CollegeMontana Grizzlies


Q&A: NCAA Director of Championships and Alliances Ty Halpin discusses future of FCS title game

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Posted at 7:10 PM, Jan 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-05 21:32:00-05

FRISCO, Texas — When the Montana Grizzlies advanced to the FCS national title game, fans were excited. But they also had questions.

Why is the title game in Frisco, Texas? How long will it be there? Why is it played on a Sunday afternoon in January, directly competing with the NFL?

MTN Sports had a chance to talk to Ty Halpin, the NCAA Director of Championships and Alliances for the last 25 years, about the FCS title game, the future of college football and navigating the changing landscape of college sports.

MTN SPORTS: Ty, thanks for speaking with us. Can you tell us a little about your role with the NCAA and what you’re doing here in Frisco?

TY HALPIN: “So my role here at the NCAA championship is essentially to be the main liaison for the tournament, soup to nuts, to oversee the championship and to work with the committee to do everything from selections to the host bidding process and everything in between. Another part of my role is that I work with the Football Rules Committee. So all the rules and officiating parts of the game across all divisions comes through the Football Rules Committee, and I work with that group as well. And then I’m on the overall Division I Football Oversight Committee. It’s now split into FCS and FBS. But we create the recruiting guidelines, set the recruiting calendar and do legislation.”

MTN SPORTS: Tell us about working with the FCS committee when it comes host bidding. The title game has been in Frisco since 2010. Can you tell us about the relationship between the NCAA, the FCS title game and Frisco and what’s the appeal of Frisco for a host site?

TY HALPIN: “So Frisco clearly has made our event, enhanced our event and brought it to a level really deserving of the teams that play FCS football at a very high level. All 90 NCAA championships are very much important to us. But this one is unique in that you get a couple of weeks to advance and do some things that are maybe unique to FCS football that we can't do for another championship, quite frankly. Frisco is centrally located for the country. There are a couple of major airports, all the infrastructure here at Toyota Stadium is really fabulous and first class but also gives our fan bases the ability to come. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and everything you would want to go support your team. It's all right here, so it really makes it a great event. And the local group here the Toyota Stadium and the Hunt Sports Group and the Southland Conference does a great job of hosting our teams and they've kind of got it down to a science. The only thing we could use is more seats this year. But other than that, we're in great shape.”

MTN SPORTS: How about the future of the FCS championship? I understand the current contract extension runs through 2026? What comes after that?

TY HALPIN: “We're here the next two years and then we have an option for the 2027 game. We'll be looking at that in the near future and then our 2028 games. So the 2027 season going into the 2028 game is part of our overall NCAA championships bid openings. So we will see in the near future what cities are interested in bidding. Several have expressed interest already. We certainly expect Frisco to be part of that and they've been a great, great partner with us. So I don't anticipate that being discontinued. But we'll see what other cities are interested in bidding.”

MTN SPORTS: One of the questions we always receive is why do they put the game on Sunday during the NFL season. Feels like if you want more eyes on the game, you’d move it to a more open day or weekend. Is that decision from ABC, the broadcast partner?

TY HALPIN: “The Division I football committee has the choice of what weekend to play on. This week has worked really well for the championship for a lot of years. It’s nice to have that break, give teams time and the holidays and everything and then come back and be ready to play. So we could choose to play a different weekend but if you look at the calendar, the NFL is playing every weekend that we would be available to play and we can't go too much further. I will say the (FBS College Football Playoff) is also now going to be a factor. This is the last year of their four-team bracket so they will be playing on this weekend next year as well. I'm not sure exactly when those games will happen, but I think our committee has taken a stance that that we feel like this weekend is the best for FCS football. It gives the teams a chance to enjoy their holidays, rest, get back to hopefully full strength and then to come in and play the championship game here in Frisco. We had a lot of great years where we were the main attraction for football this weekend, and things change unfortunately. I think we'll see what the new contract says and where we fit into that and how much flexibility we have on weekends. But we've looked at several options and I'm not sure it's going to change anything that we're doing.”

MTN SPORTS: With the CFP moving to 12 teams next year, the FCS has already shown how to have a successful championship tournament format. Were the FCS playoffs a model, at all?

TY HALPIN: “You know, it's interesting. A lot of the folks that run the CFP administratively like Bill Hancock and Byron Hatch, former NCAA staff members and good friends, they have reached out on some of the general concepts of hosting on campus. What are our challenges? And one of the main things that we really focus on as a committee in the past two years has been getting out ahead of some of the hotel issues we have. A lot of our FCS programs are in smaller cities. Sioux Falls (South Dakota) is a great example. If you have (the University of South and South Dakota State) play on the same weekend there are only so many hotel rooms available, and you need 150 rooms that you need for a team. So that's been a challenge. And walking them through how we do it. Our resource level might be a little bit different than theirs, but we try to have the host institutions really lock in some some hotels that they would feel comfortable staying and or having a visiting team staying in as far in advance as we can. And it's worked reasonably well. There's always challenges and the visiting team always has the option to find their own arrangements. But we hope that the hosts give them the best possible opportunity with their relationships locally. And they're thinking about that now. With a game in Tuscaloosa (Alabama), you're probably not going to be able to stay in Tuscaloosa, and those visiting teams don't anyway. But if you want to have that hotel locked in and you're not sure if that team's going to make it, that's hard. It's hard to do that on short notice. And so experiencing that and sharing our experiences with them might be helpful. I hope it is.”

MTN SPORTS: There’s been an exodus of FCS programs to FBS conferences recently and the top conferences are getting stronger than ever. Can you speak to the state and health of the FCS?

TY HALPIN: “Our conference commissioners, I’ve worked with them closely throughout my tenure and they're very focused on supporting and continuing to elevate us. It's a great brand of football, first of all. But the type of institution that thrives in these are unique. We have two great examples that you see here. They’re slightly smaller from a population perspective but very passionate about what they're doing. I'm not hearing a whole lot of concern that they're going to that, the FCS is going to lose a whole lot of brand programs to FBS. But you never know. Delaware didn't call me when they made the jump. But Montana and SDSU are great examples of programs that where they are in FCS football and I don't see that changing.”

MTN SPORTS: There are so many explosive changes throughout college athletics. Between NIL and realignment and transfer rules. Can you speak broadly about NCAA’s role in navigating those waters and adapting to the changes?

TY HALPIN: “I think consensus building is kind of the biggest piece for us. That's our role at the NCAA, and almost everything we do. Athletic directors certainly talk about being part of the solution and trying to work with their political folks in their local communities to help them understand why some legislation would be helpful to make everybody on the same playing field. But that’s not my lane. I'll stay out of it. But I do know that every AD and every commissioner, they're working towards the same goal of some sort of legislation. You have your own opinions politically on how well our government is doing with advancing some legislation in that space, but it would help. That's the only thing I know, is it would definitely help. And it takes everybody to find fixes. Montana, South Dakota, all the states that have strong FCS schools, they have just as much an interest in creating something that could maybe calm the waters a bit. We're the only country that puts high-level education with high-level athletics and melds the two. And really, it's a unique brand in the world. We all take it for granted, but it's a powerful mix. We don't want to lose that.”

MTN SPORTS: What are the best aspects of your job? What keeps you coming to work every day?

TY HALPIN: “The wonderful aspects are things like events here, seeing kids grow from freshman year to senior year to be part of these experiences that are never going to be repeated. The teams themselves will never come together again. That group of 70 active players or 150 or whatever it is, coaches, players, teams together, that family is just for that one year. That's so special. The value of higher education, the value of athletic achievement and teamwork, we see it in every bit of data that look at. We have our warts but boy at the end of the day we churn out a lot of great leaders, a lot of great people that end up becoming leaders in every community we serve. And it's a great talking point. It's a great thing that we do in America, that we don't do in other parts of the world. And I'm really proud to be part of it.”