Hutchinson is a member of the NCAA FCS playoff selection committee. He also is the athletics director at Morehead State.
Morehead plays its football in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, and that’s whose chair Hutchinson occupies on the committee. But for every other sport, Morehead plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, and that could give JSU (or any other OVC team in the mix) an advocate when the committee meets in two weeks to determine the bracket for the 24-team playoff field. Tennessee Tech athletics director Mark Wilson is the official OVC representative on the committee.
The Gamecocks (8-2, 4-2 OVC) climbed back into the national polls and the playoff conversation with their 68-10 rout of Eastern Kentucky last week. They’ll probably still be in the discussion even if they lose at No. 2 Eastern Illinois (9-1, 6-0) on Saturday
Hutchinson may be “absolutely PFL first,” but selection committee members are duty-bound to monitor the goings on nationally to fulfill the charge of finding the “very best teams” to fill out the expanded field regardless of their conference affiliation.
Morehead and Jacksonville State have played two common opponents this season — Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville University — with JSU beating both handily. Morehead lost to both decisively in back-to-back weeks.
“I probably know as much about OVC football as the AD at Eastern Washington does,” Hutchinson said. “What I know about (the OVC) is much more related to the other sports we sponsor. I am familiar with the people.”
The big question to OVC followers is whether the league will get two or three teams in the field. The Gamecocks, EIU and Tennessee State appear to be the leading candidates with three overall losses or fewer, but EKU and Tennessee-Martin also appear to be mathematically in the mix.
The Sports Network projects EIU and Tennessee State in the field this week, although JSU (No. 17) is ranked higher than TSU (No. 24) in the Gridiron Power Index, a recognized FCS version of the RPI.
“I would hope whoever is doing the selection looks at how we’ve played in the last half of the season,” Gamecocks coach Bill Clark said. “I hope it would factor in who we play this week. We know if we do what we’re supposed to do this week, we’re in good shape. We want to get in.”
School officials have said they plan to submit bids to host playoff rounds if the Gamecocks are selected to play.
Wilson said the OVC is having “an excellent year” and is being “talked about” in committee circles, but declined to discuss the prospects of specific teams.
Hutchinson said he has “not had one” conversation with any OVC official about campaigning for their fellow members. The OVC has never had three playoff teams and had gotten two only four times since JSU joined the league in 2003, including twice since the field expanded to 20 teams in 2010. The league hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.