P5 programs are watered down since then as well. Way more scholarships spread among the 130 FBS programs in 2018 than the 104 I-A programs in the late 80s/early 90s.
Not to mention the current 125 FCS teams compared to just 88 I-AA teams in 1988. And among those 88 teams in 1988 were Boise State, App State, Georgia Southern, Marshall, Western Kentucky, etc.
I mean, there's no question that talent is spread much thinner now, particularly in FCS. All this while many school districts in hotbeds like New Jersey are having to consolidate high schools to field a team. Per capita, way less children are choosing to play football.
But the athletes are better and I’m not so sure the distribution of talent has changed either. FCS schools have improved training facilities, are recognizing the importance of strength and conditioning coaches and programs, and media attention has increased. 15 years ago, EWU didn’t have an NFL liaison position and we weren’t winning recruiting battles against the MWC and PAC 12.
It has been a long time since I was in school, so names are escaping me, but all I can think about is this business concept where an advancement comes along, and everyone has
to incorporate it, and they do, so no one gains an advantage over everyone else, and in fact everyone actually loses because they no have one more cost, or thing they need to do.
The talent is better, but there are more schools, recruiting harder, longer, and better. So even if you are now fielding a better class of athletes on paper, you are spending more money and energy to be further behind. Something like that anyways.