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New Schools That Could Be FCS Kickoff Regulars
Jacksonville State leaves for Conference USA in 2023, leaving the FCS Kickoff without its biggest draw.
Last month, Jacksonville State unveiled this year’s FCS Kickoff matchup when it released its schedule for the upcoming season. The Gamecocks will play Stephen F. Austin at the historic Cramton Bowl on August 28th in a curtain call for the WAC-ASUN Challenge.
While the Lumberjacks have never played in the FCS Kickoff, the Gamecocks are no stranger to the cozy confines of the Cramton Bowl. This year’s kickoff game will be their third appearance since the game moved to Montgomery in 2017.
Of course, Jacksonville State moves to C-USA in 2023, leaving the FCS Kickoff looking for a new favorite to invite to Montgomery. Luckily, multiple options make sense.
The ASUN has two logical options, North Alabama and Kennesaw State. Both schools have never appeared in the FCS Kickoff or Cramton Bowl. Kennesaw State makes the most sense as Atlanta is two hours away from Montgomery and is an established national power, making the playoffs four of the last five seasons.
On the other hand, North Alabama has been trying to find its footing at the FCS level, going 14-22 since moving up from Division II in 2018. However, the Lions do have a rich history with 21 Division II playoff appearances and three Division II titles.
The university is three hours away from Montgomery, making for an easy trip for the fans. Despite a 3-8 season, the Lions finished 46th in attendance in FCS, so their fans likely will travel well to a game at a venue with as much history as the Cramton Bowl. As a new FCS program, a national TV appearance during Week Zero could be the recruiting boost the Lions need to break through in a thinning ASUN.
Another option is Samford, who played in the 2019 edition of the game. The Bulldogs are only an hour and change from Montgomery in Homewood, Alabama. The trip is easy for the Bulldogs, but whether fans will travel may be a concern as the Bulldogs averaged 3,949 fans per home game, finishing 95th in attendance.
Finally, the FCS Kickoff could invite either Jackson State, Alabama State, or Alabama A&M out of the SWAC. The schools are close enough to Montgomery, with Jackson being four hours away, A&M three hours, and Alabama State being right in Montgomery.
Additionally, all three draw well, with all of them cracking the top 20 in FCS attendance, with Jackson State taking the top spot. The fanbases travel well and Jackson State obviously provides an added TV draw with Deion Sanders coaching the team.
The FCS Kickoff had a good thing going in having a nearby power in Jacksonville State. When the Gamecocks go to FBS, there is no reason to fret, as schools hungry for exposure or with large fanbases await nearby.