With apologies to friends at Chattanooga and Jacksonville State who will play in this year’s edition of the FCS Kickoff, the game as it was sold to media members and college football fans is dead.
When the FCS Kickoff was created in 2014, ESPN’s Director of Programming for NCAA Championships said the network saw “an interest in creating a tentpole type event around FCS football.” Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington played in that first game, played on August 23rd, on ESPN in the middle of the afternoon. The Eagles won 56-35, but a majority of the game the broadcasters spent selling the goods on the first edition of the College Football Playoff.
That drastically changed in 2015 when NDSU was asked to play in the game, as the Bison moved their game with Montana to the final Saturday in August. The attention surrounding the game was kicked up a notch when Montana native Brent Musberger was selected to call the game. The game itself was tremendous, with the Griz scoring on the final play of the game to beat NDSU, 38-35. It was a ratings hit for ESPN too, nearly a million people watched the game and it seemed like the event was going to take off. There was talk of putting two FCS games on that Saturday.
Then ESPN decided why not add an FBS game into the mix. Hawaii and California were slated to play in Australia, actually the night before NDSU was set to host Charleston Southern. I remember asking Bison head coach Chris Klieman about playing in the early kickoff, “We’re not even the first game?”. Cal beat Hawaii, but the FCS Kickoff game outrated the FBS game, as the Bison beat the Bucs in overtime.
In October of this past fall the announcement came from Jacksonville State that the Gamecocks were slated to play in this year’s kickoff. There was some rumblings last year that ESPN wanted JSU to play NDSU in a rematch of the 2016 FCS title game but it never came to fruition. Chattanooga was announced as the Gamecocks opponent, a natural choice, given those teams history in the FCS playoffs recently. There were some tweaks though from ESPN, they moved the game from Jacksonville to Montgomery and the name was changed to the “Montgomery Kickoff Classic”. The game has a 6pm central time kickoff on ESPN, much like last year’s game in Fargo. Look at the press release from Chattanooga that day:
That “college football state all to itself” lasted about ten seconds. In the following weeks and months, look at the games that have been added:
Friday, August 25th: Portland State at BYU, Hawaii at UMass
Saturday August 26th: Oregon State at Colorado State, South Florida at San Jose State, Stanford vs Rice (in Australia)
So we went from two games last year to six this season.
It’s already started for next season, FBSchedules.com reported last week that Massachusetts will host Duquesne on August 25th, 2018. If the NCAA gets its way, that last Saturday of August is going to become part of the regular season, so each school will get two byes throughout the year.
I love me some college football. I loved it even more that the FCS had its own stage on ESPN. But it seems it lasted all of three years before the big boys and ESPN had to ruin it for everyone else.