Division I (NCAA)
Division I (D-I) is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States. D-I schools include the major collegiate athletic powers, with larger budgets, more elaborate facilities, and more athletic scholarships than Divisions II and III as well as many smaller schools committed to the highest level of intercollegiate competition.
This level was once called the University Division of the NCAA, in contrast to the College Division; this terminology was replaced with numeric divisions (I, II, III) in 1973. In football only, Division I was further subdivided in 1978 into Division I-A (the principal football schools) and Division I-AA. In 2006, Division I-A and I-AA were renamed "Football Bowl Subdivision" (FBS) and "Football Championship Subdivision" (FCS), which, along with the "Non-Football" schools, now make up all of Division I. For the 2012-13 school year, Division I contains 340 of the NCAA's 1,066 member institutions, with 126 in FBS, 122 in FCS, and 98 in NFS. There was a moratorium on any additional movement up to D-I until 2012, after which any school desirous of moving to D-I must first be accepted for membership by a conference and must show the NCAA that it has the financial ability to support a D-I program.
All D-I schools must field teams in at least seven sports for men and seven for women or six for men and eight for women, with at least two team sports for each gender. There are several other NCAA sanctioned minimums and differences that distinguish Division I from Divisions II and III.
In addition to the schools that compete fully as D-I institutions, the NCAA allows D-II and D-III schools to classify one men's and one women's sport (other than football or basketball) as a D-I sport, as long as they had been sponsoring those sports prior to the latest rules change in 2011. Also, Division II schools are eligible to compete for Division I national championships in sports that do not have a Division II national championship, and in those sports may also operate under D-I rules and scholarship limits.
- 1 Scholarship limits by sport
- 2 Finances
- 3 Overview
- 4 Football subdivisions
- 5 Division I in ice hockey
- 6 Controversy
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Scholarship limits by sport
The NCAA has limits on the total financial aid each Division I member may award in each sport that the school sponsors. It divides sports that are sponsored into two types for purposes of scholarship limitations:
- "Head-count" sports, in which the NCAA limits the total number of individuals that can receive athletic scholarships, but allows each player to receive up to a full scholarship.
- "Equivalency" sports, in which the NCAA limits the total financial aid that a school can offer in a given sport to the equivalent of a set number of full scholarships. Roster limitations may or may not apply, depending on the sport.
The term "counter" is also key to this concept. The NCAA defines a "counter" as "an individual who is receiving institutional financial aid that is countable against the aid limitations in a sport."
The number of scholarships that Division I members may award in each sport is listed below. In this table, scholarship numbers for head-count sports are indicated without a decimal point; for equivalency sports, they are listed with a decimal point, with a trailing zero if required.
|Cross-country/track & field||
63.0 (FCS)[nb 5]
|Swimming and diving||
- This total is also subject to the following restrictions:
- The number of total counters is limited to 27.
- Each counter must receive athletic aid equal to at least 25% of a full scholarship. The 25% rule does not apply to baseball schools that offer only need-based aid (such as Ivy League members). A second exception to the 25% rule, added in 2012, is for players in their final year of athletic eligibility who have not previously received athletically related aid in baseball.
- If a school sponsors men's cross-country but does not sponsor either indoor or outdoor track and field for men, it is allowed 5.0 scholarship equivalents for that sport.
- If a school sponsors women's cross-country but does not sponsor either indoor or outdoor track and field for women, it is allowed 6.0 scholarship equivalents for that sport.
- FBS programs are also limited to 25 new counters per school year.
- FCS programs are also limited to 85 total counters and 30 new counters per school year.
- The number of total counters is limited to 30.
- The NCAA Division I Manual does not include any scholarship limitations for women's ice hockey. These limitations are instead found in the Division II Manual. Note also that the Division II Manual does not include any limit on total counters for any sport, including women's ice hockey.
- The NCAA classifies rifle as a men's sport, despite the fact that competitions are fully coeducational. Of the 34 NCAA rifle schools (23 in Division I, 4 in Division II, and 7 in Division III), 20 field a single coed/mixed team. Eight schools (five in Division I and three in Division III) field women-only teams. Schools are also allowed to field two teams if at least one is single-sex. Currently, two Division I schools field separate men's and women's teams, while one school in each of the three NCAA divisions fields a women-only team plus a mixed team. The scholarship limits are per school, not per team.
- This total, which will increase to 6.0 in 2014–15, is for schools that also sponsor women's indoor volleyball. If a school does not sponsor women's indoor volleyball, it is allowed 8.0 equivalents for sand volleyball. For all schools, the maximum number of counters in sand volleyball is 14.
Rules for multi-sport athletes
The NCAA also has rules specifying the sport in which multi-sport athletes are to be counted, with the basic rules being:
- Anyone who participates in football is counted in that sport, even if he does not receive financial aid from the football program. An exception exists for players at non-scholarship FCS programs who receive aid in another sport.
- Participants in basketball are counted in that sport, unless they also play football.
- Participants in men's ice hockey are counted in that sport, unless they also play football or basketball.
- Participants in both men's swimming and diving and men's water polo are counted in swimming and diving, unless they count in football or basketball.
- Participants in women's (indoor) volleyball are counted in that sport unless they also play basketball.
- All other multi-sport athletes are counted in whichever sport the school chooses.
Division I athletic programs generated $8.7 billion in revenue in the 2009–2010 academic year. Men's teams provided 55% of the total, women's teams 15%, and 30% was not categorized by sex or sport. Football and men's basketball are usually a university's only profitable sports. The BYU Cougars, for example, in 2009 had revenue of $41 million and expenses of $35 million, resulting in a profit of $5.5 million or about 16% margin. Football (60% of revenue, 53% profit margin) and men's basketball (15% of revenue, 8% profit margin) were profitable; women's basketball (less than 3% of revenue) and all other sports were unprofitable. From 2008 to 2012, 205 varsity teams were dropped in NCAA Division I – 72 for women and 133 for men, with men's tennis, gymnastics and wrestling hit particularly hard.
In the Football Bowl Subdivision (125 schools in 2013), between 50 and 60 percent of football and men's basketball programs generated positive revenues (above program expenses). However, in the Football Championship Subdivision (124 schools in 2013), only four percent of football and five percent of men's basketball programs generated positive revenues.
In 2012, 2% of athletic budgets were spent on equipment, uniforms and supplies for male athletes at NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision school, with the median spending per-school at $742,000.
Men's Team Sports
Sports are ranked according to total possible scholarships (number of teams x number of scholarships per team). Scholarship numbers for head-count sports are indicated without a decimal point. Numbers for equivalency sports are indicated with a decimal point, with a trailing zero if needed.
- Football — D-I football programs are divided into FBS and FCS. The 128 FBS programs can award financial aid to as many as 85 players, with each player able to receive up to a full scholarship. The 124 FCS programs can award up to the equivalent of 63 full scholarships, divided among no more than 85 individuals. Some FCS conferences restrict scholarships to a lower level or prohibit scholarships altogether.
- Soccer — The Big 12 and the SEC are the only two major traditional D-I conferences that do not sponsor soccer. Several other D-I conferences also do not sponsor the sport—the Big Sky, MEAC, Mountain West, Ohio Valley, Southland, and SWAC.
- Ice Hockey — Almost all D-I ice hockey programs are in the Northeast, the Upper Midwest, or the Colorado Front Range. Only one D-I all-sports conference, the Big Ten, currently sponsors ice hockey for either sex, having started a men's hockey league in 2013–14. Before then, the last all-sports conference to have sponsored D-I men's hockey was the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which dropped the sport in 2003. All other current conferences have operated as hockey-specific leagues throughout their respective histories. While another D-I all-sports conference, the Ivy League, recognizes ice hockey champions for both sexes, it does not directly sponsor the sport; it instead uses the results of regular-season ECAC Hockey matches involving two Ivy League schools to extrapolate an Ivy champion (all six Ivy League schools that sponsor varsity hockey compete in ECAC Hockey). Of the 59 D-I hockey schools, 22 are otherwise classified as either D-II or D-III; D-II has an insufficient number of schools to sponsor a separate divisional championship, and the D-III schools in D-I were "grandfathered" in through their having sponsored hockey as a scholarship sport prior to the creation of D-III.
- Lacrosse — The vast majority of D-I lacrosse programs are from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. There are only two D-I programs west of the Mississippi, both on the Colorado Front Range (Air Force and Denver).
- Volleyball — None of the traditional D-I conferences sponsor volleyball. Two of the three major volleyball conferences are volleyball-specific conferences. In addition to the D-I schools, 20 schools from lower divisions compete in D-I volleyball; nine of these are members of the D-II Conference Carolinas, the only all-sports league (i.e., one that sponsors men's and women's basketball) outside Division III to sponsor the sport.
- Water Polo — The number of D-I schools sponsoring men's water polo has declined from 35 in 1987/88 to 22 in 2010/11. No school outside of California has ever made the finals of the championship, and all champions since 1998 have come from one of the four California based Pac-12 schools.
Women's Team Sports
- As in the men's table above, sports are ranked in order of total possible scholarships. Numbers for head-count sports are indicated without a decimal point; those for equivalency sports are indicated with a decimal point, with a trailing zero if needed.
- Women's soccer is the fastest growing NCAA D-I women's team sport, increasing from 22 teams in 1981/82 to 315 teams in 2010/11.
- † = Sand Volleyball and Rugby are classified by the NCAA as "emerging sports" for women.
- * = The number of scholarships are partially linked for Volleyball and Sand Volleyball. Schools that field both indoor and sand volleyball teams are allowed 5.0 full scholarship equivalents specifically for sand volleyball in 2013–14 (increasing to 6.0 in 2014–15), with the further limitations that (1) no player receiving aid for sand volleyball can be on the indoor volleyball roster and (2) a maximum of 14 individuals can receive aid in sand volleyball. If a school fields only a sand volleyball team, it is allowed 8.0 full scholarship equivalents for that sport, also distributed among no more than 14 individuals.
Subdivisions in Division I exist only in football. In all other sports, all Division I conferences are equivalent. The subdivisions were recently given names to reflect the differing levels of football play in them.
The method by which the NCAA determines whether a school is Bowl or Championship subdivision is first by attendance numbers and then by scholarships. For attendance reporting methods, the NCAA allows schools to report either total tickets sold or the number of persons in attendance at the games. They require a minimum average of 15,000 people in attendance every other year. These numbers get posted to the NCAA statistics website for football each year. With the new rules starting in the 2006 season, the number of Bowl Subdivision schools could drop in the future if those schools are not able to pull in enough fans into the games. Additionally, 14 FCS schools had enough attendance to be moved up in 2012. Under current NCAA rules, these schools must have an invitation from an FBS conference in order to move to FBS. Three of them—Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Old Dominion—began FBS transitions in 2013. All had the required FBS conference invitations, with Old Dominion joining Conference USA in 2013, and Appalachian State and Georgia Southern set to join the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
Football Bowl Subdivision
Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the top level of college football, which is currently the only NCAA-sponsored sport without an organized tournament to determine its champion. Schools in Division I FBS compete in post-season bowl games, with the champions of six conferences receiving automatic bids to the Bowl Championship Series to determine a national champion. This is due to many factors, including that bowl games are sanctioned by the NCAA (primarily in terms of amateurism regulations and guaranteeing a minimum payout to conferences of the participating schools) but are not under its direct administration. Starting with the 2014 season, the BCS will be dissolved, with a four-team playoff to determine a national champion (the College Football Playoff) replacing it.
The remaining four conferences, often referred to as "Mid-majors", do not receive automatic bids but their conference champions are eligible for an automatic bid if it ranks in the BCS top 12 or in the top 16 and ahead of the champion from a conference with an automatic bid. Only one "mid-major" champion can qualify for an automatic bid in any year. The one exception is Notre Dame, which only has to rank in the top eight of the BCS standings to earn an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game.
FBS schools are limited to a total of 85 football players receiving financial assistance. For competitive reasons, a student receiving partial scholarship counts fully against the total of 85. Nearly all FBS schools that are not on NCAA probation give 85 full scholarships.
As of 2012, there are 120 full members of Division I FBS. The most recent addition to FBS was Western Kentucky University, which ended its two-year transition period from Division I FCS in 2008 and became a full FBS member in 2009. In July 2011, four schools began transitions to FBS, starting as FCS members. Under NCAA rules, these schools were ineligible for the FCS playoffs in 2011.
- The University of South Alabama, previously an unclassified NCAA football program, played its first fully competitive season in 2011. The Jaguars, already full members of the Sun Belt Conference, joined that conference for football.
- Texas State University (Texas State), previously an established FCS program in the Southland Conference, joined the Western Athletic Conference in 2012, and then moved to the Sun Belt in 2013.
- The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), previously a non-football member of the Southland Conference, played its first football season in 2011. It joined the WAC alongside Texas State for 2012, and then moved to Conference USA (C-USA) in 2013.
- The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), a member of the non-football Atlantic 10 Conference and previously a football member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), joined the Mid-American Conference in football in 2012. The team will become eligible for the MAC championship upon attaining full FBS membership in 2013.
Five other schools have announced future transitions to FBS:
- Georgia State University began its FBS transition in 2012. The Panthers, currently full members of the CAA, started a football program in 2010. Like UMass in 2011, the 2012 Panthers played a full CAA schedule and were technically classified as CAA members. In July 2013, Georgia State will return to the Sun Belt Conference, which it had left in 1981, and will play a full conference schedule. Full FBS membership will follow in 2014.
- The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte) will begin its FBS transition in 2013, the same year it starts its football program and rejoins C-USA. It will play as an FCS independent in 2013 and an FBS independent without bowl eligibility in 2014 before joining the C-USA football league in 2015.
- Old Dominion University, another full member of the CAA, has announced its departure for C-USA, also effective in 2013. Unlike Georgia State, ODU will not begin its FBS transition until 2013; this means that the 2012 Monarchs will be full CAA members and eligible for the FCS playoffs. ODU will become a C-USA football member alongside Charlotte in 2015.
- Two members of the Southern Conference, Appalachian State University and Georgia Southern University, were officially announced on March 27, 2013 as future members of the Sun Belt Conference. Both schools will begin FBS transitions in 2013 in advance of their 2014 entry into the Sun Belt. They will be counted as FBS members for scheduling purposes in 2014, and will be eligible for the Sun Belt football championship, but will not be eligible for bowl games until completing their transitions in 2015. Georgia Southern began preparations for its FBS move in September 2012, when it announced that its students had approved increases in student fees to fund FBS-related expenses (such as additional scholarships, coaching positions, and facilities) and an expansion of its football stadium. With GSU's invitation to the Sun Belt secured, both fees will go into effect in 2013–14.
Any conference with at least 12 football teams may split its teams into two divisions and conduct a championship game between the division winners. The prize is normally a specific bowl game bid for which the conference has a tie-in, or a guaranteed spot in the BCS (depending on the conference).
Some conferences have numbers in their names but this often has no relation to the number of member institutions in the conference. The Big Ten Conference did not formally adopt the "Big Ten" name until 1987, but unofficially used that name when it had 10 members from 1917 to 1946, and again from 1949 forward. However, it has continued to use the name even after it expanded to 11 members with the addition of Penn State in 1990 and 12 with the addition of Nebraska in 2011. The Big 12 Conference was established in 1996 with 12 members, but continues to use that name even after the 2011 departure of Colorado and Nebraska left the conference with 10 members. On the other hand, the Pacific-12 Conference has used names (official or unofficial) that have reflected the number of members since its current charter was established in 1959. The conference unofficially used "Big Five" (1959–62), "Big Six" (1962–64), and "Pacific-8" (1964–68) before officially adopting the "Pacific-8" name. The name duly changed to "Pacific-10" in 1978 with the addition of Arizona and Arizona State, and "Pacific-12" in 2011 when Colorado and Utah joined. Conferences also tend to ignore their regional names when adding new schools. For example, the Pac-8/10/12 retained its "Pacific" moniker even though its four newest members (Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah) are located in the inland West, and the original Big East kept its name even after adding schools (either in all sports or for football only) located in areas traditionally considered to be in the Midwest (Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, Notre Dame), Upper South (Louisville, Memphis) and Southwest (Houston, SMU). The non-football conference that assumed the Big East name when the original Big East split in 2013 is another example of this phenomenon, as half of its 10 inaugural schools (Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Marquette, Xavier) are traditionally regarded as being Midwestern.
|American Athletic Conference **||The American||1979 [FBS 1]||10 (11 by July 2014)[FBS 2][FBS 3]||21||Providence, Rhode Island|
|Atlantic Coast Conference **||ACC||1953||15 [FBS 4]||25||Greensboro, North Carolina|
|Big Ten Conference **||Big Ten||1896||12 (14 by July 2014)[FBS 5]||26 [FBS 6]||Rosemont, Illinois|
|Big 12 Conference **||Big 12||1996||10||21||Irving, Texas|
|Conference USA||C-USA||1995[FBS 7]||16 (14 by July 2014)[FBS 8][FBS 9]||21||Irving, Texas|
|Division I FBS Independents[FBS 10]||6 (4 by July 2014, 3 by July 2015)[FBS 11]|
|Mid-American Conference||MAC||1946||12[FBS 12]||23||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Mountain West Conference||MW (official)
|1999||11[FBS 13]||19||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|Pacific-12 Conference **||Pac-12||1915[FBS 14]||12[FBS 15]||22||Walnut Creek, California|
|Southeastern Conference **||SEC||1932||14||20||Birmingham, Alabama|
|Sun Belt Conference||Sun Belt||1976||10 (11 by July 2014)[FBS 16][FBS 17]||17[FBS 18]||New Orleans, Louisiana|
(** BCS Automatic Qualification (AQ) Conferences; this status will end in 2014 when the BCS is dissolved in favor of the College Football Playoff.)
- The conference was founded in 1979 as the original Big East Conference. It renamed itself the American Athletic Conference following a 2013 split along football lines. The non-FBS schools of the original conference left to form a new conference that purchased the Big East name, while the FBS schools continued to operate under the old Big East's charter and structure. The American also inherited the old Big East's BCS berth.
- The following changes are set for The American in the coming years:
- In 2014:
- In 2015:
- Navy will become a football-only member.
- In addition to the full members, Villanova, a former member of the original Big East, is an associate in women's rowing.
- Notre Dame is a full member except in football, in which it will remain independent. It has committed to play five games each season against ACC opponents. Maryland will leave for the Big Ten in 2014, with Louisville replacing them at that time.
- Maryland and Rutgers will join in 2014, respectively from the ACC and The American. Also in 2014, Johns Hopkins, a Division III member with Division I programs in men's and women's lacrosse, will join for men's lacrosse only.
- 28 sports in 2014 with addition of men's and women's lacrosse.
- The conference was founded in 1995, with football competition starting in 1996.
- In addition to the 16 full members, Conference USA features 14 schools that play only one sport in the conference:
- Kentucky, New Mexico, and South Carolina play men's soccer.
- Colorado College, a Division III school with a Division I men's ice hockey team, plays Division I women's soccer in Conference USA; it filled the place left vacant by Tulane when it suspended women's soccer in 2005 due to the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina. Tulane has not reinstated the sport.
- Nine schools participate only in women's rowing. Alabama, Sacramento State, San Diego State, and Tennessee compete solely as C-USA members. The five Big 12 schools that sponsor the sport—Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia—have dual membership, competing among themselves for a Big 12 championship and also contesting the C-USA championship.
- Western Kentucky is a member in women's swimming and diving in advance of its 2014 entry into full C-USA membership.
- The following changes are set for C-USA:
- Charlotte and Old Dominion, newly arrived in the conference in 2013, are not initially football members. Charlotte is starting a football program in 2013, and will not be eligible for full FBS membership until 2015. Old Dominion, previously with an FCS football team, started an FBS transition in 2013; it will become a football member of C-USA in 2014, and a full FBS member in 2015.
- In 2014:
- East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa will all leave for The American.
- Western Kentucky will join from the Sun Belt.
- Note that "Independents" is not a conference; it is simply a designation used for schools whose football programs do not play in any conference. All of these schools have conference memberships for other sports.
- Idaho and New Mexico State, the only two football schools left in the Western Athletic Conference beyond the 2012 season, are playing as FBS independents in 2013 before becoming football-only members of the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. Navy football will leave the independent ranks to join The American in July 2015.
- In addition to the 12 full members, the Mid-American Conference features eight members which only participate in one sport each, and one other school that competes in two sports:
- Evansville and Southern Illinois in men's swimming and diving.
- Hartwick and West Virginia in men's soccer. Hartwick will leave the MAC in 2014 for the Sun Belt Conference.
- Missouri, Northern Iowa, and Old Dominion in wrestling.
- UMass in football.
- Missouri State in women's field hockey and men's swimming and diving.
- Since 2012, Hawaiʻi has been a football-only associate member, with most of its remaining teams in the non-football Big West Conference.
- The charter of the Pac-12 dates only to the formation of the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) in 1959. However, the Pac-12 claims the history of the Pacific Coast Conference, which was founded in 1915 and began competition in 1916, as its own. Of the nine members of the PCC at the time of its demise in 1958, only Idaho never joined the Pac-12. The PCC's berth in the Rose Bowl passed to the AAWU.
- The Pac-12 also includes several associate members which compete in one or two sports in the conference. San Diego State plays men's soccer. Boise State, Cal State Bakersfield, and Cal Poly compete in wrestling. Cal Poly also participates in men's swimming and diving, which the NCAA considers a single sport. UC Santa Barbara only competes in men's swimming and diving.
- Eight Sun Belt Conference members currently sponsor football, with Arkansas–Little Rock and UT Arlington as the two non-football members.
- The following changes are set for 2014:
- Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will both join from the FCS Southern Conference. Both schools will begin FBS transitions in 2013 and will become Sun Belt football members upon arrival, but will not be eligible for bowl games until 2015.
- Idaho and New Mexico State will join for football only.
- Hartwick (a Division III school with Division I programs in men's soccer and women's water polo), Howard, and NJIT will join for men's soccer only.
- Western Kentucky will leave for C-USA.
- 18 sports in 2014 with addition of men's soccer.
Football Championship Subdivision
The Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA, determines its national champion on the field in a 24-team, single-elimination tournament. With the expansion of the tournament field in 2013 from 20 teams to 24, the champions of 11 conferences receive automatic bids, with 13 "at-large" spots; and the top 8 teams receive first-round byes. A team must have at least seven wins to be eligible for an at-large spot.
The tournament traditionally begins on Thanksgiving weekend in late November, and during the era of the 16-team field ran for four weeks, ending with the championship game in mid-December. Since 2010, the tournament has run for four weeks (for seeds 9–24) to determine the two finalists, who play for the FCS national title in early January in Frisco, Texas, the scheduled host through the 2015 season. For thirteen seasons, the title game was played in Chattanooga, Tennessee, (1997–2009), preceded by five seasons in Huntington, West Virginia, where host Marshall advanced to the title game in four of the five years.
When I-AA was formed in 1978, the playoffs included just four teams for its first three seasons, doubling to eight teams for one season in 1981. From 1982 to 1985, I-AA had a 12-team tournament, with each of the top four seeds receiving a first-round bye and a home game in the quarterfinals. The I-AA playoffs went to 16 teams in 1986, and the FCS playoffs expanded to 20 teams starting in 2010. After 28 seasons, the "I-AA" was dropped by the NCAA in 2006, although it is still informally and commonly used.
The Football Championship Subdivision includes several conferences which do not participate in the eponymous post-season championship tournament.
The Ivy League was lowered to I-AA (FCS) following the 1981 season, and plays a strict ten-game schedule. Although it qualifies for an automatic bid, the Ivy League has not played any postseason games at all since 1956, citing academic concerns.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) has its own championship game in mid-December between the champions of its East and West divisions. Also, three of its member schools traditionally do not finish their regular seasons until Thanksgiving weekend. Grambling State and Southern play each other in the Bayou Classic, and Alabama State plays Tuskegee University (a Division II team) in the Turkey Day Classic. SWAC teams are eligible to accept at-large bids if their schedule is not in conflict. The last SWAC team to participate in the I-AA playoffs was Jackson State in 1997; the SWAC never achieved success in the tournament, going winless in 19 games in twenty years (1978–97).
From 2006 through 2009, the Pioneer Football League and Northeast Conference champions played in the Gridiron Classic, though all conference teams technically remained tournament eligible. If a league champion was invited to the national championship, the second-place team would play in the Gridiron Classic. That game was scrapped after the 2009 season when its four-year contract ran out; this coincided with the NCAA's announcement that the Northeast Conference would get an automatic bid to the tournament starting in 2010. The Big South Conference also received an automatic bid in the same season. The Pioneer Football League earned an automatic bid beginning in 2013.
Schools in a transition period after joining the FCS from a lower division (or from the NAIA) are also ineligible for the playoffs.
Division I FCS schools are currently restricted to giving financial assistance amounting to 63 full scholarships. As FCS football is an "equivalency" sport (as opposed to the "head-count" status of FBS football), Championship Subdivision schools may divide their allotment into partial scholarships. However, FCS schools may only have 85 players receiving any sort of athletic financial aid for football—the same numeric limit as FBS schools. Because of competitive forces, however, a substantial number of players in Championship Subdivision programs are on full scholarships. Another difference is that FCS schools are allowed to award financial aid to as many as 30 new players per season, as opposed to 25 in FBS. Finally, FCS schools are limited to 95 individuals participating in preseason practices, as opposed to 105 at FBS schools (the three service academies that play FBS football are exempt from preseason practice player limits by NCAA rule).
A few Championship Subdivision conferences are composed of schools that offer no athletic scholarships at all, most notably the Ivy League and the Pioneer Football League (PFL), a football-only conference. The Ivy League allows no athletic scholarships at all, while the PFL consists of schools that offer scholarships in other sports but choose not to take on the expense of a scholarship football program. The Northeast Conference also sponsored non-scholarship football, but began offering a maximum of 30 full scholarship equivalents in 2006, which grew to 40 in 2011 after a later vote of the league's school presidents and athletic directors. The Patriot League only began awarding football scholarships in the 2013 season, with the first scholarships awarded only to incoming freshmen. Before the conference began its transition to scholarship football, athletes receiving scholarships in other sports were ineligible to play football for member schools. When the transition is complete in the 2016 season, member schools will be allowed up to 60 full scholarship equivalents.
- Cal Poly and UC Davis, both full members of the non-football Big West Conference, are football-only affiliates.
- In July 2014, Idaho will return its non-football sports to the Big Sky after an 18-year absence.
- The Big South has six full members that compete for its football championship. Although Campbell became a full member of the Big South in July 2011, its football program remains in the Pioneer Football League. The following changes are set for the conference:
- The CAA football conference was only founded in 2007, but has a continuous history dating to the late 1930s (although not under the same charter):
- The New England Conference was formed by five New England state universities, plus one private university in that region (Northeastern), in 1938. Four of the public schools—Maine, UMass, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island—were in the CAA football conference through the 2011 season. However, UMass football left for the MAC in 2012. URI football initially planned to leave for the Northeast Conference in 2013, but decided to remain in the CAA.
- In 1946, after the departure of Northeastern, the remaining members of the New England Conference affiliated with the University of Vermont to form the Yankee Conference under a separate charter, with athletic competition starting in 1947.
- In 1997, the Yankee Conference was absorbed by the Atlantic 10 Conference. The A10 inherited the Yankee Conference's automatic berth in the Division I-AA (now FCS) playoffs. In addition to the four charter New England Conference members mentioned above, five other members of the Yankee Conference at the time of the A10 merger are still in the CAA football conference.
- After the 2006 season, all of the A10 football teams left for the new CAA football conference. The CAA inherited the A10's automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.
- The CAA has 9 full members, but only four of them are part of the CAA football conference. Currently, seven associate members fill out the ranks of the CAA football conference: Albany, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Richmond, Stony Brook, and Villanova. Elon will join for all sports, including football, in 2014.
- In addition to the football associates, the CAA has five other associate members that participate in one or two sports:
- Buffalo competes in women's rowing.
- Dayton competes in women's golf. Richmond, a football affiliate, also houses its women's golf team in the CAA.
- UMass, Penn State, and Saint Joseph's play men's lacrosse. Penn State will leave the CAA in July 2014 when its main conference, the Big Ten, launches a men's lacrosse league.
- Fairfield will become a men's lacrosse affiliate in July 2014.
- Note that "Independents" is not a conference; it is simply a designation used to indicate schools whose football programs do not play in any conference. All of these schools have conference memberships for other sports.
- The following schools are classified as independents for 2013:
- Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word are new members of the Southland Conference. Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are reclassifying their athletic programs from Division II. Although Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are technically considered FCS independents, they played Division II schedules in 2013. Both will play full Southland schedules in 2014. Houston Baptist, moving from the Great West Conference, began a football program in 2013 and played that season as an FCS independent. It will play a full Southland schedule in 2014.
- Charlotte and Old Dominion, both transitioning to FBS, are new members of Conference USA. Neither team was eligible for the 2013 FCS playoffs. In the 2014 season, both will be counted as FBS members for scheduling purposes; Old Dominion will become a football member of C-USA at that time, while Charlotte will be counted as an FBS independent before joining C-USA football in 2015.
- Monmouth, a new member of the non-football Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 2013 and remaining in FCS, will become a football-only member of the Big South in 2014.
- Although the conference considers 1954 to be its founding date, the league's origins go back several decades.
- The Ivy League considers the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League (EIBL), a men's basketball-only conference founded in 1901, as part of its history. Every school that had been an EIBL member would become part of the Ivy League.
- In 1945, the eight schools that would eventually form the athletic Ivy League entered into the Ivy Group Agreement, which governed football competition between the schools. The original agreement was renewed in 1952.
- The official founding date of 1954 reflects the extension of the Ivy Group Agreement to all sports. As part of the agreement, Brown, the only one of the original Ivy Group that had not joined the EIBL, did so. All-sports competition began in 1955, with the EIBL directly absorbed into the new league.
- The football conference currently consists of 11 of the 13 member schools.
- The football conference dates to 1985, but the conference charter was established in 1982. See History of the Missouri Valley Football Conference for more details.
- The conference has seven full members that sponsor football. Duquesne of the non-football Atlantic 10 is a football associate.
- In addition to Duquesne in football, the NEC has six other associate members that each participate in one sport:
- The football conference consists of 9 of the 12 member schools. Morehead State plays non-scholarship football in the Pioneer Football League, while Belmont and SIU Edwardsville do not sponsor football.
- In addition to the 12 full members, Columbus State, otherwise a Division II institution, houses its rifle program in the OVC. (Rifle has a single championship for all divisions.)
- The Patriot League was founded as the football-only Colonial League in 1986. In 1990, it became an all-sports conference and adopted its current name.
- Five of the full members do not sponsor FCS football. American, Boston University and Loyola (Maryland) do not sponsor football at all, while Army and Navy are FBS independents. Fordham and Georgetown are associate members in football. However, Fordham became ineligible for the conference title starting in 2010 when it started offering football scholarships, although it committed to keep playing a full Patriot League schedule until at least 2012. The league began a transition to scholarship football in 2013, but Fordham will remain ineligible for the league title until the transition is complete in 2016.
- In addition to the football associates, MIT, otherwise a Division III institution, is an associate in women's rowing.
- Mercer will leave in 2014 for the Southern Conference.
- The football conference consists of 9 of the 11 member schools, with only seven of them eligible for the FCS playoffs. Although Davidson competes as a full member of the SoCon, its football program remains in the Pioneer Football League. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, although still SoCon members, began FBS transitions in 2013 in advance of their 2014 move to the Sun Belt Conference.
- In addition to the full members, the SoCon currently has four associate members, all of which compete only in wrestling—Campbell, Gardner–Webb, SIU Edwardsville, and VMI.
- The following changes are set for the SoCon:
- In 2014:
- Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will leave for the Sun Belt Conference. Appalachian State will keep its wrestling program in the SoCon, as the Sun Belt does not sponsor that sport.
- Non-football member Davidson will leave for the A10, and all-sports member Elon will leave for the CAA.
- East Tennessee State, Mercer, and VMI will join as full members; ETSU will initially be a non-football member.
- The SoCon will take over sponsorship of men's lacrosse from the Atlantic Sun Conference. Current full member Furman and incoming full members Mercer and VMI will be joined by current full A-Sun member Jacksonville, A-Sun men's lacrosse associates High Point and Richmond, and Bellarmine, a Division II institution that sponsors Division I men's lacrosse and had announced a 2014 single-sport move to the A-Sun.
- In 2015, ETSU will relaunch its football program in the SoCon.
- In 2014:
- 20 sports in 2014 with addition of men's lacrosse.
- The football conference currently consists of 8 of the 14 member schools. Three of the four schools that joined the all-sports conference in 2013 have football programs that will join Southland football in 2014. Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word, upgrading from Division II, have established football teams. Houston Baptist played a shortened schedule in 2013 before playing a full conference schedule in 2014.
- Oral Roberts, which had left The Summit League to join the Southland in 2012, will return to The Summit in 2014.
Division I non-football schools
Several Bowl Subdivision and Championship Subdivision conferences have member institutions that do not compete in football. Such schools are sometimes unofficially referred to as I-AAA.
The following non-football conferences have full members that sponsor football:
- The America East Conference has two football-sponsoring schools, Albany and Stony Brook. Both became football associates of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in 2013.
- The Atlantic Sun Conference has three members with football programs in the Pioneer Football League (PFL). Jacksonville has played in the PFL since 2001. Mercer and Stetson, which had respectively dropped football in 1941 and 1956, reinstated varsity football in 2013. Mercer will spend only the 2013 season in the PFL, as it will move its athletic program to the football-sponsoring Southern Conference in 2014. A fourth A-Sun member, Kennesaw State, has announced it will begin FCS football in 2015, playing in the Big South Conference.
- The Atlantic 10 Conference has six football-sponsoring members, with a seventh set to join in 2014:
- The current Big East Conference has three football-sponsoring schools, all of which play in FCS—Butler in the PFL, Georgetown in the Patriot League, and Villanova in the CAA.
- Three Big West Conference members have football programs. UC Davis and Cal Poly play FCS football in the Big Sky Conference, and Hawaiʻi plays FBS football in the Mountain West Conference.
- The Horizon League has two football schools. Valparaiso plays in the PFL, and Youngstown State plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC).
- The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) has two football schools. Marist plays in the PFL, while Monmouth is an FCS independent in 2013 ahead of its 2014 football-only move to the Big South.
- The Missouri Valley Conference has six football schools—Drake, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois. Drake plays in the PFL, while the others compete in the MVFC (a separate legal entity from the MVC, despite the similar name).
- The Summit League has four football schools, all MVFC members—North Dakota State, South Dakota, South Dakota State and Western Illinois.
- The West Coast Conference has two football schools in BYU and San Diego, which respectively play football as an FBS independent and a PFL member.
- The Western Athletic Conference has two football schools, Idaho and New Mexico State. Both are playing the 2013 season as FBS independents before becoming football-only members of the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. Idaho will move its non-football teams to the FCS-level Big Sky Conference at that time.
The following Division I conferences do not sponsor football. These conferences still compete in Division I for all sports that they sponsor.
|America East Conference||America East||1979||9 [NF 1]||22||Boston, Massachusetts|
|Atlantic Sun Conference||A-Sun||1978||10 (8 by July 2014)[NF 2][NF 3]||20[NF 4]||Macon, Georgia|
|Atlantic 10 Conference||A-10||1975||13 (14 by July 2014)[NF 5][NF 6]||21||Newport News, Virginia|
|Big East Conference||Big East||2013[NF 7]||10[NF 8]||22||New York City, New York|
|Big West Conference||Big West||1969||9[NF 9]||16||Irvine, California|
|Horizon League||Horizon||1979||9||19||Indianapolis, Indiana|
|Independents[NF 10]||Independents||1 [NF 11]|
|Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference||MAAC||1980||11[NF 12]||23||Edison, New Jersey|
|Missouri Valley Conference||MVC / Valley||1907||10 [NF 13]||19||St. Louis, Missouri|
|The Summit League||The Summit||1982||8 (9 by July 2014)[NF 14][NF 15]||19||Elmhurst, Illinois|
|West Coast Conference||WCC||1952||10[NF 16]||14||San Bruno, California|
|Western Athletic Conference||WAC||1962||9 (8 by July 2014)[NF 17][NF 18]||19||Greenwood Village, Colorado|
- In addition to the full members, the America East has two associate members that each participate in one sport: Fairfield in field hockey and Providence in women's volleyball. Unusually, both schools are members of all-sports conferences that sponsor each school's America East sport, respectively the MAAC and Big East. Fairfield will move its field hockey program to the MAAC in 2015.
- East Tennessee State and Mercer will leave for the Southern Conference in 2014.
- In addition to the full members, the A-Sun has seven current associate members plus one future associate, all of which play (or will play) lacrosse in the conference:
- High Point, Richmond, and VMI play only men's lacrosse. Under the terms of a 2014 agreement between the A-Sun and Southern Conference, sponsorship of men's lacrosse will switch from the A-Sun to the SoCon after the 2014 season. As a result, High Point and Richmond, as well as full A-Sun member Jacksonville, will move their men's lacrosse programs to the SoCon in July 2014. VMI will become a full SoCon member at that time.
- Detroit, Elon, and Howard play only women's lacrosse. Elon will spend only one season as an A-Sun affiliate, as it will join the lacrosse-sponsoring CAA in July 2014.
- Furman plays both men's and women's lacrosse. The men's team will move to the SoCon in July 2014 as part of the agreement with the A-Sun.
- Old Dominion will join for women's lacrosse in July 2014.
- 19 sports in 2014 with men's lacrosse sponsorship shifting to the Southern Conference.
- Davidson will join from the Southern Conference in 2014.
- In addition to the full members, Lock Haven, otherwise a Division II institution, and Saint Francis (Pennsylvania) are associate members in field hockey.
- The current Big East was formed in 2013 as a result of the split of the original Big East Conference. The original conference charter was retained by the football-sponsoring schools now known as the American Athletic Conference. However, both leagues claim 1979 as their founding date, and jointly claim the pre-split history of the original Big East.
- In addition to the full members, the following schools are Big East affiliates in one or more sports:
- Cincinnati participates in women's lacrosse.
- Connecticut, Louisville, and Temple participate in both field hockey and women's lacrosse. The Louisville teams will only spend the 2013–14 school year in the Big East before being reunited with the rest of the school's athletic program in the ACC.
- Denver participates in men's lacrosse.
- Old Dominion participates in field hockey.
- Rutgers is participating in field hockey, men's lacrosse, and women's lacrosse for 2013–14 only before all three teams are reunited with Rutgers' other sports in the Big Ten.
- In addition to the full members, the Big West has one men's soccer associate member in Sacramento State.
- Note that "Independents" is not a conference, it is simply a designation used to indicate schools which are not a member of any conference.
- With the collapse of the Great West Conference, New Jersey Institute of Technology is the only D-I independent in 2013–14.
- In addition to the full members, nine other schools are MAAC affiliates in one sport, and four others have multiple sports in the conference:
- Albany, Boston University, and Hartford participate in women's golf.
- Detroit participates in men's lacrosse.
- Drake participates in women's rowing.
- St. Francis Brooklyn, Villanova, VMI, and Wagner participate in women's water polo.
- Bryant participates in field hockey and men's swimming and diving.
- Robert Morris and Sacred Heart participate in field hockey and women's rowing.
- Jacksonville participates in women's rowing and the non-NCAA sport of men's rowing.
- In addition to the full members, four schools have one sport each in the conference:
- In addition to the full members, Eastern Illinois and Oral Roberts are associate members in men's soccer, and Eastern Illinois is also is an associate member in men's and women's swimming and diving.
- Oral Roberts, which had left The Summit for the Southland Conference in 2012, will return in 2014.
- In addition to the full members, three other schools house at least one sport in the WCC:
- CSU Bakersfield participates in both women's golf and softball.
- Seattle participate in women's golf.
- Utah Valley participates in softball.
- CSU Bakersfield and Utah Valley have dual membership for softball in the WCC and their all-sports conference, the WAC. The WAC does not currently qualify for an automatic bid to the NCAA softball tournament because Grand Canyon, one of the six WAC schools sponsoring the sport, is reclassifying from NCAA Division II and is thus ineligible for the NCAA softball tournament.
- In 2014, Idaho will return to the Big Sky Conference (as a non-football member) after an 18-year absence.
- In addition to the full members, the WAC currently has nine associate members that house anywhere from one to three sports in the conference:
- Air Force and UNLV participate in men's soccer and men's swimming and diving.
- Houston Baptist and San Jose State participate only in men's soccer.
- North Dakota and Northern Colorado both participate in baseball and women's swimming and diving. North Dakota also participates in men's swimming and diving.
- Northern Arizona participates in women's swimming and diving.
- Sacramento State participates in baseball.
- Wyoming participates in men's swimming and diving.
Of these, the three that most recently sponsored football were the Atlantic 10, MAAC, and WAC. The A-10 football league dissolved in 2006 with its members going to the Colonial Athletic Association. In addition, four A-10 schools (Dayton, Fordham, Duquesne, and Massachusetts) play football in a conference other than the new CAA, which still includes two full-time A-10 members (Rhode Island and Richmond). The MAAC stopped sponsoring football in 2007, after most of its members gradually stopped fielding teams. The only pre-2007 MAAC member that still sponsors football is Marist; Monmouth became the second full MAAC member with football upon its arrival in 2013. Marist plays in the Pioneer Football League, while Monmouth will spend the 2013 season as an FCS independent before moving its football program into the Big South. The WAC dropped football at the end of the 2012 season, after a near-complete membership turnover that saw the conference stripped of all but two of its football-sponsoring members. The two remaining football-sponsoring schools, Idaho and New Mexico State, are playing the 2013 season as FBS independents before becoming football-only members of the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
Division I in ice hockey
As ice hockey is limited to a much smaller number of almost exclusively Northern schools, there is a completely different conference structure for teams. These conferences feature a mix of teams that play their other sports in various Division I conferences, and even Division II and Division III schools. For most of the early 21st century, there was no correlation between a team's ice hockey affiliation and its affiliation for other sports, with the exception of the Ivy League's hockey-playing schools all being members of the ECAC. For example, before 2013, the Hockey East men's conference consisted of one ACC school, one Big East school, four schools from the America East, one from the A-10, one CAA school, and two schools from the D-II Northeast Ten Conference, while the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) both had some Big Ten representation, plus Division II and III schools. Also, the divisional structure is truncated, with the Division II championship abolished in 1999.
Starting with the 2013–14 season, Division I men's hockey experienced a major realignment. The Big Ten Conference became the first regular all-sport Division I conference to sponsor hockey since the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference ceased its sponsorship of the sport in 2003, with the remaining members forming Atlantic Hockey. Existing Big Ten schools withdrew their membership from the WCHA and CCHA. Additionally, six other schools from those conferences withdrew to form the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference at the same time. The fallout from these moves led to the demise of the CCHA, two more teams entering the NCHC, and further membership turnover in the men's side of the WCHA.
Women's hockey was largely unaffected by this realignment. The Big Ten still has only four members with varsity women's hockey, with six teams required under conference bylaws for official sponsorship. As a result, the only changes in women's hockey affiliations in the 2010–13 period occurred in College Hockey America, which saw two schools drop the sport and three new members join.
|Atlantic Hockey||AHA||1997||12 (12/none) (11/none in July 2014) [H 1]|
|Big Ten Conference||Big Ten||1896 [H 2]||6 (6/none)|
|College Hockey America||CHA||1999 [H 3]||6 (none/6)|
|ECAC Hockey||N/A||1962||12 (12/12)|
|Hockey East||N/A||1984||12 (11/8) (12 [12/8] in July 2014, [12/9] in July 2015)[H 4]|
|Independents||1 (none/1)[H 5]|
|National Collegiate Hockey Conference||NCHC||2011[H 6]||8 (8/none)|
|Western Collegiate Hockey Association||WCHA||1951||16 (10/8)|
- Connecticut will leave for Hockey East, already home to the school's women's team, after the 2013–14 season.
- Founded as an all-sports conference in 1896, but did not sponsor the sport until 2013–14.
- Founded as a men's-only conference in 1999, with women's hockey added in 2002.
- Two schools that currently house either a men's or women's team in Hockey East will move their opposite-sex team to the league in the near future::
- The only independent program in 2013–14 is the Sacred Heart women's team.
- Date of founding; play began in 2013–14.
In the early 21st century, a controversy arose in the NCAA over whether schools will continue to be allowed to have one showcased program in Division I with the remainder of the athletic program in a lower division, as is the case of, notably, Johns Hopkins University lacrosse as well as Colorado College and University of Alabama in Huntsville in ice hockey. This is an especially important issue in hockey, which has no Division II national championship and has several schools whose other athletic programs compete in Division II and Division III.
This controversy was resolved at the 2004 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee when the members supported Proposal 65-1, the amended legislation co-sponsored by Colorado College, Clarkson University, Hartwick College, the Johns Hopkins University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rutgers University-Newark, St. Lawrence University, and SUNY Oneonta. Each school affected by this debate is allowed to grant financial aid to student-athletes who compete in Division I programs in one men's sport and one women's sport. It is still permitted for other schools to place one men's and one women's sport in Division I going forward, but they cannot offer scholarships without bringing the whole program into compliance with Division I rules. In addition, schools in Divisions II and III are allowed to "play up" in any sport that does not have a championship for the school's own division, but only Division II programs and any Division III programs covered by the exemption can offer scholarships in those sports.
The Division I programs at each of the eight "waiver schools" which were grandfathered with the passing of Proposal 65-1 were:
- Clarkson University – men's and women's ice hockey
- Colorado College – men's ice hockey, women's soccer
- Hartwick College – men's soccer, women's water polo
- Johns Hopkins University – men's and women's lacrosse
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – men's ice hockey (women's ice hockey moved up to Division I in 2005)
- Rutgers University-Newark – men's volleyball
- St. Lawrence University – men's and women's ice hockey
- SUNY Oneonta – men's soccer (dropped down to Division III in 2006)
- List of NCAA Division I institutions
- List of non-NCAA Division I schools competing in NCAA Division I sports
- List of NCAA Division I athletic directors
- List of schools reclassifying their athletic programs to NCAA Division I
- Progress toward degree
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