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By Craig Haley, FCS Exec. Director - Archive - Email
Is the FCS watching out for itself?
Aaron Mellette Elon University will become a Colonial Athletic Association member on July 1, 2014.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - You've been tuning into some of your favorite programs this month, expecting a season finale with a fun cliff- hanger.

The story line is supposed to be continued next season.

Only you realize there won't be another season. You got the message wrong, the season finale was actually a series finale.

Good night and good-bye, thanks for tuning in.

Make no mistake, conference realignment is still the worst reality show going these days, which is saying a lot when "Splash" has been an option.

There is no loyalty on this runaway train. An entire conference like the Big East has imploded before our eyes on the major college level. Is it possible an entire division - like the Football Championship Subdivision - will lose its relevance because of conference realignment?

Ten FCS programs have or will depart the FCS for the Football Bowl Subdivision within roughly a three-year period starting in 2011, with national powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern the most notable programs that will head out the door next year.

And then there's the cannibalizing within the ranks, the latest being Elon University's announcement on Thursday that it will depart the Southern Conference for the Colonial Athletic Association in the 2014-15 school year.

You can't blame Elon, it's going to do what's best for itself. You can't blame, the CAA, either, it wants to be as a strong as possible while it loses a program and gains a program, loses a program and gains a program ...

But who says somebody has to be wrong before the individual schools and conferences take responsibility for the greater whole?

There will be 126 schools playing in the FCS this year, so the division won't be going away in the future. It's here to stay.

But who is really guarding against a watered-down product in that same future?

Yes, those were crickets chirping.

The CAA was supposed to be the FCS conference that would get picked to shreds in these tumultuous, money-grabbing times - as much for basketball as football - but it's been retooling and will get back to 12 members for football when Elon arrives on July 1, 2014.

Instead, it's the once-great Southern Conference, which used to be the shining example of FCS football, that is going to be a mere shell of itself next year with the losses of Appalachian State, Georgia Southern - and their combined nine national titles - and Elon (the College of Charleston, which is leaving this year, doesn't have a football program, while Davidson, bound for the Atlantic 10 next year, plays in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League).

If you want to look at possible instability within the other power conferences in the FCS, consider that people are often pushing for the two-time defending national champions at North Dakota State to make the move from the Missouri Valley Football Championship up to the FBS.

And others out west want the Big Sky Conference to move everybody up and become an entirely new FBS conference. That doesn't sound so crazy if the FCS keeps tossing the football near end zones filled with quicksand.

It wasn't that long ago - January 2011 - when 134 stakeholders in the FCS, including conference commissioners athletic directors, coaches, even NCAA President Mark Emmert, came together in Frisco, Texas, for the first FCS Summit, a terrific endeavor led by the Southland Conference and a chance for member schools to come together and discuss major issues affecting the division.

The gathering was supposed to be the first step toward improving the FCS, with a "to be continued" story line that would lead toward action in future years. At the forefront of talks was conference realignment.

You want action? While everybody shared their concerns for the FCS, once an opportunity to move on came to some of the attendees, well, so much for the greater good.

The NCAA can't really stop realignment because the schools have the authority over conference configuration, and almost surely always will.

But FCS schools better start taking their future more seriously.

Sweeps Month? How about the FCS being swept from relevance if its schools aren't careful.


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