In the week plus since the FCS soccer playoff field and 2022 bracket were announced, it has become clear that the process needs to be overhauled.
The 24-team playoff field is selected and the spots in a bracket are assigned by a selection committee. The only must for the committee is to accept teams that have automatically received applications by winning their conference championships. The rest is a general selection based on a subjective evaluation by the committee.
The top eight teams will be seeded from first to eighth according to a subjective procedure by the committee and will receive a bye to the first round. The other 16 teams play in the first round; The committee decides who hosts the eight home games in the first round.
Schools wishing to host games must submit an offer providing a guaranteed amount of money to be paid to the NCAA. The host school may attempt to recoup some of this bid money by selling tickets, but only marginally: the NCAA keeps 85% of the ticket revenue.
To reduce travel, the first two rounds of the bracket are also designed for regional matchups.
Several issues with this process came to a head in this year’s playoff field.
One of these was Montana (7-4 in the regular season), which was considered the last team in the field and ended up a home game against a Southeast Missouri State team (9-2) with a better record (SEMO, for example, beating a team , which finished ranked this season while Montana did not). Montana historically submits a strong financial bid to host home games due to its larger stadium and dedicated fanbase.
Playoff Committee Chair Jermaine Truax said Lucas Semba reporter from The Missoulian that while the committee did not know Montana’s exact bid to host a home game until the 24 teams were selected for the field, the committee knew how large the bid typically is historically and included those factors , which were taken into account when deciding whether the Griz should even be on the field.
Other subjective aspects aside, Truax said in his conversation with Semb that the committee gave Montana credit for planning the Missouri Valley Football Conference teams as part of a strong resume designed to put UM in the field, but he did not recognize those teams (South Dakota and Indiana State) tied 5-17 this season.
One of South Dakota’s victories was a 17-point triumph over Cal Poly, a 2-9 team that lost to Montana at 57. The other Montana opponent from MVFC was Indiana State, a 2-9 team that won games over two teams were a combined 1-21 this season.
Weber State, meanwhile, was awarded a home game despite a much smaller bid than North Dakota’s. Tom Miller, a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald who was on site in Ogden to cover the WSU UND game, reported on recordings that UND’s offer to host a game was $127,500 and Weber’s almost 42,000 US dollars.
In the past it was assumed that the schools that made the highest bids would win the home games. Apparently that is not the case. Truax told Miller that other factors are also important, such as facilities, travel, attendance and each team’s performance.
So the committee had a problem. Weber State – a team with an 8-2 record against Division I teams, including a 28-point blowout win by Utah State, who was 6-5 at the time of FCS playoff selection and clearly the best win in the represented lower subdivision over an FBS team that season – was not selected as a top eight seed. The Wildcats were clearly the No. 9 team in the pecking order and would have been rated as such by any FCS writer or pundit in the country and possibly considered so by the committee.
So the committee just couldn’t throw this team out on the street after fielding them for the first round.
(And playing Weber directly against AND is folly, because the committee could have changed the matchups to better reward North Dakota for its strong money offer and sent someone else to Grand Forks to play the Hawks there, like maybe Idaho .)
So Weber State hosted a home game because, according to Truax, its performance on the field was convincing — a logical decision for a committee that uses subjective criteria. But for the state of Southeast Missouri, that logic didn’t apply when it came to playing in Montana.
And as the No. 9 team understood, Weber State should play No. 4 Montana State in the next round — not No. 8 Holy Cross, as usual tournament formatting would suggest. That’s because of regionalization: the committee is trying to limit travel for the first two rounds.
That seems pretty unfair to both Weber State and Montana State.
Not only are the explanations of how seedlings are allocated, bids placed, teams selected, and matchups paired for the field pretty scattered, but it gets even weirder: seeded teams aren’t necessarily guaranteed to host their second-round games. Teams also send bids to the NCAA to host these games.
The same criteria will be used to select who will host in the second round and as Truax told Montana State Beat author Victor Flores from 406mtsports.com, “The committee seeks to reward the seeded team with the opportunity to host.”
The reserve bid in the second round is around $48,000, reported Semb, who added the hypothesis that if Montana State bid the reserve and Weber State twice as much, there would be a conversation about who is hosting the game , although MSU is number 4 and Weber is not seeded.
Does your head hurt yet? My also.
It could be so much simpler, and the fixes are easy as long as the Division I Football Oversight Committee agrees to recommend ending regionalization after the first round. The subjectivity of a committee cannot be completely avoided, but reducing the number of subjective factors would go a long way.
First, the top 16 teams should be seeded, with the top eight receiving a bye and a home game in the second round.
Seeded Nos. 9-16 should then be used to host first-round home games, provided they agree to a small, standardized minimum money guarantee and can demonstrate adequate facilities. All hosting bids would be equal (e.g. $40,000 for the first round). Schools could not outbid each other to host games, and most teams would only be discouraged from hosting home games if they did not agree to the small, standardized offer.
Using these top 16 teams, the bracket should be arranged in the way sports tournaments are usually organized with seeded teams, regardless of region.
Then the bottom eight teams in the field would be unseeded and road games assigned based on geography while avoiding regular-season rematches. This would still allow travel expenses to be capped, but only in the first round and only after the top 16 were rewarded for their on-field performance.
Seems easy right? If only the simple and obvious could always rule the day.
Until then, it’s difficult to crow too much about the merits of the FCS playoffs over the FBS postseason because too much gets caught up in the diaphanous haze of how the whole thing is coming together.