SIU refuses to be held back by FCS distinction

By Gus Bode

The Appalachian State Mountaineers didn’t only hurt the Michigan Wolverines with their shocking upset of the former No. 5 team in the nation.

They may have hurt the Salukis.

As SIU (1-0) heads into its only matchup against a Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A, team this season, the squad from the lower division may not fly under the radar as it potentially could have, said Mike Kern, associate commissioner of the Gateway Conference.


As one of three Gateway teams to face FBS opponents this weekend, the Salukis will have their work cut out for them as they prepare to play a team devoted to not becoming the next Michigan, Kern said.

“They’re not going to be able to sneak up on anybody because (the FBS teams are) going to be fully aware that schools at our level can win those games,” Kern said.

Though Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, teams are at a distinct disadvantage with 22 less scholarships available, the lines between the levels are becoming more blurred, said SIU Athletic Director Mario Moccia.

Moccia, a previous administrator at FBS school University of Missouri, said facing a more prominent opponent can do great things for a program in addition to gaining revenue through a portion of the larger venue’s ticket sales.

Such was the case with Appalachian State, who in addition to the Wolverines’ pride, also escaped the Big House with $400,000 in revenue for the athletic department.

Like Appalachian State, SIU is no stranger to Big 10 upsets.

Last season, the Salukis became the first team in Gateway Conference history to defeat a Big 10 squad, taking down Indiana 35-28 on Sept. 16.


Though the win marked the Salukis first win against a Division I opponent since 1983, it was not due to a lack of trying.

The Salukis came close the last time they faced Northern Illinois, losing 23-22 after head coach Jerry Kill declined a game-tying extra point and opted to go for two.

Former Saluki tight end Chris Kupec dropped the would-be-game-winning Joel Sambursky pass in the corner of the endzone with 51 seconds left, allowing the Huskies to escape with the victory.

Kill stuck with the call after the game and said this week he has never regretted making the decision to go for the win.

“I regretted not winning the game I guess you’d say. I guess it wasn’t a very good call – we didn’t win the game,” Kill said. “As I watch film, if I was making that call in that particular situation I’d do it again, I just wish we’d executed the play better.”

Kill said he would love to be forced to make the same decision Saturday.

“I hope I’m in that same position,” Kill said. “I hope we’re in that position to win.”

Senior cornerback Craig Turner was in the process of redshirting during the last Northern Illinois game, and said he got even more excited by the environment at the FBS school.

“I loved it,” Turner said. “I wanted to take my redshirt off that game, but it obviously wasn’t my call. This time I get to show the guys what they missed out on.”

Turner said he prepares even harder knowing he is facing an FBS school.

“I don’t see it as a pushover, I don’t see it as a mismatch, ” Turner said. “I just see it as a football game that has to be played.”

Senior running back John Randle, who transferred to SIU from Kansas University, an FBS school, said he appreciates the change in atmosphere but doesn’t see much difference between the two subdivisions.

“We’re not really worried about a (FBS) team, it’s just the next team to us. The next team in the way, pretty much, so we got to take care of them,” Randle said.

Kill said most of the talk surrounding the distinct advantage of the FBS schools is empty “hoopla.”

“They may suit up 70, 80, 90, 100, but they’re going to have 11 on the field, and we’re going to have 11, and our 11 is going to be pretty good too,” Kill said. “The bottom line is how our 11 play against their 11. It doesn’t matter if we play in a big stadium, small stadium or if we play in the street.”

Sean McGahan can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 269 or [email protected].