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The FCS playoffs won't happen this fall — but that doesn't mean they won't happen at all.
The NCAA recently mandated that postseason play at any level would require 50 percent of eligible teams participate in a regular season. Days after Divisions II & III canceled their playoffs in 2020, the FCS number fell below the minimum when the Big Sky Conference announced it would punt on conference play.
All told, only five of the 13 FCS conferences remain in play for a fall regular season. The CAA was among the first to cancel fall sports — albeit with optimism that football can be played in the spring instead.
The NCAA Board of Directors gave the Division I Council until Aug. 21 to determine the status of playoffs, which have been held at the conclusion of each season since 1978. The FCS expanded its playoff bracket to 24 teams in 2013.
All hope is not lost for athletes, coaches and fans at the FCS level, though, as multiple administrators have now alluded to their intent to simply relocate football season to the spring of '21.
The CAA's Joe D'Antonio said as much when we spoke several weeks ago, and his sentiments were echoed by Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill on Thursday.
"We will now shift our attention to doing everything within our power to provide our football student-athletes and coaches with a conference schedule and a championship (playoff) opportunity in the spring," Wistrcill said. "We already have begun actively engaging our fellow FCS conferences and the NCAA to join us then for what will be a unique opportunity to return to competition and compete for an FCS championship."
When D'Antonio and the CAA made the decision to cancel fall sports in July, powerhouse James Madison was among a group of as many as three programs that were rumored to have interest in competing as an independent in the fall. Without a championship to play for, however, the Dukes announced on Friday that they will join the rest of their league mates in zeroing in on the spring.
"With nationwide developments over the course of the week and the impending postponement of the NCAA FCS Championship, James Madison has suspended its fall football season," the school said in a release. "Department focus has shifted, in collaboration with the Colonial Athletic Association and the NCAA, to exploration of a spring competitive football season."
With JMU's announcement, 75 of the 127 programs at the FCS level have now opted out of the fall.