The University of Massachusetts is creeping up on a pivotal point in the history of its football program. Once conference affiliation with the MAC comes to an end, will the Minutemen look for a way to stay a part of the Football Bowl Subdivision or will the program and university come to a realization that not every program is cut out for competing at the highest level of college football there is, and return to the Football Championship Subdivision. No school has dropped from the FBS to the FCS since the split was made. There is no guarantee UMass will become the first, but as college football continues to evolve into a world of haves and have-nots and the gap is beginning to widen between the two, the question of which classification is better for a university is beginning to lead into a serious conversation at more places than UMass.
When the WAC crumbled from beneath itself as a football conference, becoming the first true victim of college football realignment madness, Idaho and New Mexico State were left with nowhere to go. The conversations regarding where the two programs could go to continue playing at the FBS level were limited with no great solutions. The Sun Belt Conference eventually came along to invite the two schools to play football as associate members, but whether that ultimately will be the best long-term solution for either university remains to be seen. Talks about Idaho dropping down to the FCS level were there, at least by fans and the media, but the school opted to stick with playing FBS football despite a lack of history or tradition. If Boise State can do it, why can’t Idaho? That has to be the logic going on with the decision, right?
Boise State accepted an invite to the Mountain West Conference as the program started to thrive. The BCS-busters had gone to big-money bowl games twice and the Broncos were about as attractive a candidate for the Mountain West Conference as any realistic option. The Broncos joined the conference, leaving the door behind them open for other WAC members and the Broncos flirted with the Big East before realizing the move was not a wise one to make at the time. Boise State realized playing in the Mountain West Conference just made much more sense, but not every program in the conference is in Boise State’s boat.
In Laramie, Wyoming one sportswriter wonders if it is time for Wyoming to take a hard look in the mirror as a program and university. Roert Gagliardi of Laramie Boomerang asks if Wyoming should drop down a level in football. The boiling point, as with everything these days in college football, is money. Wyoming has the smallest budget among the Mountain West Conference membership and is a small school compared to most around the country. A drop down to the FCS would make much more financial sense in terms of budgeting for the university, but a reduction in conference revenue shares is a pretty significant sticking point.
Wyoming fans should take pride in knowing some big voices up top are in favor of the Cowboys staying put where they are. The governor and president of the university each say Wyoming should remain in the Mountain West Conference and competing at the FBS level.
There is no sign Wyoming is ready to even open the floor for discussion on the subject, but the challenges and difficulties facing the program should not go unnoticed. And this is a problem facing many programs in addition to Wyoming. As the power conferences continue to get stronger and expand scheduling policies to reduce the number of opportunities for some programs to make some nice paydays, there could one day be a time when a program decides enough is enough and scales back the football operations and drops to the FCS.