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Kolpack: FCS teams play survival of fittest in power conferences

FARGO — It’s survival of the fittest for anybody not named Ohio State, USC or Florida in the world of college football these days. If you don’t live in one of the five mansions occupied by major conferences, than you’re at risk to keep the bank from owning it.

At least that’s the administrative view of the Missouri Valley Football Conference this week. When it comes to the State of the League speech every year about this time, Commissioner Patty Viverito is never boring. Whether it’s right or wrong, or whether she is in total FCS sales pitch mode, she’s never afraid to throw a little jab at the schools that jilted the FCS in recent years.

A few years ago it was pointing out Western Kentucky’s failures after leaving the Missouri Valley. The Hilltoppers have since righted their ship but it was looking bleak there for a while.

Now it’s a left hook at the five FBS leagues not among the Big Five seeking NCAA autonomy. It’s all about money. The Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences have the TV money, the power and are essentially telling the NCAA to let us run the organization our way or hit the road, Jack.

“The top five FBS conferences are going to dramatically distance themselves from the lower five FBS conferences politically, and I think the divide is sure to grow wider,” Viverito said earlier this week, “to the extent it’s simply not going to be sustainable for many of those programs outside of the top five conferences to maintain what they’re doing.”


“They now have the money to do that, and I think they plan to do it in a big way,” she said, “and I just don’t see how many of those lower-division teams can pick it up. My fear is they’re crazy enough where they might drop football before they drop down.”

Boom again.

The lower five would be defined as the Sun Belt, Mid-American, Conference USA, Mountain West and American Athletic. Asked if she’s hinting that the lower five will someday be aligned with the upper tier of FCS, Viverito said not in the foreseeable future.

Two years ago, the trendy FCS thing to do was to study the move to FBS. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern were the two most public faces to do it – both joining the Sun Belt. There’s been talk of a few others since then, but nobody has taken the plunge.

Now, with the Big Five taking control, it’s questionable if any FCS program will take the FBS plunge in the next year, or longer. At the least, the sensible thing would be to wait and see what becomes of the autonomy and how it affects everybody else. One reason to take the FBS route was to get a piece of the higher-level financial pie. Now, who knows?

“I contend that this governance restructuring puts our subdivision, the FCS, in a much more tenable position philosophically, competitively and financially,” Viverito said.

That wasn’t the case a year ago, when Viverito in this same teleconference call warned the FBS movement could put the FCS in danger. With the Power Five, she said, that threat has been removed, for now.

“Our hope was to avoid becoming collateral damage and I believe that has been accomplished with this new proposed model,” she said.

Can’t wait for next year.

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.