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FCS semifinal exits have value, but hurt the most

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

(Stats Perform) - The FCS playoff semifinals would have been held this weekend - one round and three weeks before the annual championship game in Frisco, Texas.

A loss in the semis can hurt even more than in the final, with the two teams, and their school communities, lamenting what could have been while the finalists revel in the buildup to the big game.

A year ago, Montana State lost in its first semifinal-round appearance since the Bobcats' 1984 national championship season, while Weber State was left on the doorstep in their first-ever semifinal.

The losses still sting.

"Success has a lot of tests, and one of them is failure," Montana State coach Jeff Choate said he told his team.

Since the playoffs began in 1978, there's excellent company on the list of programs whose seasons have ended in the semis. Twenty-one programs have reached the semis yet not the final, including five in multiple seasons - Idaho (1988 and 1993), New Hampshire (2013 and 2014), South Dakota State (2017 and 2018), Troy State (1993 and 1996) and William & Mary (2004 and 2009). Another 26 programs that have advanced to at least one final, including 18 that won titles, also have at least one semifinal-round exit.

No program has been frustrated more than Northern Iowa, which was the 2005 national runner-up and has six losses in the semis (1985, 1987, 1992, 1996, 2001 and 2008).

Nevada had similar hard luck before moving up to the FBS level, falling in five semifinals (1978, 1979, 1983, 1985 and 1986) in addition to the 1990 championship game.

Former FCS dynasty Georgia Southern not only won six FCS titles and made two other championship games, but it exited in the semifinals five times (2001, 2002, 2010, 2011 and 2012).

Three programs have four semifinal-round losses: two-time national champion and seven-time finalist Montana (1989, 1994, 2006 and 2011), 2010 national champ Eastern Washington (1997, 2012, 2013 and 2016) and two-time finalist Sam Houston State (2004, 2014, 2016 and 2017).

Four other national championship programs have three semifinal-round losses: Appalachian State (1987, 2000 and 2009), Delaware (1992, 1997 and 2000), Eastern Kentucky (1986, 1988 and 1991) and Furman (1983, 1989 and 2005).

Think of it this way in what's always a learning process: even North Dakota State has a semifinal-round loss (to James Madison in 2016) that breaks up its record eight FCS titles in a nine-year span of the last decade.

Updated December 17, 2020

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