To Care or Not to Care: KC Keeler and the Importance of Week 1

The opening week of the college football season will always hold a special place in my heart. Aside from providing a usually welcomed and much-needed break from a whole three or four days of classes, it has always managed to indulge that innate sports fan desire in me to see an upset. David vs. Goliath matchups? Week One always provides plenty of them, and that’s not likely to stop anytime soon. Sure, fans of BCS conference teams may moan ad nauseum about playing the Little Sisters of the Poor (who, it turns out, don’t actually field a team), but with the state of television contracts and ticket sale revenue being what they are, the incentive to play an FCS team isn’t the opportunity cost loss some people would like us to think it is.

Good for people like me who enjoy watching the ACC take its annual nose dive or two against Colonial Athletic Conference teams, but good for the FCS teams playing? According to Delaware head coach KC Keeler, maybe not. That, at least, if you’re going off of what Keeler said in the weekly CAA teleconference on Monday:

My preference is to not play any I-A teams. The goal of our program is not to win a I-A game, it’s to win a national championship. It’s really difficult to make the playoffs and we need to put ourselves in the best position possible to do so. We need to have enough wins to get into the playoffs.

Interesting comments, no doubt, especially when you factor in the history of the Navy-UD series. As Bill Wagner points out in his blog, the series has been going back to 1984 and is currently sees Navy with an 8-7 series advantage. Hardly the kind of one-sided stomping that certain SEC or Big 10 schools unload on their FCS “rivals” on a yearly basis, and by and large good football to watch regardless of the week the game is being played in.

While I don’t presume to actually define what’s good and what’s not good for the Delaware program, I can’t help but question what is behind Keeler’s comments, and if they’re really meant to be taken at face value. True, his team is among dozens fighting for 10 at-large spots in the playoffs if they don’t win the CAA – but I’m sure Keeler would tell you that winning the CAA is the first goal of his program each year, if only because it would include a bye in the playoffs and a possible streamline to the National Title Game. Likewise, if we’re to believe recent history, then beating an FBS team – especially a perennial bowl team like Navy – carries quite a bit of weight with the NCAA committee when considering at-large bids. So wouldn’t it help Delaware to keep playing a game against an FBS team like Navy? My inclination says it would, especially now that one of the CAA’s best teams – Massachusetts – is heading up to the FBS.

Smoke and mirrors? I’m not saying it is, but something tells me to take these comments with the suspicion of coach speak. Keeler’s program is established enough that it’s always going to be in contention for an at-large spot in the playoffs even if his team doesn’t win the CAA, and given the demanding CAA slate and the incentives of upsetting Navy, it seems a productive use of a game to travel down to Annapolis. The real reason for the comments? Economic, perhaps, but also to deflect attention from the matchup, and to downplay media attention for the upset that he and his players are banking on.

He cares. His team cares. They just don’t want you to know how badly they do.

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