Rule #1: Your FCS Legacy Belongs in a Scrapbook
Arkansas State has a proud FCS/DIV2 legacy. The program was undefeated in 1970, 11–0 and awarded a College Division National Championship. In 1975, the Indians (as we were once known) enjoyed a perfect season for which some of the old timers still claim a national championship. During the 1980s, A-State made four playoff appearances under uber-legendary head coach Larry Lacewell. Our “Ring of Honor” bears the names of dozens of players who represented that golden yet bygone era.
Today, those records and titles are but news clippings and dusty trophies with zero bearing to modern college football. We love those teams, we honor those who comprised them, but we moved forward. We had too. For the former FCS programs who enter FBS for the very first time in 2022, my advice is to never look back.
It’s too easy to peer into the past and re-imagine those FCS days as Halcyon moments. The crowds were bigger! The stakes were higher! The rivalries were heated! The game was real back then, man.
Memories shine brighter than reality. But the fact of reality is that the stakes are much higher for FBS football, and the only thing that exceeds the size of the players is the money that’s up for grabs. You’re on TV now. Journalists are covering you now. Suddenly, there is demand to see your 2-deep.
Expectations are now raised on everyone – the players, the coaches, the program and yes, the fans. It is no longer acceptable to wear another university’s merchandise at your home games. Those guys are now your rivals. You want their recruits. You want their marketshare. You want all their stuff! If you’re attending a James Madison Dukes game, and some clown comes trundling through the gate wearing a Virginia Cavaliers hoodie, it is your job to deliver the nastiest stink-eye.
Defending your house from dual-loyalty fans is only the half of it. Remember parking wherever you wanted for free on game day? Them days are over. Do you like getting free tickets when you buy a combo meal at Wendy’s? Too bad. Full price for you, pal. Did you enjoying staking your tailgate as close to the stadium as possible? Sorry, that space is for deep pocket sponsors now! Excited about stadium renovations? Calm down; all the new goodies are for big time donors. The beer and the gourmet chicken wings aren’t for you, but if you’re lucky, you can still pay extra at the gate for one of those plastic bucket seats you clamp onto your aluminum bleacher. Yep, your program hit the big time, but your social standing as a fan is lower than ever.
But it’s worth it, man! You are in The Conversation! You cannot allow the program to slide. You have to push. Find some big pockets. Say “so long” to the anonymity of your athletic department’s budget. How much you spend is now part of the competition – from your assistant coaches’ compensation to how much is spent on beach volleyball. Did you get away with GAs coaching your softball team? Not anymore. You’re in the shit now.
Your athletes are in for an awakening, too. Did your defensive end chug a beer while surfing atop a moving bus? Ha ha! In the FCS, that’s a blip in the news cycle. In the FBS, that video gets played for weeks. Get ready for every marijuana bust to make headlines.
You’re in the big leagues now, Hoss. Nobody in this room cares about your big rivalry game with Gardner-Webb from 1988. It may warm your heart, but it does not register with us. But if your head coach appears on national TV riding a donkey and picking a homemade banjo, then brother, some words will be exchanged.
Place your FCS history in a trunk and put your energy into today. Cling to the FCS Mentality at your own peril. Because when the time gets tough (like enduring a 2-10 season), the temptation to re-glorify those days will poison your mind. It’s a brand new dawn, buddy. And your wide receivers have better have sub 4.50 speed.