A year after leading Towson to its first Football Championship Subdivision appearance in school history, fourth-year coach Rob Ambrose reacted angrily Sunday after his 7-4 Tigers were snubbed by the NCAA selection committee for an invitation to this season’s playoffs.
Despite finishing the season on a four-game winning streak, including a 64-35 demolition of playoff-bound New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., Saturday, Towson failed to be invited into the 20-team field after losing in the opening round to Lehigh in 2011.
“To say that our kids are crushed is the understatement of the year,” Ambrose said shortly after watching the nationally televised selection show with his team. “They’ve done everything that was asked of them. They’ve done everything that was said that could not be done.
“And if you say you want to have the best 20 teams in the country competing for the national championship, let’s do it. Don’t pretend. The best 20 teams in the country are not competing for the national championship. It’s a fact.”
The Tigers, who finished in a four-way tie for the Colonial Athletic Association championship, also beat playoff-bound Villanova. After receiving five bids last season, the CAA has three teams in this year’s field. Old Dominion, which is leaving the CAA after this season, also received a bid.
“I’m going to remove Old Dominion from the conversation because in a hot minute they’re not going to be part of the CAA anymore, but I don’t understand where the justice comes in,” Ambrose said. “The two CAA teams that are going to represent our league, we beat and they have the same conference record [6-2] as we do.”
According to the Sagarin Ratings that are used to rank Football Bowl Subdivision teams as well as FCS teams, Old Dominion is 114th overall, Towson is 122nd, Villanova is 125th and New Hampshire is 146th. Richmond, which was also snubbed despite finishing with a 6-2 league record, is 132nd.
Ambrose said that playing two FBS teams in the same season for the first time in school history ultimately cost the Tigers a bid because they wound up with only seven wins. None of the teams taken Sunday had less than eight.
“Within the conference, we have a lot of parity, but with the out-of-conference schedules, there’s not,” Ambrose said. “Some teams don’t even play I-A [Football Bowl Subdivision] teams; we played two. I’d like to see the combined won-lost record out-of-conference of everybody in the playoffs and I bet ours kills everybody 10 to 1.”
Towson opened the season with a 41-21 loss at Kent State and lost at then No. 3 ranked LSU 38-22 two weeks later. Kent State finished the year 10-1 and will be playing for the Mid-American Conference title. LSU finished 9-2 and is now ranked No. 9 in the country.
Of the teams representing the CAA in the FCS playoffs, New Hampshire lost at Big Ten bottom-feeder Minnesota, 44-7, and Villanova lost to rebuilding Temple, 41-10. Old Dominion did not play an FBS school, but lost at home to Villanova.
Ambrose said his non-conference schedule, which includes going to Connecticut next year and West Virginia in 2014, will likely get easier because teams will try to avoid the Tigers after they played LSU relatively close on national television this season.
“When you’re a 1-2-3 win team, everybody in the country will play you,” said Ambrose, whose first two teams at Towson in 2009 and 2010 won a total of three games. “But when you’re conference champs of the CAA, nobody wants to get near you. It’s pretty difficult to get out of conference games. There were a couple of teams that were on the hook for future games, after the LSU game they took their tail and ran.”
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