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Should the FCS Playoffs expand? "Yes", according to one conference commissioner

Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.

So much of what's happening in college football is tied to when and how the College Football Playoff eventually expands. The logistics of FBS playoff expansion impact conference realignment decisions all the way down to D-II. They'll impact budget projections, media rights negotiations, scheduling agreements, and more.

But the FBS playoffs aren't the only college football postseason event that could potentially change formats. What about the FCS Playoffs?

At least one conference commissioner tells me he favors expanding that as well.

Right now, the FCS Playoffs include 24 teams. 13 of those spots go to at-large candidates, while 11 are guaranteed to league conference champions. Some FCS conferences, like the Ivy League, do not participate in the postseason.

Not all conference champions are created equally. There isn't exactly a "Power 5" at the FCS level, but generally, the Big Sky, Missouri Valley and Colonial Athletic are considered the best and deepest conferences in FCS. Those three leagues account for eight of the current FCS Top Ten, for example. At the bottom end of the auto-bid leagues, you might find the Pioneer, a conference that doesn't even offer football scholarships at all.

Extra Points readers know that conference realignment has shaken the FCS level, even before Texas and Oklahoma decided to blow up the established FBS order. A desire to better control costs, better align with like-minded institutions, and to potentially put themselves in a position to move to FBS has pushed schools all over the country to swap leagues, or at least, consider swapping leagues.

That's created some leagues with pretty unbalanced membership numbers. The Ohio Valley Conference, for example, currently has just six FCS members. So does the Southland Conference. Both leagues have retained autobids for the playoffs. But the Big Sky has 13 schools.

"The three big Power Leagues (Big Sky, MVC and CAA) can all get multiple teams in the Playoff, but these leagues are going to start to get squeezed from these autobids", Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill told me last week. It's why he supports expanding the FCS playoff field.

He also added that the total number of FCS teams is likely to increase over the coming seasons. "The NCAA doesn't want 50% of the field going to the postseason or anything, but things may change." Texas A&M-Commerce, for example, is a D-II school that just announced plans to reclassify and join the Southland Conference, and other D-II schools could potentially reclassify to join other leagues.

Figuring out how to potentially expand the field could be a challenge. There isn't much interest in removing regular season games or dramatically expanding the calendar length of the season. One hypothetical option that Wistrcill floated to me was simply getting rid of some, or all, of the first round byes. That way, the playoff could still take the same number of weeks.

"Nobody wants to give up their bye, sure, but nobody wants their league to miss out on potential playoff teams either."

Wistrcill was quick to point out that there is no formal proposal to expand, and that dramatic change isn't likely to happen in the short term. There are a ton of other uncertain variables, from what future NCAA and D-I governance systems will look like, to what conferences will look like, to player health, safety and education concerns.

But it's worth keeping an eye on. Other NCAA tournaments have expanded, as auto-bid obligations increased thanks to realignment.

Perhaps both D-I college football playoffs will eventually expand.

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