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UPDATED: Stony Brook AD Jim Fiore: We deserve FCS bid

Jim Fiore, the Stony Brook University athletic director,

Jim Fiore, the Stony Brook University athletic director, speaks at the ribbon cutting for the Dubin Family Athletic Performance Center on campus. (June 6, 2012) (Credit: Sam Levitan)

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Stony Brook’s five-turnover day in a 28-14 loss at Liberty last Saturday might derail the Seawolves’ hopes of playing for the Football Championship Subdivision national title. The only way they can receive the Big South Conference’s automatic bid is with a Liberty loss at weak VMI on Saturday.

If that longshot doesn’t come in, then either Liberty or Coastal Carolina will get the bid based on various conference tiebreakers. In that case, it will be up to the NCAA selection committee to determine whether Stony Brook (9-2, 5-1 Big South) belongs in the 20-team field. The Seawolves dropped to No. 12 in the Sports Network poll and No. 13 in the FCS Coaches poll when new rankings came out Monday.

But even though Stony Brook remains in the top 20, it might be difficult for the selection committee to include two schools from a seven-team conference that is relatively weak compared to the larger, traditional multi-bid conferences, such as the Colonial Athletic Association, Big Sky and Missouri Valley. The Seawolves are moving to the CAA next year in football only for that reason.

“Our body of work will speak for itself,” Stony Brook athletic director Jim Fiore said after the loss at Williams Field, where Liberty has won 18 straight Big South games dating back to 2006. “We’re very much deserving of a bid. We have the [11th-highest GPI] in FCS.”

Fiore was referring to the rating system that ranks the relative strength of FCS teams based on a variety of factors. Stony Brook is helped by the fact it played two strong games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, including a 23-3 win at Army and a 28-17 loss at Syracuse, where the Seawolves held a 17-14 halftime lead.

“We had one bad half at Syracuse, and we got outplayed [at Liberty],” Fiore said.

Actually, the Seawolves’ defense held Liberty to a season-low 259 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. The difference was an interception return and a fumble return that went for TDs.

Over the past 21 games extending back to last season, Stony Brook is 18-3. The only losses in the span came in the second round of last year’s FCS playoffs at then-No. 1 Sam Houston State, at FBS Syracuse and at Liberty.

One development that might affect Stony Brook's chance for an at-large bid was Lehigh's loss to Colgate. Lehigh previously was undefeated and ranked higher than Stony Brook, but it lost at home to a team Stony Brook defeated. That's the good news. The bad news is that it might create a situation where the Patriot League has a shot at an at-large bid, and Lehigh won at Liberty earlier this season.

Asked if Stony Brook belongs in the 20-team tournament, wide receiver Kevin Norrell said, “Without a doubt. Just look at our schedule. Maybe they’ll let us in.”

Liberty’s athletic director is on the selection committee, and Fiore expects him to advocate for Stony Brook. “Over 11 games, we’re certainly one of the top 20 teams in the country,” Fiore said. “I’m confident we’re deserving of the opportunity to play for the national championship.”