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Big Ten discourages scheduling FCS foes

If all goes according to plan, the possibility of one of those attention-grabbing FCS wins won’t exist much longer in the Big Ten.

The College Football Playoff is coming next season, and strength of schedule is part of the criteria the selection committee will use to determine the four teams. Playing FCS opponents wouldn’t help the cause.

That’s only part of the reason Commissioner Jim Delany is encouraging Big Ten schools to keep FCS schools off nonconference schedules. He said recently that games against FCS foes don’t create enough excitement for players, fans and television networks.

While FCS-FBS matchups usually result in lopsided games that serve as little more than scrimmages to the FBS teams, the chance for the upset offers some intrigue.

It happened eight times recently, and fans in Big Ten country will long remember Appalachian State’s 34-32 victory at Michigan in 2007.

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said it’s “an opportunity of a lifetime” for the FCS players. Andersen speaks from experience. When he was head coach at Southern Utah in 2003, his team went to Nevada and played the Wolf Pack to within 24-23.

“Those kids still talk about that,” he said.

Delany said in Madison, Wis., last month that conference members have made it a goal to keep FCS opponents off schedules.

Taking FCS schools out of the pool of potential opponents will add to the challenge of scheduling.

The Big Ten will go from eight to nine conference games beginning in 2016. That means each school will have four home conference games one year and five the next.

Athletic departments ideally need seven home games to make ends meet. To reach that threshold, FBS schools have turned to FCS programs. In return, the FCS school shows up to (usually) take a beating and goes home with a paycheck for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Every Big Ten team except Michigan and Penn State is playing an FCS opponent this season. Big Ten teams are scheduled to play nine FCS opponents in 2014, including Michigan’s opener against, yes, Appalachian State.

The number of FCS opponents penciled in by Big Ten teams drops to four in 2015, two in 2016 and one in 2017.