(Sports Network) - Illinois State football coach Brock Spack says he hasn't
addressed the issue this offseason, but he feels it among his players.
"There's kind of an edge to them," Spack said.
It goes without saying the Redbirds believed they had a strong enough resume
last season - a 7-4 campaign - to earn an at-large bid to the Football
Championship Subdivision playoffs. They were left on the sidelines, however,
when the NCAA selection committee announced its 20-team playoffs.
It won't help last year's Illinois State squad, but future teams will benefit
if the NCAA expands the FCS playoff field from 20 to 24 teams. The NCAA
executive committee reviewed the issue Wednesday and adjourned without making
an announcement, but most signs point to approval of a 20-team playoff for the
2013 season in the near future.
The Pioneer Football League stands to gain the most in playoff expansion. The
non-scholarship league would become the 11th FCS league to secure an automatic
bid for its champion. The other three playoffs spots will go to at-large
teams, bringing that number to 13.
The FCS playoffs increased from 16 teams to 20 for the 2010 season and,
ironically, a fellow Missouri Valley Football Conference rival of Illinois
State's has been sort of the poster child for the benefits of expansion.
North Dakota State sneaked into the 2010 playoffs with the final at-large bid,
beat Robert Morris at home, trounced Montana State on the road, and took
eventual national champion Eastern Washington to overtime in the national
quarterfinals before bowing out.
One year later, the Bison captured the 2011 FCS national championship.
"They proved to the country that there were probably a lot of deserving teams
that were being left out - national-caliber teams that really needed the
opportunity to participate," said Patty Viverito, the commissioner of the MVFC
as well as the Pioneer Football League.
Only eight teams would be seeded in a 24-team field, which would help ensure
more geographic matchups in early rounds.
There are 122 teams in 13 FCS conferences this season. The Ivy League and
Southwestern Athletic Conference don't send their champions to the playoffs.
"I've been told it's absolutely in the budget and going to happen," Viverito
said. "Every time I bring it up in an NCAA meeting, they say, 'It's a done
deal, it's happening.'"
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