Another FCS team is on its way up to FBS, Georgia State made the announcement yesterday they will leave the Colonial (before they even play a down in the league) and head to the Sun Belt in 2013. Georgia State just started playing football in 2010, they hired former Alabama and Kentucky head coach Bill Curry to jump-start the team, the Panthers play in the Georgia Dome, and was their intention once the team was created to play at the FBS level, much like North Carolina-Charlotte, which will start playing football at the FCS level next year with an eye towards FBS in 2015. It’s a road that’s proven to be VERY difficult for nearly everyone in the last 10 years. I looked at the six most recent schools that I could find that made the transition and the best way to describe the results are mixed.
- Connecticut: Moved up to 1-A or FBS in 2000, after some initial struggles, Huskies have turned themselves into a contender in the Big East, making a BCS Bowl Game two years ago.
- Troy: School that most fans in this part of the world are familiar with, the Trojans beat NDSU 18-17 for the 1984 Division 2 National Championship. Troy had some initial success, still playing a majority of FCS teams, but since they moved into the Sun Belt, they’ve become a very solid program, making five bowl games since 2004.
- South Florida: The Bulls moved up to FBS in 2001 and have developed a terrific program, based in Tampa, Jim Leavitt had USF ranked in the top 10 just a few years ago, they have a 81-52 record since moving up, but consider the area they play in and also underwent an off-field scandal with Leavitt reportedly hitting players and was fired.
- Florida Atlantic: The Owls made the transition in 2005, Howard Schellenberger has been the only coach they’ve ever known until this year, Carl Pelini has taken this job, FAU’s record is not impressive 58-74; most fans will remember they beat the Gophers in 2007, and went to a bowl game that year, the fastest ever a program made a bowl game in just it’s 7th year.
- Florida International: The Panthers have had a tough time in the big boy division, and to be honest they weren’t all that good at the FCS level, playing three years between 2002-04 and the most games they won was two. FIU is located in Miami, best remembered for the on-field brawl they had with Miami a few years ago, when they moved up in 2005, they were the fastest program to move up to the highest level and it hasn’t been pretty.
- Western Kentucky: It hasn’t been pretty for the Hilltoppers either, perhaps next to FIU, the biggest case against moving up to FBS. WKU moved up in 2008, and the first three years they played FBS had 2 wins, zero wins and 2 wins. Western finally had a breakthru season this year in 2011, going 7-5, but one of the five losses was to FCS member Indiana State.
There are also a couple themes I noticed here, nearly every team here underwent a coaching change two or three years into the transition, and also four of these teams moved into the Sun Belt (Troy, WKU, FIU and FAU) The Sun Belt is a fine league, but we’re not talking about the cream of the crop of FBS football. There are four other test cases everyone should look at this year that are moving from FCS to FBS:
- South Alabama (Sun Belt)
- Texas State (WAC)
- Texas-San Antonio (WAC)
- Massachusetts (MAC)
Two of the teams I’ve mentioned (Georgia State and UMass) play in NFL stadiums, those you know will be empty a majority of the time, South Florida plays in Tampa’s stadium but has had success to at least draw a respectable crowd. I have not even mentioned money at all during this topic, which we know would be a massive increase to fund a FBS team, it’s a dangerous road, one that’s seen much more losing than success.