Pioneer League Football, Explained:
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In a few days, I'm going to hop on an airplane bound for Montana, so I can watch the Brawl of the Wild in person. College GameDay is going to be there, along with tens of thousands of other fans. Two storied FCS programs, two teams with FCS playoff aspirations, playing in one of the deepest and most competitive leagues in FCS football.
Plenty of other places at the FCS level endeavor to compete at the highest level, create the best possible atmosphere, recruit potential NFL talent, and chase championships. But I think it's fair to say that not every FCS game is like that.
For example, while Montana and Montana State are slugging it out, the Drake Bulldogs will travel to Indiana to face Valparaiso in a Pioneer League game. The Montanas will play in front of around 20,000ish people, on an ESPN network, with ticket prices going north of $350 bucks. At Valpo? Tickets are $15 bucks, and around 3,000 people will probably attend.
And unlike in the Big Sky, or almost anywhere else at the FCS level, nobody in the Pioneer League will be on scholarship.
In an era where budgets and obligations growing across D-I, even at the FCS level, why does the Pioneer League exist? What does success look like for those schools? Where does a conference with schools in California, New York and Florida go in a post-Transformation Committee, post NIL and post-Transfer Portal world?
I didn't know. So I called up PFL Commissioner Patty Viverito and asked.
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