Only 40 current FBS programs have ever claimed national championships at the highest level, and about that same number of programs has a realistic chance of winning one ever again.
But with Georgia State ascending after two straight FCS losing seasons and Appalachian State, Charlotte, Georgia Southern and Old Dominion joining over the next two years, plus possibly James Madison and others, we'll be over 130 FBS teams in no time.
There are too many FBS teams. This is not to say there are too many college football teams. Within the NCAA alone, there are four levels of college football. (This is also not to say that I actually care about whether there are too many FBS teams. But maybe you care! Do your things, bruh.)
Still, there's plenty of room for teams to get in where they actually fit in, rather than merrily toiling in conference cellars for an eensy bit more money and some Wednesday night attention.
For starters, the NCAA's FBS requirements include an attendance mark. Programs must average 15,000 butts in seats over a rolling, two-year period in order to stay. This is not really enforced, as multiple schools would be dropped down already, often including Idaho, much of the MAC and others.
But let's say we did enforce it. And let's say we stepped it up. Programs must average 20,000 in attendance per game, and over a four-year period. Would that sufficiently trim the fat from FBS? Here are the 33 schools who would be dropping down for the time being (thanks to Rodger Sherman for data assembly assistance):
There's good news, and there's bad news. The good news is we still have a MAC. The bad news is the entire thing is in FCS now. Despite the internet popularity of Tuesday night football (which makes the MAC kind of like bourbon), no MAC school topped the attendance threshold, though Toledo and Ohio came very close. I'm sorry.
Most of the Sun Belt was also given a hiatus, as well as portions of the Mountain West and Conference USA. If we're counting the Big East as a major conference, then only 18 mid-major schools remain, giving us 93 FBS schools (counting Montana, which we've moved up). Here are the remaining mid-majors:
Wild tangent alert
If all that was a conference, it would be at least as strong as the Big East, right? While we're at it, let's shape those 18 survivors into a single league.
We could go two divisions of nine schools each, with a East (Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, Marshall, New Mexico, Southern Miss, UTEP, UTSA) and a West (Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Montana, San Diego State, UNLV, Wyoming), or we could do something really crazy.
What if we made an exception for the two best-attended schools below the 20,000 mark, Old Dominion and James Madison, both of whom come within about 100 fans per game over the past four years and show signs of topping the mark in the future, especially if they're hosting FBS games?
That would give us 20, which could mean a four-divisional conference, which is all way, way beside the point we started with:
Based on pure Sagarin ratings (which track both FBS and FCS) over the past three years, our power programs would be San Diego State, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas State, Air Force and Southern Miss. Power programs besides Boise State, of course, which would win the whole thing like every year. Put the Broncos anywhere on God's green earth, even in made-up conferences, and they'll still triple their worth.
But back to the point
So, what do we think about this sort of thing? Will we hit 150 FBS teams in 20 years? More than 200 by 2100? Will the INEVITABLE SUPERCONFERENCE SUPERBREAKAWAY save us all?