Time to grow: The FCS Playoffs

What if i told you every year, that three conferences in the FCS do not participate in the playoffs. Well unfortunately that under the current 24 team setup is true. The Ivy League does not send its champion, and the MEAC and SWAC champions participate in the Celebration Bowl. Some years, like in 2016, a runner up MEAC school can make the playoffs but that is a rarity I wish we would see happen more frequently. This year I was moved by the plight of South Carolina State University. The Bulldogs won seven games that mattered in the FCS considerations (the Selection Committee does not count wins over division two, division three, or NAIA schools, but losses to them hurt your standing, FBS wins count as a plus but losses to them do not hurt).

The best win of this team quality wise was beating Wofford, a good Southern Conference team in the field of 24. The current format and setup of the two Division One HBCU conferences puts them at an unfair disadvantage. The best two teams from each of these conferences (in the MEAC’s case, second best as Florida A&M was ineligible for the postseason) is bound to play in the Celebration Bowl, a game which routinely out draws pretty much all of the FCS playoffs on a yearly basis.

I understand why the MEAC and SWAC send their champions to this showcase in Atlanta every year. The games are always great, and the bands (and all HBCU Bands) are always sensational. One of the most underrated parts of HBCU games for someone who did not grow up watching them, and has began following them a bit more since seeing multiple stars like Tarik Cohen head to the NFL, is that the bands consistently play throughout the game. It gives the game more pace and adds a unique element to every game.

Anyway, back to the main point, three conferences do not send their champions to the FCS Playoffs and it boggles my mind as to why. For the MEAC and SWAC, I would humbly propose that the SWAC eliminate their championship and play all games in one division. Schools could still have natural travel partners they play every year, but having a conference full of teams that you do not always play in one division is not unique to the SWAC at this level, it is a part of the Missouri Valley Conference for instance. In addition, I would work to ensure all SWAC games are done the same weekend the MEAC schedule finishes, before the selection of the field.

Regarding the Celebration Bowl, perhaps a post post season game could be played if the game is to go on, or if ended, I would propose that all MEAC and SWAC schools be awarded the fees from ESPN to broadcast the game, and in return each school gets a set amount more of exposure on the ESPN family of networks not harming the amount of money each school gets, and over time that the two conferences work towards a better deal.

As to the Bulldogs, one could argue that they did something a team in this field did not do, beat a playoff team . The team I am speaking of is Kennesaw State. While the Owls did a lot of great things this season, they did not beat a single team in the 24 team field.

As to the Ivy League, well that is its own issue. The Ivy League, which allows schools in nearly every other sport it sponsors teams in, including the time and travel intensive Men’s Basketball Tournament, for some reason bars its champion from participating in the tournament. While yes, the playoffs happen for a lot of schools around final exams, I find it upsetting that schools say to their student-athletes essentially, if you play football here you cannot play in the postseason, yet if you play basketball and find yourself in the Sweet 16 or make a wonderful run to the Final Four (rare but it can happen) you can miss multiple weeks of school no problem. It is not consistent to me, that needs to change.

How we change 

My idea is simple, expand the field to 32 teams, give auto bids to the MEAC and the SWAC Champions which gets us to 26 schools in the field. Next work with the Ivy League to find a solution to their concerns about compromising academics for sport and give their champ an auto bid as well, that gets us to 27 schools. For even numbers, and for parity sake with more schools jumping to the FCS level, giving out the remaining five spots as at large bids is truly the way to go. This would give us the same amount of weekends dedicated to the sport, and the committee could truly seed the field 1-32 and assign opponents accordingly.

So for example, the Bison would always play the lowest remaining school before Frisco and their yearly trek to the National Championship, and the lower seeded teams would be in and have a chance to shock the world yearly. If it is good enough for the true money maker of college athletics, the Division One Men’s Basketball Tournament, I think the FCS could learn from that.

The highest remaining seed has first right to host each round, paying the NCAA a guarantee similar to the current system through the semi finals. However, if their are facility issues, and a neutral site in the town is not qualified to host, then the lower seed could see the game at their place.

Eventually, the FCS playoffs will expand as more teams come in to this wonderful level of college football. Why not do it now and embrace the growing national awareness of FCS Football. It is a great game, let’s get more schools involved in the pinnacle of it, the FCS Playoffs.

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10 Questions With MVSU Soccer Star Student Athlete Laadi Issaka

(Photo Credit: MVSU Athletics)

Check out my questions with one of the top goal scorers (second at the time of this article being published with 12) in the nation, Mississippi Valley State University forward, Laadi Issaka. She is an upperclassman at MVSU hoping to lead them to the SWAC tournament. The Devilettes finish their season with six games at home as they look to make their conference tournament with Issaka leading their offense. She has averaged one goal a game so far for MVSU, an average placing her in a tie for third in the nation. Issaka is a Health, Physical Education and Recreation Major who is quite involved in the community and beyond, and is a superb student with a 4.0 GPA. Below are some questions with her answers on her whole experience at MVSU, her background in soccer, and more.

What lead you to choose Valley?

“I got to know about Valley from my friends/former teammates (Ernestina Abambila and Prita Gyasi). They told me a lot about the school and how they are willing to offer me a full scholarship to study and play. And it was always my dream to still do what I love and further my studies, so I accepted it and started the process because I was just some steps away from making my dream come to reality. Valley is more than just a school, it is a place you can call home.”

What has led to your continued offensive success during your time with the Delta Devils?

“I was always told by my mom that when I was a child and anytime I try doing something, I always put every effort that will help me become successful and I will never stop until I reach my goal. I think this still applies to me till now. I’m always determined and ready to work hard to get the end product which is a success and because I am very competitive, I like to win and always want to come out successful in everything I do. I am also passionate about everything that I love to do. And most of all the support I had ever since I came to the Valley. I also don’t let my adversity to distract me but rather I use it as an opportunity to excel.”

What inspired you to choose your major?

“Growing up I took part in a lot of sporting activities and it made me fell in love with it and by so doing, I told myself why don’t you study something that pattern sports then I decided to choose my major. My coach (Malik) back home also saw that I had the love for sports and the love for helping people so he encouraged me to follow that path.”

What has been your favorite class in Valley?

“I don’t actually have one particular favorite class. All the classes I took or I’m taking all seem interesting to me and I can’t actually choose one.“

What do you attribute your on-field success to?

“First of all, I will attribute my success to God for giving me this wonderful talent, however, as the saying goes “God helps those who help themselves” I wouldn’t say is only God but also the hard work and perseverance that I put in. Also, the power of the people around me has been a very big help too. When I talk about the” power of people” I mean, the people that are involved in my life every day and are very supportive. Again, I am self-motivated and I never cease learning from my teammates/people. Furthermore, my family, teammates, professors, friends, and coaches are all attributed to my on-field success. These people keep pushing me to do better and better every day and always tell me to accept both negative and positive criticism.“

What are your individual and team goals for the rest of the season?

“As an individual player in my team is always my goal to be better than yesterday, set examples, always be there to help my team when needed and also to always leave a place better than it was. And as a team, our goal is to be very successful at the end of the season but our ultimate goal is to win our conference championship however this doesn’t come easy, it needs a lot of hard work and I believe my team is ready to take that challenge. “

What is your dream job with your degree?

“My dream job is to be a coach/ and a teacher. I have always had the desire to help people especially in sports and I think choosing this path is the perfect fit for me.”

How has your game developed since coming to the Valley?

“My game has really improved a lot ever since I came to the Valley and most of my teammates and friends back home can testify to that. This is because finding the back of the net used to be a big problem for me but now I think that doesn’t seem to be a problem for me following the success I have had, that is becoming the top scorer in the nation  [at the Division One level] in 2016. Also, my level of competitiveness has improved drastically in the sense that, our conference seems to be the most competitive and aggressive and I have gotten the opportunity to play with big schools from other conferences.“

What is the biggest thing about life you have learned playing soccer?

“Playing soccer has taught me many important life lessons that I carry and use every day. This life lesson that I have learnt in soccer will never be forgotten or depart from me. They have made me a better person and shaped me into the person I am today and will be in the future. I am still learning new things every day from soccer and my team. However, playing soccer, in my opinion, consistently make you a better person. Furthermore, and that no matter how good and talented you are, you definitely need one or two people to help you achieve most of the things in life or to be successful i.e being a team player.  It has taught me to be confident, optimistic(giving up is not an option) most of all dedicated and committed. One thing it taught me and I learned again is to keep fighting for it no matter how tough the road might seem and never quit on a lost or failure but rather learn from it. Lastly let me not forget about these two important factors,  which is hard work and time management! These two plays a vital role in my success so far.”

What inspired the “Back to School” theme that helped you win the 2018 Career Development Award?

“It has always been my dream and passion to help the community especially young kids, who are still growing. So, the Back to School Bash was the perfect tool to use in reaching out to the community. Also, I get to tell my story to encourage and serve as a role model to them and that anytime they think of quitting, they should know someone was once in their situation but made it through. The road may seem rough today but the end result will wipe all the bitterness away.“

 

MVSU Football: A Chat With Starting QB Chris Fowler

(Photo Credit: MVSU Athletics)

Mississippi Valley State University Delta Devils’ sophomore quarterback Chris Fowler Jr. is coming off an opener against North Dakota where he was the main conductor for the quick-strike offense of the Delta Devils. This team runs a system that relies on his ability to make quick reads and adjust to the defense on the fly.He finished with 263 yards and a touchdown pass last week. The system that Fowler plays in encourages quick passes to his talented group of wide receivers lead by seniors Quinn McElfresh and Booker Chambers, as well as junior Demarcus Frazier.

The Delta Devils take on Jacksonville State tomorrow night on the road at 6:00 PM on ESPN Plus.

Recently, I had a chance to talk with Fowler about some of his off-field experiences, why he choose MVSU, a bit more about what he hopes to improve on in his sophomore season, and how his game has developed so far.

What are your off the field goals for your sophomore season?

“One of the things I take pride in, is my effort in the classroom. So I would like to be an Academic All American for the second year in a row and maintain a 4.0 GPA like I did last year.”

What are some fun off the field things you and your teammates like to do when not practicing?

“My teammates and I like to compete, so that competitive nature follows us off the field as well. Whether it’s a Madden tournament, bowling, racing, or ping pong in the locker room, we all have fun striving to be the best at whatever it is we are doing at that moment. The funnier moments come in the locker room when you have guys rapping/singing and dancing to their favorite artists while the others are cracking jokes. “
What inspired you to choose your major?
 “A variety of things. Let me start by saying I didn’t just come to college to play football. I wanted to push myself the same way I do in the weight room and on the field, in the classroom as well. With that being said, I wanted something that would challenge me but also give me something to fall back on if the game of football didn’t work out. I used to always wonder how criminals would serve a sentence where “the time didn’t fit the crime” based off some loophole in the system. It just so happens my mother is a paralegal so we had a lot of books about the laws and particular cases in the house growing up so I knew Criminal Justice would always be a major that had a special place in my heart.”
Why did you come to MVSU?
 “I felt wanted. Coach Anderson did a GREAT job recruiting me and they stuck with me through thick and thin.”
What are your career goals?
“To be happy and love whatever it is I end up doing. I know that if I love what I’m doing and I am genuinely happy doing it, then I’ll be successful no matter what it is. “
What is the biggest area of your game that’s developed since you have come to MVSU?
“My feet. Coach Flowers [Offensive Coordinator] has done an awesome job at stressing how important my feet are in relation to rhythm, timing, and velocity. The constant drilling in practice has caused me to play faster and more confidently in the pocket. Every time I catch a snap I hear Coach Flowers’ favorite five words ‘YOU HAVE TO DROP HARD!’ “
What are some of your favorite spots on campus but away from the field to be?
“Study hall, the weight room and my room. I love to help people, so in study hall when I see my teammates or other athletes struggling with a subject I’m strong in, I take pride in being the first to lend a helping hand. In my opinion the weight room is where championships are won and lost. The sweat equity from the weight room can take teams a long way late in the season and I love giving everything I have in the weight room for this team. Last but not least, my room. Like the old saying goes, “There’s no place like home.” Sleep is a big part of my recovery and I like to read knowledgeable books in my down time; both of which happen in my room.”
What do you get from being at MVSU that you could get no where else.

“Gratitude. Being at MVSU made me thankful for the little things in life that I sometimes used to take for granted and for that reason Valley will always hold a special place in my heart. “

MVSU-UND Preview: An Interview with First Year MVSU Coach Vincent Dancy

In just three weeks, UND Football will open its 2018 campaign against the Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) Delta Devils at home in front of a raucous Alerus Center. I reached out to first year Head Coach Vincent Dancy for his thoughts on taking the MVSU job, what he is hoping to accomplish this season, and more. Check here for some thoughts from Clarion-Ledger reporter Tyler Cleveland on what to expect from MVSU this season, and what the Delta Devils should focus on as they prepare to make the trek north.

  1. What inspired you to take this job as head coach?
    • “I’ve always dreamed of being a head coach plus the rich tradition that MVSU has had in the past years made this job more appealing.”
  2. What type of style does your team play?
    • “Offensively we play a high tempo ground and pound system with multiple formations. Defensively we are an even front team with multiple coverages in the secondary.”
  3. Long-term, what is your vision of Delta Devils Football?
    • “My vision for Delta Devils Football [involves four areas].
      • For every athlete to complete their degree requirements.
      • To establish the football [team] as a consistent winner.
      • For [the] MVSU Football program to be one of the leaders in FCS attendance.
      • To win the Celebration Bowl.”
  1. What do you look to gain from your trip to Grand Forks?
    • “I look to gain a clear cut identity of who we are heading into the 2018 season.”
  2. Your offense features preseason 1st team all-conference wideout Quinn McElfresh. What do you expect him to bring to this team both on and off the field this year?
    • “Quinn is a special football player and our team knows that but we expect him to be more vocal and lead us on and off the field.”
  3. What does 1st team all- conference linebacker Patrick Harbin bring to the defense?
    • “Experience- Patrick has been in the program 4 years now and has been a contributor 3 of those years. So his knowledge of the game should help us out tremendously.”
  4. Who is one standout freshman fans should keep an eye on this season?
    • “Caleb Johnson, He’s a dynamic RB from Memphis, TN who can do a lot of things very well out of the back field.”
  5. What is your goal for this season?
    • “My goal is to have a first-class team and image in everything we do. Also, to be competitive in conference play and win games we are favored to win.”
  6. What does the program’s legacy mean to you, especially regarding helping 21 players get drafted by NFL teams?
    • “That’s one reason why I wanted this job. The legacy that Coach Archie Cooley, Willie Totten and Jerry Rice established here will forever be remembered. Also Deacon Jones, who invented the term “sack” will always be glorified as long as there is football being played!”
  7. What is the one thing you would tell fans in Grand Fork that they may not know about MVSU Football?
    • “That we’re hungry and ready like never before!”