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Respect the FCS.
In 1978, Division I football split in two.
Since then, Division I has featured the more prominent Football Bowl Series (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, and the Football Championship Series (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA.
Ball State competes in the FBS while this week’s opponent, Eastern Kentucky, plays in the FCS.
There are a few contrasts between the two levels of football.
First, as the names suggest, the FBS season culminates with a glut of bowl games at season’s end. The FCS features a 20-team single elimination playoff and no bowl games.
Second, there are financial limitations at the FCS level. FBS programs are granted 85 full scholarships for their athletes.
FCS programs are given a bit more flexibility, but with fewer resources. The lower level of Division I receives the equivalent of 63 full scholarships, but they can be delegated into partial scholarships if they so choose.
With less scholarships and typically less financial support from administration, there’s usually a drop off in talent between an FBS and FCS team.
But, be warned: FCS programs have regularly proven they can compete with their wealthier Division I counterparts.
Look no further than last week when Illinois State of the FCS defeated Big Ten adversary Northwestern. Of the 128 current FBS schools, 79 have at least one loss to an FCS team since the split in 1978.
As for Ball State, it knows too well the perils of underestimating a lower level opponent.
In 2014, Indiana State stunned a Ball State team on the heels of back-to-back bowl appearances. The loss was the 10th all-time for the Cardinals against the FCS.
Saturday will not be effortless.
Mike Neu in the Scheu
The last time Ball State first-year head coach Mike Neu ran on to then not-named Scheumann Stadium for a game was to put a cap on a Mid-American Conference title.
That was November of 1993. 23 years ago.
“Ten years ago when I was a player, that was exciting,” Neu joked with reporters this week. “Not twenty.”
When Neu ran on to the field back in ’93, he was a few weeks away from being named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year.
He left no doubt in his final career home game as Ball State’s starting quarterback, leading the Cardinals to a 28-3 triumph over Kent State to conclude a season in which Ball State had a spotless home record.
Neu, now on the sidelines, looks to do what he did in ’93: return Ball State to bowl eligibility.
Ball State-Eastern Kentucky Commonalities
Ball State’s coaching overhaul after last season scattered the former staff through out the country.
Coincidentally, the landing spot for former Ball State defensive backs coach Shannon Morrison was Eastern Kentucky.
Morrison spent the previous three seasons working with the Ball State secondary.
Many of the players who will line up Saturday in the defensive backfield for Ball State were Morrison’s recruits, most notably: starting free safety, Corey Hall.
Morrison was on the staff at the University of Cincinnati while Hall was in high school. Morrison wanted Hall to come to Cincinnati on scholarship, but at the time, Hall didn’t have the grades to qualify.
Instead, Hall elected to go to Eastern Arizona Junior College. After two years at junior college, Hall remained on Morrison’s radar. However, Morrison made the move to Ball State and was able to lure the current senior to don the Cardinal and White.
Also, current Ball State Athletics Director Mark Sandy spent 10 years in the same position at Eastern Kentucky.
Finally, Eastern Kentucky Defensive Coordinator Kurt Mattix had two stints in Muncie. He was a Graduate Assistant in 2002 for Bill Lynch and in 2003 for Brady Hoke, then accepted a full-time role as the Tight Ends Coach in 2009 and 2010 for Stan Parrish.