Philadelphia, PA – Offseasons are supposed to be about optimism, but the offseason in the FCS has been about as ugly as it gets.
On a level of college football that is high on product but short on its identity nationally, the word over the winter that the Big Ten wants to phase out games against FCS schools, perhaps leading to other major conferences to follow suit in the future, was bad enough news as schools try to gain a recruiting foothold and scrap for ways to fund their programs.
But Wednesday's anticipated announcements of the one-two loss of Southern Conference powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to the FBS level and a reconfigured Sun Belt Conference is further indication that the idea of being a big fish in a smaller pond isn't good enough today.
The continued shifting landscape of college football still has people spooked into thinking the FCS pond will dry up.
It won't, no doubt, there will be FCS football in the future. But the stature of the FCS will only slip further amid the upheaval.
In the latest losses, the FCS sees a six-time national champion (Georgia Southern) and a three-time national champion (Appalachian State) getting set to go out the door in 2014 with a transitional season to the FBS before gaining full-fledged Sun Belt membership in 2015.
They are two high-drawing programs on the short list that casual college football fans associate heavily with the FCS, and they come on top of other recent losses to the FBS, including programs at Massachusetts, a former FCS national champion; Old Dominion, one of the great programs to come along in years; Texas State; UTSA; and South Alabama.
With other programs still considering the move to the FBS, including Liberty, James Madison, Villanova and Jacksonville State, it seems the FCS level can only take so many more hits while it grasps for national relevance in college football.
Another mini-exodus of programs or some unforeseen hit would bring more important strikes against what is still strong on-the-field football. National interest in the FCS could water down to regional interest if the big games and big teams just aren't there anymore.
Hopefully they will. But there's just too much uncertainty to feel confident in that idea.