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Given his own conference, Big Ten commissioner's shot at FCS is cheap

by Mike McFeely

Jim Delany is the commissioner of the Big Ten and an arrogant schmuck, which will not come as a surprise to college hockey fans. Delany was one of the forces behind the formation of the Big Ten hockey conference, which blew up the best college hockey league in the country (the Western Collegiate Hockey Association) and might just ruin the sport in the long run.

Delany's arrogant schmuckiness will not come as a surprise to fans of college football this week, either, because of a comment Delany made when asked about the future of Football Bowl Subdivision (I-A) teams scheduling Football Champsionship Subdivision (I-AA) schools.

Delany's response was, um, less than diplomatic:

"...  everybody agreed when every game is televised, every game matters and the fans matter. Interest in those games is less. They're from another division. They have 20 less scholarships. It's like a junior college team playing against a high school team or a high school team playing against a JV team," Delany said.

FBS teams scheduling FCS teams has long been a non-conference tradition in college football, one of those things that everybody agrees is not ideal but serves several purposes. Included would be filling out schedules for the big schools, often providing an early-season breather for teams from the major conferences, providing a marquee game for the FCS schools and, last but certainly not least, providing a "paycheck game" for the smaller schools to help them meet thin athletic department budgets.

It's been a long marriage of convenience that has worked for both parties and, for the most part, has been free of complaints.

 Jim Delany

That is until recently when the Big Ten, led by Delany (who is most certainly being directed by Big Ten presidents), began indicating it would discourage its members from scheduling FCS schools. The reasons given were not only the ones Delany so unelegantly stated, but also the future College Football Playoff, which will have a strength-of-schedule formula built in.

If I had to guess, I would venture that Big Ten presidents also feel it is beneath their prestigious institutions to play the likes of North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Northern 

Iowa or Montana. Sure. You can certainly understand that schools like Ohio State, which harbored Jim Tressel, and Penn State, which harbored Jerry Sandusky, wouldn't want to sully their pristine reputations.

So why does Delany offend me so? It is not because the local school here in Fargo, NDSU, defeated Kansas State last week. Or because the Bison have had great success in recent years against Minnesota of the Big Ten or K-State or Kansas of the Big 12. Nor is it because FCS schools won a bunch of games in the Week 1 of this year's college football season. Fact is, FBS schools dominate FCS teams in 90+ percent of all cases. They are bigger, they are better and they win most of the games against FCS teams. That cannot be disputed.

The part of Delany's commentary that is so offensive involves the "junior college vs. high school" and "varsity vs. JV" analogies. Because another fact that cannot be disputed is that even within FBS and EVEN within the Big Ten there are programs playing each other who look like junior colleges playing high schools and varsities playing JVs.

Is Delany saying that a team from the Mid-American Conference (Ball State or Ohio, for example) on equal footing with Ohio State or Wisconsin, even though they have the same number of scholarships and play in the same division? 

For that matter, is he saying teams within the Big Ten are on the same footing? Can Minnesota or Indiana compete financially or athletically in football with Ohio State or Michigan or Nebraska? 

Let us take a look at, for example, the Gophers.

Since 1968, when Minnesota's program began to dive into the depths of the Big Ten, the Gophers have played Michigan 41 times. The Gophers have won three times. Michigan has won some games by the scores of 58-0, 58-7, 49-15, 52-6 and 63-13.

Against Ohio State, the Gophers are 2-36 since 1969. The Buckeyes won games by 56-7, 47-0, 69-18, 45-0, 44-0 and 52-10.

Remember Delany's words. Every game matters. The fans matter. It's like a high school team playing a JV team.

Yep. It sure is. Perhaps the Big Ten should become the Big 5. Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Everybody else can schedule NDSU and SDSU. 

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)