By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Creativity is the driving force behind the branding efforts of FCS schools as they seek a bigger national identity.
The ideas can be so creative that member schools may even consider pushing for a change in NCAA legislation.
Of course, when the so-called Worldwide Leader in Sports is involved, anything is possible.
ESPN, which in the 2013 college football season will broadcast the FCS national championship game for the 25th time, has been a growing partner with FCS schools and appears willing to schedule a Saturday of coverage devoted to the lower half of Division I.
The kicker is that it would be the weekend before the usual start of the regular season, when FBS games start to dominate the ESPN family of networks' airwaves.
To make this happen, FCS schools would have to persuade NCAA membership to change the opening date of their season. Generally, it's the Thursday before Labor Day - this year, it's Aug. 29.
It won't happen this year, of course, but it's a possibility for 2014 or beyond, especially as ESPN executives see the value in the FCS and increase their networks' coverage, mainly through ESPN3 internet broadcasts (including all national playoff games).
The big boys in Bristol, Conn., would only be interested in the games that would move the needle with ratings, so a game down the road at Sacred Heart in Fairfield isn't going to cut it. No, the sports empire would want intersectional matchups of top teams, say the ones from the previous national title game or the defending national champion - it's been North Dakota State the last two seasons - against another national power such as Eastern Washington or Montana. Or, say, an Eastern power like Villanova or Delaware visiting the striped turf of Central Arkansas.
"I see premiere matchups being used as a lure for increased TV coverage ...," Big Sky Conference commissioner Doug Fullerton wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.
In a normal 11-game season, this potential "FCS Football Challenge" (which some are calling it) would add an additional game to a team's regular-season schedule.
A change in the start to the FCS may not be a roadblock, either. Through the years, NCAA membership has voted to allow an earlier start to college basketball for preseason tournaments.
Should the idea not fly, ESPN might find another way to increase FCS coverage. Its executives have bandied around the idea of a midweek national game of the week - say, on a Tuesday - to expand coverage.
No doubt the FCS schools would embrace that idea as well.
06/13 16:06:52 ET