One of the knocks against the Big Ten nationally is that they don’t always challenge themselves in their non-conference schedule. It doesn’t do much for the reputation of the conference when the premier teams in a BCS conference schedule “tune-up games” against cupcakes from the FCS level of college football. According to Wisconsin Badgers’ athletic director Barry Alvarez, that won’t be an issue any longer, as the conference has decided to change the way they schedule.
On his radio show on WIBA-AM in Madison, Wisconsin, Alvarez discussed the current state of scheduling non-conference games and how it would change in the future:
“It’s not very appealing … So we’ve made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools. It will not be FCS schools.”
Alvarez didn’t go into detail about when this new agreement among Big Ten officials would take place, but it’s likely the earliest it would happen is 2014. Wisconsin currently has one FCS teams on its schedule for next season when they take one the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles on September 7.
Other schools, however, already have games scheduled against FCS opponents for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, so the ban could be on hold until 2016. It’s also possible that Big Ten schools will play out their remaining FCS scheduled opponents and just abstain from scheduling anymore games against them moving forward.
The move should help toughen up the national perception of the conference, at least as far as its non-conference scheduling goes. It will also help protect the conference from potential embarrassment like when the Appalachian State Mountaineers went into the Big House and upset the Michigan Wolverines.
Games against the FCS have always been high risk, no reward kind of games for the BCS conference teams. If they win, it does nothing to help them in the rankings because they’re supposed to beat them and any amount of non-dominant stretches get perceived as weakness. And your season is basically over if you happen to lose as far as legitimate national power conversations go.
So while this decision won’t fix the Big Ten’s reputation overnight, it’s a step in the right direction to toughen up the schedule and make the conference seem like it’s playing better competition than others.