Did the NCAA Just Doom ETSU and the rest of the Southern Conference?

Marky Billson
7 min readOct 11, 2023

Possibly, though there may be a way out.

Marky Billson

Last week the NCAA raised the fee for a Football Championship Subdivision program wishing to join the Football Championship Subdivision from a cheap $5,000 to a whopping $5 million.

Which likely means FCS programs are going to stay right where they are for the foreseeable future.

And then what will the perception of FCS East Tennessee State be hereafter?

It’s not just that the Bucs are losing these days, it’s that they are losing relevancy.

Consider how many of their one-time peers have passed them by:

  • Appalachian State. Once thought of as ETSU’s main rival, the FBS Mountaineers now schedule the Bucs in football only as a tune-up or money game. In 1981, the all-time series between the two football programs was even. Now, the Mountaineers will never play football in Johnson City again.

And spare us any talk about “ETSU is still the better basketball school.” Villanova is a far better basketball school than Penn State. Who do you perceive to have more prestige in the world of college athletics?

Besides, the Bucs have dropped their last two basketball games to Appalachian.

  • Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks barely defeated ETSU in the 2018 FCS playoffs, winning 34–27 in large part to a Quay Holmes fumble on JSU’s 4-yard line in the final stages of the game.
Those were the days my friend! We thought they’d never end . . .

Five years ago, the two teams were only separated by four yards. Now, the FBS Gamecocks defeated ETSU 49–3 in the second game of the season.

  • Georgia Southern was, in the early 1980s, a startup program ETSU scheduled for an easy victory. After an 11-year-stint as Southern Conference members with ETSU, posting an 8–3 record against the Bucs, the Eagles are now an FBS program with five bowl appearances to their credit. Last season they defeated Nebraska.

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