It’s kind of like when you’re a youth, and all you keep wishing is that you could get older because you’re so restricted (at least you think you are). Then you get older and bigger and you have bills and mortgages and pressure and money becomes the biggest concern.
Why trade in the purer brand of Division I football for that other brand? Enjoy it while you can, Dukes fans. Why aspire for the ‘grass is greener’ when the purple version is so lush?
This ‘moving up’ to the FBS question was brought up several times to the ESPN Gameday crew this week because it has been a discussion topic before in Harrisonburg (Va.). GameDay show host Rece Davis actually had a classic rant as a response. Some of it was aimed at a recruit picking an FBS school over an FCS powerhouse, some of it was aimed at anybody who thinks JMU should rush to ‘move up’.
Davis’ take was spot on:
“Here’s the thing … what do you want?” Davis said. “Why not be elite where you are? It seems to have really worked well for the school and program and everything else. I don’t understand sometimes the want to ‘jump up’. I would be a proponent of being excellent where you are. It doesn’t mean you don’t aspire, you have great players and great competition and the list of guys from the FCS level in the NFL is immense.
“It comes down to this – and I don’t want to take a shot at anybody. You come to James Madison, win a bunch of games, knock off a big school, maybe win a championship, or go to a bigger conference and go to some program you know that’s not going to win and get beat 66-3 three or four times a year.
Do you want to do that? There’s a lot of value in being excellent at a place that you can be excellent."
Obviously, there are teams in the FCS that don’t just hang with certain Power Five teams, they can beat them convincingly. Last year, five P5 programs went down to FCS teams – and three of those P5s ended up being bowl teams. Richmond didn’t just beat Virginia in 2016, the Spiders owned the Cavaliers.
In 2010, James Madison knocked off eventual 11-3 Virginia Tech under former coach Mickey Matthews. And in 2015? Current JMU head coach Mike Houston was at The Citadel and his Bulldogs beat South Carolina on the Gamecocks’ home field. And North Dakota State? The Bison haven’t lost to an FBS opponent in so long we’ve lost count.
But could they be a national title contender in the FBS? Or do the strongest FCS programs move up only to get relegated to an obscure bowl game on Dec. 23 that 9,000 people attend – wedged in between the 100th showing of Its A Wonderful Life and Christmas Vacation (no offense to Chevy Chase).
Hey FCS fans, JMU fans, NDSU fans … take a look around and embrace what you’ve built. You’re on national television a lot more now. More and more players from the FCS are becoming NFL stars. ESPN Gameday’s crew is saying your fans have created some of the best fan backdrops in the show’s 30+ year history.
Don’t be in such a hurry to ‘grow up’. It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.