While Jackson State might have earned its highest ranking in the FCS top 25 poll in more than two decades, head coach Deion Sanders indicated the team’s place in the national rankings won’t supersede its ultimate goal.
To advance to the Celebration Bowl.
On Monday, JSU (4-0) moved up two spots to No. 9 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 – their first top-10 ranking in the national media poll in 25 years.
Any other school would likely be ecstatic about leveraging that position to make a postseason run. But not for Sanders, who explained that he “don’t give a darn about a poll.”
“What is a poll going to do for us?” Sanders asked.
When a reporter explained that the ranking could matter for potential FCS playoff placement, the JSU coach was dismissive regarding those prospects.
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“What playoffs? We want to go to the Celebration Bowl,” said Sanders. “Are they paying for the playoffs? Do they play for the playoffs?”
Unlike FBS bowl games, the FCS does not feature a system of compensation in exchange for participation.
For schools to host FCS playoff games, the NCAA requires that they submit bids or guarantees of how much they will pay for each home date. The organization sets minimum bids that get higher for each round
The minimum bidding starts at $30,000 for the first round to $40,000 for the second round, $50,000 for the quarterfinals and $60,000 for the semifinals. Some schools with bigger budgets can bid more money to host games on or near its campus.
If the winning school makes money during the duration of its postseason run, the NCAA takes a larger cut minus the school’s expenses. In turn, the school receives a larger share of whatever is left over.
Under these parameters, it would seem the Celebration Bowl — featuring the SWAC and MEAC champions — is a more lucrative financial opportunity. The participating conferences get $1 million each in payouts.
SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland previously indicated there were other FCS conference representatives that wanted to explore bowl game opportunities instead of the playoffs.
“There are other FCS conferences inquiring about how they can be a part of a bowl game that the SWAC and MEAC are participating in,” said McClelland in 2018. “It really tells you how far this game has come,”
Princeton coach Bob Surace once suggested an Ivy League-HBCU bowl matchup. The Ivy League does not participate in postseason play.
MEAC and SWAC schools can still earn an at-large bid to the 24-team playoff field as was the case last season when Florida A&M earned a spot.
“When you go to a bowl game like a bowl game at the conclusion of the season like the FBS, they get compensated, right?” asked Sanders. “Why would go somewhere where we’re not compensated when we could go somewhere where we’re compensated like the Celebration Bowl? That’s the goal to me.”