The downside to the Big Ten's apparent plan to stop scheduling FCS games is what happens to the FCS teams that gain a large payday from those often lopsided games.
The "guarantee games" give FCS teams a huge budget boost. FBS teams, who are getting a big crowd regardless because their season-ticket packages include the game against the smaller team, pay out handsomely to the FCS squad that is most likely coming to lose big. But, the FCS teams get enough money to boost the entire athletic department budget. It's worth it for them.
Northern Iowa made about $950,000 in guarantees from Iowa and Wisconsin last season, according to The Gazette in Cedar Rapids. Not surprisingly, there's some concern at UNI that the window may be closing.
According to The Gazette, Northern Iowa athletic director Troy Dannen was surprised by the revelation that the Big Ten's supposed ban on scheduling FCS teams is league-wide rather than a decision each school will make. But, he seemed to understand the reasons:
“I think with television starting to drive things here, I think BCS vs. BCS has more interest than BCS vs. FCS and, frankly, BCS vs. MAC (Mid-American Conference), Sun Belt, that type of game," Dannen said, according to The Gazette.
That doesn't mean it isn't bad news for Northern Iowa, which has a contract for games against Iowa in 2014 and 2018, and other FCS teams.
FBS teams shouldn't feel an obligation to help keep FCS teams in the black, especially if they can provide better non-conference scheduling options for fans. The best things FCS games provide to bigger schools is having to pay a smaller guarantee than they would to a fellow FBS school, and a very good chance for a win to pad records. For every Appalachian State-Michigan or James Madison-Virginia Tech type upset, there are many, many unwatchable FBS-FCS games. But if the Big Ten follows through on the plan – and Iowa AD Gary Barta stressed the Big Ten hasn't finalized that decision – then other conferences may follow suit (fingers crossed), and that's a big worry for FCS schools.
“I would tell you the loss of the Big Ten schools will be devastating, to UNI and to a lot of our peers," Dannen told The Gazette. "Not just because we wouldn’t play Iowa and have the guarantee, if you think this will stop at the Big Ten … I look at things happening in the equity leagues in fives, and so I have to believe this might lead to additional dominoes.”