The FCS earned the opportunity, according to ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions Dan Margulis.
On Jan. 11, the FCS National Championship Game will be televised on ABC.
“In terms of atmosphere and what they’ve built up in Frisco, it’s really an impressive event,” Margulis told the Daily News-Record on Thursday. “And it’s one of those things where we happen to have a window available this year and thought we’d give it a try and see how it does. We thought it was worthy of that kind of exposure and we’re excited to have that opportunity.”
The last time the FCS National Championship Game made network television was 1994 when the FCS was referred to as I-AA and Boise State squared off with Youngstown State on CBS.
Since 2002 ESPN2 carried the game, including the 2016 bout when James Madison knocked off Youngstown State and the 2017 edition when North Dakota State topped the Dukes.
“It was just the right confluence of things going on,” Margulis said. “Obviously as a company we have a huge commitment to college football and we do quite a bit of FCS throughout our platforms and it’s certainly one of our favorite championships.”
Margulis said there is a “progressive growth” in interest for FCS football from the public and cited ESPN College GameDay’s recent visits to JMU, North Dakota State and South Dakota State as proof.
“This fits in well with our overall strategy and this is the 150th year of college football,” he said. “So it’s great that we can have something that extends all the way to FCS as well.”
As far as the noon eastern time or 11 a.m. local time kickoff for the game, that won’t change this year and don’t expect it to change in future years. Margulis said, "never say never," but between ESPN’s college basketball obligations, FBS bowl games and the decision not to compete with the NFL postseason, the best fit for the FCS title game is the early kickoff it currently has.
This year the NFL’s divisional round will be played the same weekend as the FCS National Championship Game.
“Obviously, NFL playoffs, we want to avoid them,” Margulis said. “And being in the early window gives you a better opportunity there. And I think there’s a benefit where you tend to have that consistency, where it may not be something people are used to at first, but we’ve done [the FCS National Championship Game] long enough that it has its window.”
Margulis said one other change coming to the FCS postseason schedule this year is that both semifinal contests will be played on Saturday, Dec. 21. In the past, one semifinal would be played Friday night and the other on Saturday, but because the 2019 Frisco Bowl will be televised on ESPN2 on Friday, Dec. 20, both FCS semifinals are set for Dec. 21.
The ESPN lineup of networks has the rights to all of the FCS postseason.