SoCon casts wary eye on talk of college football ‘Super Division’
SPARTANBURG — Talk of a “Super Division” dominated discussion during recent football media days in leagues such as the Big 12, the SEC and the ACC.
SoCon Coaches Poll
Team (First-place votes) Points
1. Georgia Southern* (6) 57
2. Appalachian State* (2) 51
3. Chattanooga (1) 47
4. Samford 43
5. Wofford 40
6. The Citadel 33
7. Furman 25
8. Elon 16
9. Western Carolina 12
SoCon Media Poll
Team (First-place votes) Points
1. Georgia Southern* (15) 210
2. Wofford (4) 194
3. Appalachian State* (6) 190
4. Chattanooga (2) 176
5. Samford 149
6. The Citadel 126
7. Furman (1) 107
8. Elon 61
9. Western Carolina 47
*Ineligible for league title
The Southern Conference is in no danger of joining a “Super Division,” but league officials are watching carefully as momentum builds for a separate division within the NCAA for college football’s five power conferences.
“I have no doubt that there are big changes coming in Division I,” SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said during the league’s media day Wednesday. “And that includes a new subdivision for the five so-called power conferences down the road.”
Such a subdivision — whether it’s called a “Super Division” or “Division Four,” as some have proposed — would have serious implications for Division I FCS leagues such as the SoCon, which includes state schools The Citadel, Wofford and Furman.
And it might be even more problematic for schools such as Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, which are playing their final season in the SoCon this year before moving up to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference.
If the power conferences — the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 — form their own division with their own playoffs, where does that leave Georgia Southern and App State — in some sort of no-man’s land between FCS and the “Super Division?”
“It’s no surprise,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said of the proposed new division. “It doesn’t come as a shock to anybody who follows college football. And I understand why they are doing it.
“But I don’t think that movement by those schools, I don’t see how that leaves everyone else out. There’s still going to be a need for the rest of us who are left to be part of their scheduling for football or any other sport. There will have to be an inclusion there.”
App State coach Scott Satterfield said he could foresee three subdivisions within Division I.
“It’s obviously driven by money,” he said, “and the big five leagues see those dollar signs and see if they go on their own, they can make even more money. I don’t know what that leaves for schools like us, making the transition up to FBS. Will there be three divisions in Division I — an elite league, the rest of us and the FCS? For us and Georgia Southern, I think we’re just setting ourselves up for whatever may happen. Our scholarship numbers are going up, and we will fall where we need to fall.”
For FCS programs, the big question is whether “Super Division” teams would continue to schedule the big money guarantee games they depend on. Already, the Big Ten has moved toward phasing out FCS games, and Alabama coach Nick Saban has advocated power conference teams playing only each other.
Iamarino doesn’t expect that to happen.
“I want to see it when they decide to just play themselves,” he said. “I don’t think the alumni at Michigan State or Texas are going to sit still for 6-5 records, so I will be surprised if that happens.
“If it does, though, it creates problems for us. I asked one of our athletic directors what happens if the money games dry up. And he said they’d probably have to drop some sports. That’s where we could be headed.”
Lower level FBS leagues such as the Sun Belt also could face problems if the “Super Division” decides not to share revenue from a lucrative playoff.
“If they create their own eight-team playoff and cut everyone else out and don’t share the revenue, that’s a serious issue for the BCS wanna-be leagues,” Iamarino said. “If they don’t share in that revenue, those leagues don’t look a whole lot different than we do. I don’t see how the Mountain West or Conference USA survives for long without that playoff money they are counting on.”
Whether there is a “Super Division” or not, Iamarino is confident that there will always be a demand for FCS football.
“This would just formalize what is already in place,” he said. “In terms of resources, attention and media, Nick Wallenda would be challenged to walk across the gap that is already there between the power conferences and everyone else.
“But I do think there will always be a place for FCS football. There will always be at least 100 schools in Division I that want to play for a national championship and do it with a measure of cost-containment that makes sense.”