Playing a non-Division 1 game could be a factor for multiple FCS teams this season when it comes to the playoff selection process.
Non-D1 victories do count toward your resume. But number of D1 wins can also play a big role in postseason positioning.
How the playoff committee views non-D1 wins has been talked about plenty in the past, and it’ll ramp up the closer we get to Selection Sunday.
A number of playoff-potential teams have non-D1 wins on their resumes: No. 1 South Dakota State, No. 7 UIW, No. 16 Montana, No. 20 Central Arkansas, and No. 22 Weber State (rankings via the Oct. 9 media poll).
Are non-D1 wins thrown out the window and don’t count on postseason resumes?
That’s been the general thought for fans, media, and even some athletic departments for years. Playoff prognosticators and playoff discussions in articles, radio shows, and podcasts have referred to non-D1 wins as non-counters, HERO Sports included. But that isn’t true. Playoff committee members can still reference a team’s non-D1 win when discussing and analyzing their resume. It isn’t totally ignored.
“[Non-D1] wins are a part of the equation,” Ty Halpin, NCAA Director of Championships and Alliances who works with the FCS playoffs, told HERO Sports. “In terms of how the committee looks at them, a D2 win is certainly different than a D1 win. But, it’s not like if a team has eight wins and one of those is a D2 win, it doesn’t automatically fall off and we just look at them as a seven-win team. That’s not what happens. You do look at those wins as one data point. It was a game that was played. It’s all relative with D2 being a different level. Same thing for FBS games and how the committee might review those wins and losses. Those performances count for the committee.”
But non-D1 wins can still negatively impact a resume. The number of D1 wins on a team’s resume can be the difference between what seed they get or how they stack up against other bubble teams for at-large consideration.
Each playoff committee member can weigh things differently when it comes to selection criteria. That can range from overall record, D1 wins, ranked wins, strength of schedule, eye test, insight from other committee members, or utilizing the FCS media and coaches polls.
There isn’t anything in the selection criteria that specifically says non-D1 wins are to be ignored.
Instead, it is phrased “The committee may give more consideration to those teams that have played all Division I opponents.”
The misconception of whether non-D1 games “count” or not isn’t just a fan or media thing. Some athletic departments have referenced it.
An example is when Idaho replaced this season’s game vs. D2 Western Oregon with FCS Lamar. The press release announcing the change stated, “The game gives Idaho a complete Division I schedule in 2023 which provides Idaho the best opportunity to return to the NCAA FCS Playoffs … Games against Non-DI teams do not count towards consideration by the FCS Playoff committee.”
“An entirely Division I football schedule is a mandatory aspect of our scheduling strategy going forward,” Idaho Athletic Director Terry Gawlik said. “We believe that this schedule puts the Vandals in a great spot to return to the playoffs for a second year in a row.”
When asked why this misconception has been out there, Halpin said, “There is nothing in the policies that have changed recently. It may be a mindset thing. If someone played a D3 school, for example, which is allowed, how would the committee count that? It’s a win. But it’s not a D1 win. I’ve talked to a few committee members just to be sure and no one has said ‘Yeah that changed five years ago.’ That’s not the case. It may just be a mindset thing.”
Non-D1 Games Can Still Negatively Impact Resumes
An example of the playoff committee giving more consideration to teams with all D1 opponents would be weighing who gets a higher seed between a 9-2 team with nine D1 wins or a 9-2 team with eight D1 wins. The nine D1 wins could be the tiebreaker if the resumes are otherwise on par with each other. Another example is a 7-4 team with seven D1 wins vs. a 7-4 team with six D1 wins fighting for the last at-large spot. The seven D1 wins could be the tiebreaker.
“Anytime we’re talking about the last few teams in or out of the bracket, you’re splitting hairs,” Halpin said. “That’s one where you look at it and say ‘All things being equal, if Team X beat a D1 opponent in eight games and the other one only has seven D1 wins, that’s going to be a factor.’ That doesn’t automatically mean they will go with the eight-D1-win team, but it is one of the things that the committee will look at when comparing resumes.”
Total D1 wins can be a difference-maker.
Take this quote, for example, from last year’s playoff committee chair Jermaine Truax (Bucknell AD) on UC Davis being left out at 6-5. While UC Davis did play all D1 opponents, Truax referenced its number of D1 wins.
“In a crowded field, it was hard when you only have six D1 wins,” Truax told 406 MT Sports. “UC Davis made a late push to get in there … and while they showed well, they only finished with six D1 wins … every other team we were talking about had seven.”
Florida A&M was left out of the playoff bracket last year at 9-2. Truax referenced FAMU’s strength of schedule and D2 win when giving reasons why the Rattlers were left out.
“There are scheduling realities that the committee has to understand,” Halpin said. “Teams have had to, whether it’s geography or other reasons, schedule some teams that are not Division 1. But that also doesn’t mean if you schedule a D2 team, that it’s just left out and that win doesn’t mean anything. It does mean something, it just doesn’t mean as much.”
Halpin agreed that the best way to phrase it is that non-D1 wins still count on your playoff resume, but scheduling non-D1 opponents can potentially hurt you because it’s one less opportunity at a D1 win.