The undeniable power of a paycheck

“I’ve always said, ‘Let’s play all Power 5 games,’” Nick Saban told ESPN’s Chris Low during a press conference on Aug. 9. “I was in the NFL where we played all the games against NFL teams. But let’s play at least 10 Power 5 games. It would be better for the fans, and I think you wouldn’t have to worry that if you lost a game that you wouldn’t have as much of a chance to still be in [the College Football Playoff].”

Saban’s quote sent the college football community into a whirlwind. Many coaches voiced their agreement with Saban about not scheduling FCS teams anymore and moving towards an all Power 5 schedule.

Coach Saban and other Power 5 coaches receive pressure from fans and members of the media to play teams from other top conferences during the season rather than waiting until postseason play.

For non-Power 5 teams, such a move would not only prevent them from testing themselves against the top teams in the nation, but also result in a significant blow to their finances.

“Let’s take Georgia State and Tennessee,” UNA head coach Chris Willis said. “That’s probably the big buzz all around the nation right now. They (Georgia State) beat Tennessee, an SEC school. They got $950,000 and beat Tennessee, I think some big schools don’t want to slip up and lose.”

Since the start of the 2007 season, there have been four FBS ranked teams upset by FCS schools, three of those teams were inside the top-15.

Many schools schedule the FCS teams to open a season or to have a perceived “easy week” prior to a big conference game. These “easy games” provide much needed revenue for schools outside the Power 5. The average payouts in the first week of the 2019 season to non-conference opponents from each of the Power 5 conferences ranged anywhere from $430,000 to $1.15 million.

“We could do a lot [with $950,000],” Willis said. “Think about some of that going towards the new stadium in some way. It helps all athletics, not just football.

“It could help the basketball programs here, it’ll benefit the smaller sports here. The money would go a long way here for the programs. Football has a chance at those kind of checks, while other programs might not.”

North Alabama in the past year alone has renovated the Flowers Hall (men’s basketball), added a new volleyball locker room and theatre film room and made upgrades to Hilda B. Anderson Stadium (softball). UNA raised over $3 million from investors and small games they played to fund the renovations.

“It would hurt us if they cut the FCS out.” Willis said. “If they cut us out completely, the FCS, from playing Power 5, it is not like we have to shut the doors [to our program]. You will be in the world financially like a D-II school and having to depend on teams such as Montana that we play this week that doesn’t pay as much.”

Many FCS teams depend on the FBS games so they can draw large payments and help build their program. A team such as UNA that is transitioning into the Division I landscape benefits immensely from these paychecks that help them afford scholarships, renovations, equipment and more.

“Those guys at that level really wanna help us, and I believe that,” Willis said. “They have been at our level; they know the need down here. He is not focused on trying to help out my program, he is worried about getting his team to the playoffs. I think it is just different for everybody and they need to implement something up there before that league gets too top heavy.” 

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