Alabama Football: Is Nick Saban poised to move beyond FCS games?

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

For Alabama football fans and others, this is not breaking news. It is, however, somewhat more than conjecture and might indicate Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are contemplating a bold scheduling move.

Saban has been a proponent of a 9-game SEC football schedule going back at least a decade. He has even publicly pondered if a 10-game SEC schedule might be better.

Along with his lobbying, Saban has also said he did not want to be a trend-setter. When he talks about FBS programs should play only other FBS programs he includes such a change would need uniformity throughout the FBS.

To reach across-the-board concurrence, some programs will have to boldly go first. Ohio State already has. The Buckeyes have not played an FCS team since the 2013 season. Twelve Power Five teams did not play an FCS opponent in the 2021 season. Along with Ohio State, were Big Ten teams Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin. Also not playing FCS games in 2021 were Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas, UCLA and Southern Cal.

Alabama Football should lead the SEC

Now would be a good time for Alabama Football to lead the way in the SEC and do the same.

It is not known what Nick Saban and Greg Byrne are thinking, about future schedules. What is known is that based on the source, the Crimson Tide has no future FCS games scheduled.

The Crimson Tide has just 10 games in its 2023 schedule. At one point, an 11th game against Central Michigan was planned, but CMU canceled that game. Eleven games are scheduled for the 2024 season. Eleven games are also scheduled for the 2025 season. All that is known about 2026 is three out-of-conference games are scheduled; West Virginia, South Florida and Florida State.

It appears efforts have been made to avoid game cancellations in the expectation the SEC will go to a 9-game conference schedule. Payouts would be required for canceled, contracted games unless both parties agreed to a reschedule. So maybe Greg Byrne is just prudently guarding against wasting money.

Money is a major part of FBS vs. FCS games. There is no doubt the FCS programs need the big paydays. That need has been an argument for maintaining the games. Getting money to FCS programs could be done without games. The SEC could mandate every one of its schools use some of its annual, SEC-derived, financial bonanza to help fund FCS programs in their respective states.

Such a plan could end the cupcake games SEC fans know well and almost universally dislike. Coaches and ADs would have to man up and accept no longer buying victories, though there would still be uncompetitive FBS schools to schedule.

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The argument more competitive schedules make it harder to gain a Playoff berth has been disproven. Ohio State, Michigan and Alabama have negated that claim. The Crimson Tide won the 2020 National Championship after beating 13 Power Five teams.