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What Playoff Expansion Means For The Patriot League

The long-rumored expansion to the FCS playoffs came true late Friday of last week. Starting in 2010, the NEC and Big South will have automatic bids into the FCS playoffs, and NEC schools and Big South schools couldn't be more delighted with the announcement.

Below, I list the three immediate impacts that playoff expansion has on the Patriot League from my perspective.

Impacts
  1. The NEC and the Big South will be offering more free education. With their brand-new shot at the FCS championship, you can bet that neither league will stand pat and not want to compete. The NEC is likely to bump up their scholarship levels - right now they offer 30, and it's likely to be bumped up to 45 in 2009, and maybe even 63 come 2010. They may find some level of resistance from the smaller schools in their league, like St. Francis (PA) and Sacred Heart, but the pressure of competition is probably too great. Similarly, Big South schools also haven't always been funding a full array of scholarships either, but the pressure on VMI, Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern will be enormous to "cowboy up" with schools that are already there or close to it: Coastal Carolina, Liberty and Stony Brook.
  2. Any recruiting advantage of "playing for a national championship" will disappear with NEC schools. Patriot League recruiting is hard and becoming harder with more and more free education around them with the full array of NEC schools and Stony Brook. But there was always that autobid that the Patriot League could always dangle in front of a recruit to say that "we have access to the championship, and if you go to Central Connecticut State you very likely won't have that chance." In 2010, that recruiting advantage is gone.
  3. If nothing is done, the Patriot League will continue to slide. A long-overdue overhaul of the AI - very likely simply the formal adoption of an Ivy League-like banding system - may seem like enough to the Patriot League presidents to stay competitive. But it's clearly not the solution, with more and more free education luring away the remaining middle-class students that may want to look at a Patriot League education but are put off by the need to apply for financial aid. A partial scholarship model, with a strict Academic Index, mostly need-based aid for football players combined and some scholarships to get good middle-class students, could be a powerful combination competitively, while still keeping academic integrity intact and increasing economic diversity. But if solutions like that aren't considered - or if AI reform is considered "good enough" - we could see what Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani feared most: that things might be "staying the same [while we] watch the level of play diminish".

Comments

Anonymous said…
the pl most definatly needs to adjust or wont be able to compete against the caa and other elite conferences.


where are your pics from the brown/white game? you took some good ones last year and i've been looking forward to seeing this years batch.
LehighWrestling said…
Hello, When will the Lehigh brown and white pics be up?
Anonymous said…
Al Pierce was your best defender last year, by far.

If he impressed you guys the most during the spring game I assume you mean most improvement... and that makes me nervous.



-Opposing Offensive Player

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