Why Kyle Whittingham thinks FBS vs. FCS games will go away

Utah Utes wide receiver Theo Howard (1) runs against the Weber State Wildcats during the season opener at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.
Utah Utes wide receiver Theo Howard (1) runs against the Weber State Wildcats during the season opener at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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As Utah and Weber State prepare for their seventh meeting to be played on Saturday, Ute coach Kyle Whittingham thinks FBS vs. FCS games could be a thing of the past in the future.

“I think ultimately they’ll go away,” Whittingham said this week.

Whittingham, who has long held the position that college football will eventually break off into superconferences, sees the college football landscape coalescing even more than it already has.

“Each year we take another step towards that and I think it’s inevitable. The timetable, who knows, three years, five years, seven years, but I believe that’s the direction it’s headed,” Whittingham said.

The Power Five conferences are already down to four — SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and ACC — and there’s already trouble in the ACC.

“My current assessment of the situation after very deep analysis is I believe FSU will have to at some point consider very seriously leaving the ACC unless there were a radical change to the revenue distribution,” Florida State president Robert McCullough said in August.

The ACC’s grant of rights runs through 2036.

On his coaches show on ESPN 700 back on Aug. 22, Whittingham went even more in-depth on what he thinks college football will ultimately be.

“Everything is going to be predicated and set up on where’s the most money and that’s why you’re going to see another round at least of change and it’s ultimately going to streamline into one or two superconferences,” he said.

“They’ll govern themselves, they’ll break off from the NCAA, they’ll have their own playoff and that’s just where it’s heading. I don’t think there’s any way around that.”

In his press conference this week, Whittingham said that he believes that the eventual superconferences will do away with so-called “pay games,” where an FBS team pays an FCS team hundreds of thousands, or even into the seven figures, of dollars.

It could even get rid of games outside of the superconferences altogether, in his vision.

“Ultimately, your superconferences, they’ll only play each other and that’s going to be to the detriment of the lower-level teams and I just think that that’s where it’s headed.”

“Everyone else will be on their own, do whatever they want to do. I believe that’s where it’s heading,” Whittingham said.


Since 2018, aside from the 2020 season when it only played Pac-12 teams, Utah has played an FCS-level team every season, and that’s a trend that is slated to continue in 2024, 2028, 2029 and 2030.

With BYU on the conference schedule starting next year — and on the nonconference schedule every year through 2030 except for 2029 — the Utes have some holes to fill. Will they turn to — and pay — FCS teams?

Focusing on Saturday, it’s a chance for Utah to get healthy, potentially pulling its starters early and giving guys deeper on the depth chart run.

That is, if everything goes right.

Two years ago, Weber State hung with Utah through two quarters. Rashid Shaheed had a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown and the Wildcats’ defense hung tough as Utah only mustered a 12-point halftime lead.

All week this week, the message from Utah’s coaches and players has been that they’re not overlooking this game in preparation for Pac-12 play.

The Wildcats, ranked No. 7 in FCS, are led by new head coach Mickey Mental, who took over after Jay Hill left for BYU during the offseason.

Damon Bankston is the player to watch on offense for the Wildcats. The junior running back was named the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week following the Wildcats’ takedown of No. 20 Northern Iowa on the road last Saturday.

Bankston had 144 yards and three touchdowns in the win, bringing his two-game season total to 263 yards and five scores.

The Wildcats’ defense, led by linebacker Winston Reid, who has 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks, doesn’t know which quarterback it will be lining up opposite from on Saturday.

Under center will be either Cam Rising, who hasn’t played all season but has been practicing fully since after the Florida game while rehabbing from his January ACL surgery, or Nate Johnson, who would be making his first-ever start for Utah.

Johnson replaced Bryson Barnes for most of the fourth quarter against Baylor last week and led the Utes to victory with two touchdown drives in the final 10 minutes of Utah’s 20-13 win in Waco, Texas.