Tweaks to FCS playoffs being considered

Feb 17, 2016 - 7:11 PM (STATS) - The general feeling across FCS college football is the national playoffs have grown to their highest point - interest rising alongside the expansion of qualifiers, which are positioned at a well-received 24 teams.

But some unrest among conferences over the composition of last year's field might bring tweaks to how the selection committee determines future playoffs. The committee closely followed policies with its bracket, but the conferences want the committee to have more flexibility with some of the decisions.

It's a winding process as recommendations are suggested, considered and then possibly go through different sub-committees and committees before possible implementation.

"You always completely evaluate everything," Mark Wilson, the chair of the 2015 playoff selection committee, said Wednesday.

"In that conversation, we as a committee want to do additional homework before we make any formal motion on any changes. But we did listen to the feedback of the collegiate commissioners association and those FCS commissioners that had provided us feedback. And, of course, we always hear feedback from the public and take that into consideration as well along with other directors of athletics, student-athletes and such regarding the FCS championships."

The expansion of the FCS playoffs to 24 teams in 2013 has led to more regional fields, with the NCAA trying to minimize travel and expenses as much as possible. The outcry this past postseason included all five Missouri Valley Football Conference qualifiers being placed together in one half of the bracket. Also, there was dissatisfaction over some teams with particularly strong regular seasons being matched together in the first round because of proximity.

The decision to limit playoff seeding to eight teams - which all have first-round byes - out of 24 is an NCAA policy, and any change would have to come from that level. Such a change appears unlikely this year, Wilson said, which means more regional pairings are likely.

With the 16 first-round teams expected to remain unseeded, the FCS conferences made some recommendations at a commissioners meeting in Florida last month that they believe would improve the field. The ideas that likely have momentum:

- That the selection committee try to avoid repeated matchups in the early rounds. It all depends on how results play out, but six of the eight second-round games in December had been played during the regular season.

- Splitting up qualifiers from the same conferences. If there are two seeded teams from one conference, they would be placed on opposite sides of the bracket, even if the seeding of teams has to be adjusted.

Any change for 2016 would be made under Wilson's watch this summer, but the Tennessee Tech athletic director's four-year term on the selection committee will end in August.

"I think the playoffs are really, really healthy," he said. "I think we had excellent games that represented FCS football in an extremely positive light. I think that's indicated by the attendance records that were set this year and if you look at the parity that was amongst the teams that were playing."

North Dakota State beat Jacksonville State in the championship game to claim its record fifth straight FCS title. The championship crowd of 21,836 was the highest in the six years Frisco, Texas, has hosted the final, and the overall playoff attendance of 258,066 in 23 games also set a record.

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