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UPDATED: Football movement affects FCS schools like Stony Brook

The sun sets on LaValle Stadium at Stony

The sun sets on LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University during the Class IV Long Island Championship game between Glenn and Seaford. (Nov. 27, 2010) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

For now, the Big Ten has put a moratorium on expansion after adding Nebraska and while waiting for the feedback from its regional television network about the effect on revenue expansion. But once the wheels were set in motion at the top of the BCS pyramid, there was bound to be a trickle-down effect, and it's playing out now and ultimately might break a trail that Stony Brook could follow.

Obviously, there has been considerable movement among FBS conferences with the Big East adding TCU, Colorado and Utah going to the Pacific-10, Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada shifting to the Mountain West and BYU going independent. The Big East also has asked Villanova, a basketball member, to consider upgrading its football program to the FBS level from the Football Championship Subdivision, which is the equivalent of the old I-AA. Villanova's administration still is debating the pros and cons of that proposal.

But just to show how far-reaching movement in the college football world has become, consider two lesser-known developments recently. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, a committee from the Mid-American Conference, which includes Buffalo University, was at Massachusetts discussing its pending move from the Colonial Athletic Association.

Look for that to happen. The Minutemen lost to Michigan by only five points this season at Ann Arbor and are ready to take the next step up the food chain from FCS to FBS.

The Patriot League, which spent the past 18 months studying the question of whether to start granting football scholarships, voted on Wednesday to table the subject for another two years. The question was driven by Fordham, which has been awarding scholarships. Most schools in the Patriot give slightly less than the equivalent of 63 scholarships allowed in FCS, but it's called grants-in-aid or financial aid.

According to Patriot League media relations director Matt Dougherty, "In the most recent four-year average, no school gave out more than 56 need-based equivalencies, and five of our seven [schools] were below 50 equivalencies." So, the debate will continue in the Patriot League about how much to invest in football and whether the commitment will produce dividends.

Of course, Stony Brook has answered that question internally and already offers 63 full scholarships as a member of the Big South in football. But the Seawolves played Lafayette from the Patriot League this season and UMass, losing close games to each one. Next season, the Seawolves meet Buffalo of the MAC in addition to the recently announced opener at Texas-El Paso of Conference USA.

In 2012, Stony Brook meets Army, which is in the Patriot League for all sports except football, playing as a FCS independent. The Seawolves will play another as-yet-unnamed FBS school that year. Similarly, they have scheduled Boston College of the ACC in 2013 and reserved a date for another FBS school, and they are working on a proposed deal to meet Cincinnati of the Big East in 2014 plus another FBS school.

There's no mistaking the path Stony Brook is on to grow its football program. It really is more a matter of time before SBU joins the shifting tides in search of a larger football platform. It could be a move to an established conference, or it might even be the formation of a new conference with like-minded schools in the region.
 

New York Sports