Here’s the concluding questions to my Q&A with David Coulson. If you missed Part I, click here. Enjoy!
GFWA: Give me your diagnosis on the health/state of FCS right now.
DC: I think FCS has never been healthier. You have new teams coming into the subdivision every year and a number of programs making significant upgrades to facilities and others adding scholarship dollars. You have more exposure than ever before on television. It has been truly amazing to see how the attention that FCS receives has grown in the past 15 years. TV games, particularly in other regions of the country, were hard to find in the past. I love it that you can see almost any important game in FCS you want to see televised on a given weekend.
GFWA: Are dynasties such as Appalachian bad for the competitiveness of the division?
DC: You have had dynasties throughout the history of FCS. This is just the latest one. Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Southern, Youngstown State, Marshall and Montana have all had their time at the top. I think when you have a team vault its program above other programs that it forces the other programs to improve to keep pace. ASU’s success has also helped FCS gain more exposure than ever before and it has helped turn the championship game in Chattanooga into a special event.
GFWA: Who are the biggest challengers to App’s throne?
DC: I think someone from the Colonial Athletic Association will emerge over the course of the year. Richmond and James Madison have tremendous talent coming back and Massachusetts is hungry to return to the championship game after getting there in 2006. Villanova is a young team that should emerge as a special team this year. Eastern Washington is very talented and could be dangerous after last year’s playoff run. I’m not sure who will win the Missouri Valley Football Conference (formerly the Gateway), but one of those teams (Northern Iowa, Youngstown State, Western Illinois, Southern Illinois, North Dakota State or South Dakota State) will be in the mix when the playoffs roll around. McNeese State and Cal Poly are outside threats, though Cal Poly must survive a brutal schedule. Northern Arizona is another potential dark horse.
GFWA: What are key FCS games that will shape this year’s playoff picture?
DC: Some of the ones I have my eyes on are Richmond at Elon (the game I’ll be at the first weekend), Montana at Cal Poly, Cal Poly at McNeese State, Montana at Eastern Washington, North Dakota State at Northern Iowa, all of the games involving Richmond, JMU, Villanova and Delaware in the competitive South Division of the CAA and UMass at James Madison and at home against Richmond. The game everyone wants to see, of course, is Appalachian State at James Madison on Sept. 20. I can’t wait for that one.
GFWA: FCS playoff expansion: good or bad?
DC: I am a bit of a traditionalist and I thought the 16-team playoff was perfect for FCS. However, with the growth of the subdivision, change was inevitable. You have to make room for conferences like the Big South and the Northeast. I think it will be expanded within four or five years to 24 teams. I hope that expansion includes the Ivy League deciding to accept an automatic bid. That would be great for FCS and would increase the exposure and prestige of the subdivision in ways that people would be shocked by. Can you imagine a playoff game being played at the Yale Bowl, Harvard Stadium or Penn’s historic Franklin Field. It would make for great television and would get tons of attention from the major press.