NORFOLK — Old Dominion's 10-win season and strong finish resulted in a high seed and the possibility of at least two home games in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
The Monarchs (10-1) received the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye when the 20-team field was announced Sunday. They will host the winner of next Saturday's Bethune Cookman-Coastal Carolina game on Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
If ODU wins its playoff opener, it would be in line to host the winner of the No. 5 seed Georgia Southern-Central Arkansas game — a possible rematch of last year's playoff shootout won by the Eagles in Statesboro, Ga., on Dec. 8
"I think we're in a good position in the bracket," head coach Bobby Wilder said, amid a viewing party for players, coaches and fans at the Sheraton Waterside. "The first thing that jumps out at me is we have the bye."
The Monarchs concluded their season Saturday night with a come-from-behind 38-28 win at James Madison, their fifth consecutive win to close the season.
"We need the bye," Wilder said, "because we're a beat-up, bruised football team. That was the most physical game of the year (Saturday) night. We need the break."
Though ODU was rewarded by the playoff selection committee, the Colonial Athletic Association didn't fare well. Four teams tied for the title officially at 6-2 — Villanova, New Hampshire, Towson and Richmond — but the league landed only three teams in the field, the fewest since 2006.
Villanova (8-3) and UNH (8-3) also made the field, 'Nova with the automatic berth and UNH as a curious at-large choice. ODU finished with the Colonial Athletic Association's best record (7-1), but was not eligible for the league title and automatic playoff berth, as a departing member after this season.
'Nova earned the automatic berth by virtue of defeating the Monarchs in the tiebreaker scenarios. All four teams that tied for the title officially didn't face each other, but all four played ODU and the Wildcats handed ODU its only loss.
UNH's playoff berth extended the nation's longest active streak to nine consecutive years, though the Wildcats got whacked at home by Towson 64-35 in Saturday's season finale.
And while Villanova earned the CAA's automatic playoff berth and is the only one of the five "champions" (four official and ODU unofficially) to defeat a non-conference team with a winning record, the Wildcats must play Stony Brook in a first-round game. UNH received a bye and faces Wofford of the Southern Conference in the second round.
Richmond (8-3) became the first eight-win CAA team not to make the playoff field since Northeastern in 2003. Towson (7-4) finished with four consecutive wins and two of its losses were to FBS teams Kent State and LSU. The Tigers also defeated both Villanova and New Hampshire.
For what it's worth, in the Sagarin computer ratings updated after Saturday's games, Towson was one spot higher than 'Nova among FCS schools and 12 spots higher than New Hampshire. Sagarin's ratings list all Division I programs.
While ODU's players produced a record that merited a playoff berth, the school administration ponied up to assure the Monarchs would receive home games if the selection committee rewarded them with a seed.
The NCAA's bid requirements for hosting playoff games are: minimum $30,000 for first- and second-round games, minimum $40,000 for a third-round game and at least $50,000 for a semifinal. The championship game will be held at a neutral site, in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas.
Athletic director Wood Selig said that ODU bid $75,000 for a second-round game, $120,000 for a third-round game and $150,000 to host a semifinal game. He pointed out that if ODU sells 20,000 tickets at approximately $20 apiece, that's $400,000 with which the school can work. The Monarchs have sold out all 27 home games.
"We were able to bid aggressively throughout the entire playoffs," Selig said. "I feel that had we not been seeded and it was going to come down to pure dollars and sense about who was going to host, I think we were going to be in a very competitive position, no matter who we went up against."
The NCAA grants home games to the highest-seeded teams in each round, provided they put in bids to host.
"Now, we're aided by the fact that we have a No. 4 seed," Selig said. "As long as we continue playing teams that are seeded lower than us, we'll be able to host."
WHO: Bethune-Cookman-Coastal Carolina winner at Old Dominion.
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times