There’s been a lot of discussion recently over life as an FBS Independent and how difficult it is for teams like BYU and others just from the standpoint of getting the right games at the right time on the calendar. Such a narrative might be changing if more programs join in on the bandwagon over the coming years however, as one person intimately familiar with a solo life on the gridiron can testify.
Speaking to the Greenfield Recorder this week, UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford told the paper that UConn’s decision to leave the AAC could be the first of many others doing the same and that conference realignment likely kicking off in the next few years could be a driving force for schools in similar situations seeing the benefits to such a move as opposed to the negatives.
“From a football standpoint, looking at a league like the American with UConn and Temple in there would have made some sense,” Bamford said of talk about potentially taking the Huskies spot. “Now, I don’t think it does and we’ve found that being an independent and getting a really good, competitive, balanced schedule is doable. Now having lived it for three years and scheduling for the next three or four, there’s no real impetus for us to get into a league when I think there’s going to be more independent football-playing schools in the next three-to-five years as there’s going to be conference realignment.”
That’s a bit of a contrarian view given how numerous programs expressed the difficulty of lining up everything from broadcast agreements to all 12 games on the schedule. It’s the latter point in particular that’s frequently cited as a big hurdle and one that typically leads to a very front-loaded docket full of Power Five opponents early and a hodgepodge of others as the season progresses. More independents being added to the ranks over the years (like Liberty and New Mexico State) have eased the burden though and Bamford seems to suggest that the hurdle isn’t like what it once was.
Will we see conference realignment actually result in more independents though? That remains to be seen though it would be fascinating to see others try their hand at the route just like many schools such as Florida State and South Carolina did back in the day. Even Notre Dame, which needs no help in getting games given their prestige and television dollars available, agreed to a partial scheduling agreement with the ACC several years ago but they’ve so far been the outlier in all this from the beginning.
One thing is for certain, the more in the club, the more merrier it is for its members as they go through things alone in a changing football landscape at the FBS level.