ORONO, Maine — Sunday’s Football Championship Subdivision selection show presented a new dynamic for the University of Maine football team.
When coach Jack Cosgrove’s team advanced to the playoffs in 2001, 2002, 2008 and 2011, it did so as an at-large selection. Under the system in place then, most of those teams were not legitimate contenders for a national seed or a home game.
This year, the 10-2 Black Bears won the Colonial Athletic Association title and earned the league’s automatic bid into the 24-team tournament. Under an expanded playoff format, UMaine was able to secure a No. 5 seed, a first-round bye and a home game.
“I felt pretty good about being the conference champion and our final record,” Cosgrove said of his thoughts on UMaine’s placement in the bracket.
“Going into Saturday, we had a chance to be undefeated in a great league and we didn’t get that done, but it goes back to how great the league is and how hard that is to do,” he added.
The FCS championship field was expanded this year from 20 to 24 teams. It previously had been 16 teams from 1986-2009.
The winners in 11 conferences earned an automatic bid for the playoffs, while the 13 at-large selections were made by the 11-member NCAA Division I Football Championship Committee, which convened Saturday in Indianapolis to make its choices.
The committee, chaired by James Madison University athletic director Jeff Bourne, also seeded the top eight teams in the FCS. Those teams were rewarded with a first-round bye, while the other 16 play first-round games Nov. 30.
Prior to this season, only four teams received national seeds and the attendant first-round bye.
According to the NCAA website, the first-round opponents are paired according to geographic proximity and then placed into the bracket. That helps explain how UMaine, UNH and Lafayette (Pa.) are all connected in their part of the bracket.
Teams from the same conference are not paired for first-round games, or for second-round games when both teams are playing their first games of the tournament. One exception is teams from the same conference that did not play against each other during the regular season.
Committee members have been evaluating teams throughout the season and are expected to be “experts” about the teams competing in their assigned region.
This year, the selection committee used the new NCAA Simple Rating System (SRS) as a tool for evaluating potential playoff teams. The ranking system was used to gauge team quality and is calculated in great part by two components: a strength-of-schedule measure (SOS) and a win-loss differential (WL).
A team’s SOS measure is simply the average SRS rating of that team’s opponents. A team’s WL measure factors whether or not a game was won or lost, the location of the game (home/away/neutral) and the NCAA subdivision of the opponent.
Details of those calculations were not made public by the NCAA, but they were designed to help remove some of the subjectiveness of the selection process.
Margin of victory and the juncture of the season at which a loss occurred are not factored into the Simple Rating System.
The complete schedule is listed below:
Furman (7-5) at South Carolina State (9-3)
Bethune-Cookman (10-2) at Coastal Carolina (10-2)
Lafayette (5-6) at New Hampshire (7-4)
Southern Utah (8-4) at Sam Houston State (8-4)
South Dakota State (8-4) at Northern Arizona (9-2)
Samford (8-4) at Jacksonville State (9-3)
Sacred Heart (10-2) at Fordham (11-1)
Tennessee State (9-3) at Butler (9-3)
Furman/South Carolina State winner at No. 1 North Dakota State (11-0)
Bethune-Cookman/Coastal Carolina winner at No. 8 Montana (10-2)
Lafayette/New Hampshire winner at No. 5 Maine (10-2)
Southern Utah/Sam Houston State winner at No. 4 Southeastern Louisiana (10-2)
South Dakota State/Northern Arizona winner at No. 3 Eastern Washington (10-2)
Samford/Jacksonville State winner at No.6 McNeese State (10-2)
Sacred Heart/Fordham winner at No.7 Towson (10-2)
Tennessee State/Butler winner at No. 2 Eastern Illinois (11-1)