EIU athletic director part of the 'scrubbing out' process for FCS playoff picture

Eastern Illinois athletic director Tom Michael serves on the FCS playoff committee. (photo courtesy eiupanthers.com)

Experience usually pays off, but then again, circumstances also dictate our perceptions. Take, for example, Tom Michael’s second time serving on the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff committee.

Michael, the Eastern Illinois athletic director, had his first foray in selecting the Division I playoff bracket for the FCS schools this past spring. However, those playoffs — which followed an unprecedented spring regular season schedule — only included 16 teams.

When this fall’s the field was revealed on ESPNU Sunday, the playoffs reverted to their usual 24-school format.

So, was the process easier or harder the second time around?

“It’s a little bit of both,” Michael told Prairie State Pigskin Monday afternoon. “Anytime you are picking the teams, the last few teams are always difficult to scrub out to see who’s in and who’s out, so the process remains the same.

“But I think what was better this year than what we did in the spring was the fact that we had more data points for all the teams with teams playing essentially full schedules as opposed to (what we had in the spring) with some schools having played just three or four games.”

Michael, who is in his first year of a four-year term on the 10-member committee, said it was difficult to compare and contrast those unbalanced spring schedules affected by Covid-19.

“It was inconsistent,” Michael said of the spring criteria. “There were essentially just conference games, there were no (conference) crossover (games) to compare.

“It’s a challenging process to make some of those selections, but at the same time, this (fall) one had more data points. Hopefully, time will tell over the next month (as the brackets play out) and hopefully we did a good job and got the right 24 (teams) here.”

Salukis in the field

Committee members are asked not to discuss specific teams since that duty falls on the chairman to address.

In this case, that is Thorr Bjorn, the athletic director at Rhode Island, who revealed that Southern Illinois (7-4) and fellow Missouri Valley Football Conference member Northern Iowa (6-5) were the last two teams chosen for the field.

“We spent a lot of time on those particular areas,” Bjorn told ESPNU of the final two teams in the field and choosing the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds.

Bjorn added that the Missouri Valley’s rugged league schedule was a tipping point. A record six MVFC teams were chosen for this fall’s playoffs.

SIU faltered down the stretch, finishing 1-3 to end the season, including Saturday’s 35-18 home loss to three-win Youngstown State.

The Salukis travel to South Dakota, another Missouri Valley team with a 7-4 record, for a 5 p.m. Saturday kickoff. The game will be broadcast on ESPN-Plus from Vermillion, S.D.

Speaking in general terms on the selection process, Michael said, “Certainly the whole body of work is taken into account, but just like everything else, people’s resume, for lack of a better word, is scrubbed out through the process. How teams finish at the end is an important component of that.”

Michael added, “There are a lot of factors that go into that evaluation of a particular team. Some of it has to do with injuries. Some of it has to do with the schedule of who they’re playing, what that competition looks like and everything else. So it is the component that the committee certainly does look at.”

+Barry Bottino also contributed to this story.

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