting to think about college basketball, too. We will have a lot of competition for the casual sports viewer. We’re a very good option for that viewer with our current date in December.”
By The Chattanoogan