YSU, other FCS schools gaining exposure, losing the battle

YOUNGSTOWN – Lee Corso will have to dig deep into his bag of mascot heads this weekend.

ESPN announced that its weekly broadcast of “College GameDay” will be at North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., on Saturday, marking just the fourth time the show has aired from a FCS school. The Bison, winners of back-to-back national championships, host unranked Delaware State at 2:30 p.m. The program runs from 9 to noon.

Youngstown State University football coach Eric Wolford said the publicity is great for the Missouri Valley Conference, and he hopes that maybe it can lead to something even bigger – much bigger.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s good exposure for us. Where it will go from here, I don’t know. This year, game in and game out, the FCS has represented itself fairly well, except for our (55-17 loss to Michigan State), in those big games. There’s been some wins against teams (the FCS) probably should beat. There’s also been some wins where we probably shouldn’t have.

“I think it’s good for our level of football, I just don’t know if it’s going to be enough to ever give us the breakthrough that we’re all looking for as far as maybe having a big, huge playoff, or something like that, like they do in basketball.”

As of right now, FCS schools are just looking for FBS schools to play. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany recently said he is encouraging schools to stop scheduling FCS schools, which is a big blow for teams like Youngstown State and NDSU. Aside from the hundreds of thousands of dollars smaller schools gain, they also use the “money game” as a recruiting tool for potential prospects.

“If you’re not good enough to go to Pitt, it’s nice to at least be able to say you got a chance to go over there and play,” said Wolford, whose Penguins have played Pittsburgh twice in the past five years. “Those are opportunities for kids that don’t get a chance to play in front of 90,000 to 100,000 people and go against other coaches, guys you see on ESPN all the time.”

Yet, with the Big East no longer in existence and the Big Ten sending out a stern message about its future FCS endeavors, there aren’t many other possibilities for YSU and the MVC. To make matters worse, several conferences are expanding and thus have more conference games to add to the schedule, which takes away a chance for a FCS school. Wolford pointed out that most of the MVC is located in the midwest region, so the next best conference, proximity wise, would be the Big 12. The only problem is not many Big 12 teams play FCS schools. Not even Wolford’s alma mater, led by his former coach and close friend, Bill Snyder, would ante up to play the Penguins.

“Yes,” said Wolford of whether he’s talked to Snyder about a future matchup. “He doesn’t want to pay. I talked to a lot of my friends about playing, even South Carolina. They don’t want to pay either, so we’re going to have to find someone with a big check book.”

Don’t put West Virginia in that group. The Mountaineers, the closest Big 12 team to Youngstown, turned down a potential YSU matchup a few years ago. The Penguins have Illinois on the schedule next year, and they had Ohio State on the docket for 2015, but the Buckeyes backed out when Rutgers and Maryland were added to the Big Ten. YSU could return to Pitt, which is the most likely fit for a university hoping to save a few bucks.

“We’re all kind of searching to where we’re going to go,” said Wolford, referencing to the FCS searching for a potential conference. “I really don’t know how many Big 12 teams are playing FCS teams. That means more lengthy travel. Any time you charter a plan, that’s $100,000. So you take that off the top. So, it’s going to be interesting to see what conferences want to be involved and what don’t.”