Not to beat the dead horse any further, but this past weekend's BC vs. Howard matchup lived up to everyone's worst assumptions when it was scheduled. It turned out to be essentially useless from a football perspective, and drew one of the smallest crowds in Alumni Stadium history.
I know we have some readers who will use this comments thread to rail against the concept of playing any FCS teams at all. I get it, but realistically, we all know that isn't going to happen. FCS beatdowns (and/or embarrassing losses) are now every bit a part of the college football landscape as as marching bands, cheerleaders, shady boosters, and payment of impermissible benefits to players by said shady boosters. It's unrealistic to expect BC to be the one to buck that trend, especially when there's no real disincentive to playing one (ONE, Dr. Bates) FCS game.
The question to me is, who are acceptable FCS opponents to face? Who is at least an interesting enough opponent to draw a crowd more along the lines of 30,000, and who would bring a higher level of competition than Howard just did?
BC has two openings on their 2016 schedule, and it's hard to imagine that one of those two openings won't be filled by an FCS school. Who would be an ideal or appropriate team to fill this role?
Let's take a look at the possibilities. Historically, BC's FCS games have fallen into one of three camps: (1) "good for New England," i.e. your Maines, URIs, etc. Unfortunately, with UMass going FBS that's taken away one of these options, so the rotation has gotten slim. (2) Fellow Catholic schools, see: Villanova 2013. (3) Oh crap, we really need an opponent (Howard, Weber State).
Here's my list for acceptable future FCS opponents, along with a look at whether they're free in 2016. Please note that this list doesn't include Holy Cross, as they don't count towards bowl eligibility yet. Quite frankly, once they do, I'd be fine with BC playing Holy Cross most years until the NCAA mercifully ends FBS-FCS games.
1. "Good For New England" Opponents: UNH, Rhode Island, Maine
Can you believe that BC and UNH haven't faced off in football since 1936? UNH is one of the top FCS programs in the nation, which probably explains why they haven't found their way on to BC's schedule—they might stand too good a chance of winning. But, BC has played UMass in the past back when they were a top FCS team. In addition, the "novelty" of a BC-UNH matchup would probably draw some UNH fans to Alumni, and might be more interesting to BC fans than a team we've already seen plenty of times...or a team like Howard.
Unfortunately, this is not an option for 2016 as of right now; UNH is scheduled to take on San Diego State. They have Colorado on their schedule in 2018, but currently don't have an FBS school lined up for 2017. BC is currently slated to play the Richmond Spiders in 2017 and 2019. Maybe that can be moved around.
Rhode Island is also booked for 2016 as well, slated to face off against UMass. UMass really needs all the scheduling help they can get, so I won't ask for BC to sabotage that matchup.
I'm a little sick of seeing Maine on the schedule as they've now been there 3 of the past 4 years, but don't be surprised if BC-Maine ends up on the slate for 2016 as well. Maine currently does not have an FBS opponent scheduled for 2016, and the Maine matchups have been pretty reasonable as FBS-FCS games go. I'd rather see someone new, but I'd imagine BC-Maine is the likeliest matchup for 2016.
2. Traditional Catholic rivals (Villanova, Fordham, maybe Georgetown?)
Villanova is one of BC's historic football rivals and, as such, is a worthy use of the FBS-FCS game. The game in 2013 was fairly competitive and drew a decent crowd on opening day. I would not mind seeing them on the schedule more regularly. However, in 2016 they are slated to play Pitt, so BC's out for next year.
Another traditional Catholic rival, Fordham, would be a nice choice for the FCS game. BC and Fordham last played in 1954, so it would be an old matchup renewed. In 2016, Fordham is scheduled to play Navy, so odds of this happening next year are slim.
I have no idea if Georgetown offers scholarships and would count as a win toward bowl eligibility. I assume they are on the same schedule as Holy Cross for that. If they count, no reason why Georgetown couldn't also be the occasional FCS opponent.
3. Not New England, But Close Enough
This seems to be the thinking behind BC scheduling two games with Richmond in 2017 and 2019; the CAA foe is in a decent enough conference and is close-ish to BC being a fellow Eastern opponent.
Albany would be another choice for a semi-local FCS opponent; they currently do not have a 2016 FBS opponent lined up, but they are playing Buffalo and Army in coming years. Maybe that could be a match?
James Madison also appears to have a 2016 opening and would not be a bad choice either. Delaware, Elon, Stony Brook, and William and Mary would all be pretty much OK by me, though they are all booked for 2016.
4. The "Oops" List
BC should really pick an opponent from one of the first three buckets. With Maine (blah), Albany and James Madison all free in 2016, there's really no reason why BC should have to dip in to the "oops" list and find a random team at the last minute to play.
Alas, we know it's a possibility, so here's who's left without an FBS opponent:
Montana, North Dakota (oh please!!!! please please please let this happen), Northern Colorado, Weber State (traditional ribvarly!), Gardner-Webb, Kennesaw State, Bethune-Cookman, Delaware State, NC A&T, South Carolina State, South Dakota, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Texas Southern, Prairie View, Miss. Valley State, Jackson State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Lamar.
So there you have it. In order for the FCS game next year to be marginally interesting, let's hope BC either screws up the UNH-San Diego State matchup, or schedules Albany or James Madison (or maybe North Dakota just for the lulz). Worst case scenario, let it be BC-Maine again. Please avoid all of the rest.