NCAA Division I FBS independent schools
|NCAA||Division I FBS|
|Sports fielded||1 (men's: 1; women's: 0)|
|Region||Eastern United States
Midwest United States
NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision independent schools are four-year institutions whose football programs are not part of an NCAA-affiliated conference. This means that FBS independents are not required to schedule each other for competition like conference schools do. There are many fewer independent schools than in years past; many independent schools join, or attempt to join, established conferences, usually in order to gain a share of television revenue and access to bowl games that agree to take teams from certain conferences, and in order to help deal with otherwise potentially difficult challenges in scheduling opponents to play throughout the season.
All Division I FBS independents are eligible for a Bowl Championship Series bowl provided they meet eligibility requirements. Notre Dame receives an automatic bid by finishing in the top eight of the final BCS ranking. Navy and Army have agreements with the Military Bowl (formerly the EagleBank Bowl), and Notre Dame, in addition to its BCS agreement, has other bowl agreements as part of its affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). (Notre Dame had similar agreements with its previous conference, the Big East.) BYU has an agreement with the Armed Forces Bowl for 2011.
The ranks of football independents increased by one starting with the 2011 season with the announcement that BYU would leave the Mountain West Conference to become a football independent starting with that season. The ranks increased by two in 2013 when the WAC dropped football and New Mexico State and Idaho did not have a conference for football. The ranks of football independents will decrease by two in 2014 with the return of Idaho and New Mexico State as football-only members of the Sun Belt Conference, and by one more in 2015 with the announcement that Navy will join the American Athletic Conference as a football only member.
Reasons for independence
||This section possibly contains original research. (April 2008)|
In recent years, most independent FBS schools have joined a conference for two primary reasons: A guaranteed share of television and bowl revenues, and ease of scheduling. The six remaining independent FBS schools have unique circumstances that circumvent their need for conference affiliation.
Notre Dame unsuccessfully attempted on three occasions to join an athletic conference in the early 20th century, including the Big Ten in 1926 reportedly due to anti-Catholicism. Notre Dame is now one of the most prominent programs in the country. Because of its national popularity built over several decades, Notre Dame is the only individual school to have its own national television contract, declined a subsequent invitation by the Big Ten to join the conference, and is the only independent program to be part of the Bowl Championship Series coalition and its guaranteed payout. These factors help make Notre Dame one of the most financially valuable football programs in the country, thus negating the need for Notre Dame to secure revenue by joining a conference.
Previously, Notre Dame had easily filled its annual schedule without needing conference games to do so. It has longstanding rivalries with many different programs around the country, including annual rivalry games with USC, Navy, Michigan, Stanford, Michigan State, Boston College, and Purdue as well as Pitt. All Notre Dame home games and most away games are on national television, so other teams have a large financial incentive to schedule the university. If Notre Dame were to join a conference, it would likely have to eliminate or reduce the frequency of several rivalries. Nonetheless, for all sports, except football and men's ice hockey, Notre Dame will join the ACC in 2013 and will, as part of this agreement, play five of its football games against ACC members. (The ACC does not sponsor ice hockey for either sex; the only other ACC member with a men's varsity team is Boston College, which plays alongside Notre Dame in Hockey East.)
Two of the remaining independent programs are two of the service academies, Army and Navy. Whereas television and bowl appearances are important sources of revenue and advertising for most other universities and their football games, the United States federal government fully funds essential scholastic operations of the service academies (athletics are funded by non-profit associations), effectively rendering such income superfluous.
Both service academies have annual games guaranteed with each other and with Air Force. Navy has an annual rivalry game with Air Force and Army has a semi-regular rivalry with Notre Dame. Television rights for the longstanding Army–Navy Game, which is the last regular season game in the NCAA, serve as a significant revenue source for the programs. The academies also use their football programs to recruit for their services; without a conference schedule, the service academies are able to more easily schedule games around the country.
However, Navy will join the American Athletic Conference for college football in 2015, citing that it wanted to maintain competitiveness, had concerns about scheduling and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to make more money.
During the conference realignment that saw the university choose football independence in August 2010, some saw BYU as a potential future "Notre Dame of the West". Both are prominent faith-based schools; Notre Dame is arguably the best-known Catholic university in the U.S., while BYU is the flagship university of the LDS Church. The 1984 team's national championship is the most recent by a university that is not a current member of the BCS coalition.
BYU was getting less than $2 million a year through its contract with The MTN, the TV network of the Mountain West Conference. BYU has its own cable channel, but had a very restrictive contract which did not allow BYU to broadcast its own football games. The new contract with ESPN will pay BYU an estimated $800,000 to $1.2 million per home game, and allow for greater freedom with its own channel.
New Mexico State and Idaho
Due to the Western Athletic Conference dropping football, New Mexico State and Idaho were forced to be independents for football in 2013. They will join the Sun Belt Conference for football in 2014.
- United States Military Academy, or Army Black Knights (left Conference USA after the 2004 season; member of the Patriot League for all other sports sponsored by that league)
- United States Naval Academy, or Navy Midshipmen (member of the Patriot League for all other sports sponsored by that league; moving to the American Athletic Conference in 2015)
- University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish (member of the Atlantic Coast Conference for all other sports sponsored by that league as well as a five game per year football scheduling agreement and bowl game affiliation with the ACC)
- Brigham Young University Cougars (member of the West Coast Conference for all other sports sponsored by that league, except men's soccer)
- New Mexico State University Aggies (member of the Western Athletic Conference for all other sports sponsored by that league; moving to the Sun Belt Conference for football in 2014)
- University of Idaho Vandals (member of the Western Athletic Conference for all other sports sponsored by that league; moving to the Sun Belt Conference for football in 2014; moving to the Big Sky Conference for non-football sports in 2014)
|BYU||LaVell Edwards Stadium||63,725|
|Navy||Navy – Marine Corps Memorial Stadium||34,000|
|New Mexico State||Aggie Memorial Stadium||30,343|
|Notre Dame||Notre Dame Stadium||80,795|
The following is a complete list of teams which have been Division I-A (FBS) Independents since the formation of Division I-A in 1978.
|Years||Team||Previous Conference||Conference Joined||Current Conference|
|1978–1979||Air Force||Division I Independent||WAC (1980-1998)||Mountain West (1999–present)|
|1996–1998||Alabama-Birmingham||Division I-AA Independent||C-USA (1999–present)|
|1992||Arkansas State||Division I-AA Independent||Big West (1993–1995)|
|1996–1998||Big West (1993–1995)||Big West (1999–2000)||Sun Belt (2001–present)|
|1978–1997||Army||Division I Independent||C-USA (1998–2004)|
|1978–1990||Boston College||Division I Independent||Big East (1991–2004)||ACC (2005–present)|
|2011–present||BYU||Mountain West (1999–2010)|
|1992||Cal State Fullerton||Big West||Dropped football|
|1996–2001||Central Florida||Division I-AA Independent||MAC (2002–2004)||American (2013–present)|
|1978–1995||Cincinnati||Division I Independent||C-USA (1996–2004)||Big East/American (2005–present)[N 1]|
|1978–1981||Colgate||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982–1985)||Patriot League (1986–present)|
|2000–2003||Connecticut||Atlantic 10[N 2]||Big East/American (2004–present)[N 1][N 3]|
|1978–1996||East Carolina||Division I Independent||C-USA (1997–2013)[N 4]|
|1978–1991||Florida State||Division I Independent||ACC (1992–present)|
|1978||Georgia Tech||Division I Independent||ACC (1979–present)|
|1978||Hawaiʻi||Division I Independent||WAC (1979–2011)||Mountain West (2012–present)|
|1978–1981||Holy Cross||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982–1985)||Patriot League (1986–present)|
|1978–1980||Illinois State||Division I Independent||MVC (1981–1984)||MVFC (1985–present)[N 5]|
|1978–1981||Indiana State||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982–1985)||MVFC (1986–present)[N 5]|
|1991||Long Beach State||Big West||Dropped football|
|1989–1992||Louisiana Tech||Division I-AA Independent||Big West (1993-1995)|
|1996-2000||Big West (1993-1995)||WAC (2001-2012)||C-USA (2013–present)|
|1982-1992||Louisiana-Lafayette||Southland Conference||Big West (1993-1995)|
|1996-2000||Big West (1993-1995)||Sun Belt (2001–present)|
|1996–2000||Louisiana-Monroe||Southland||Sun Belt (2001–present)|
|1978–1995||Louisville||Division I Independent||C-USA (1996–2004)||Big East/American (2005–2013)[N 6][N 7]|
|1978–1995||Memphis||Division I Independent||C-USA (1996–2012)||American (2013–present)|
|1978–1990||Miami (FL)||Division I Independent||Big East (1991–2003)||ACC (2004–present)|
|1999–2000||Middle Tennessee||OVC||Sun Belt (2001–2012)||C-USA (2013–present)|
|1978–present||Navy||Division I Independent|
|2013||New Mexico State||WAC (2005–2012)|
|1978–1982||North Texas||Division I Independent||Southland (1983-1994)|
|1995||Southland (1983–1994)||Big West (1996–2000)||C-USA (2013–present)|
|1987-1992||Northern Illinois||MAC||Big West (1993-1995)|
|1996||Big West (1993–1995)||MAC (1997–present)|
|1978–present||Notre Dame||Division I Independent|
|1978–1992||Penn State||Division I Independent||Big Ten (1993–present)|
|1978–1990||Pittsburgh||Division I Independent||Big East (1991–2012)||ACC (2013–present)|
|1978–1981||Richmond||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982–1983)||CAA (1984–present)[N 8]|
|1978–1990||Rutgers||Division I Independent||Big East/American (1991–2013)[N 6][N 9]|
|1978–1991||South Carolina||Division I Independent||SEC (1992–present)|
|2001–2002||South Florida||Division I-AA Independent||C-USA (2003–2004)||Big East/American (2005–present)[N 1]|
|1978–1995||Southern Mississippi||Division I Independent||C-USA (1996–present)|
|1978–1990||Syracuse||Division I Independent||Big East (1991–2012)||ACC (2013–present)|
|1978–1990||Temple||Division I Independent||Big East (1991–2004)|
|2005–2006||Big East (1991–2004)||MAC (2007–2011)||Big East/American (2012–present)[N 1]|
|1978–1980||Tennessee State||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1981–1987)||OVC (1988–present)|
|2002–2003||Troy||Division I-AA Independent||Sun Belt (2004–present)|
|1978–1995||Tulane||Division I Independent||C-USA (1996–2013)||American in 2014[N 4]|
|1986–1995||Tulsa||MVC||WAC (1996–2004)||C-USA (2005–2013)[N 4]|
|1978–1981||UNLV||Division II Independent||Big West (1982–1995)||Mountain West (1999–present)|
|2001–2002||Utah State||Big West||Sun Belt (2003–2004)||Mountain West (2013–present)|
|1978–1980||Villanova||Division I Independent||Dropped Football||CAA (1985–present)[N 8]|
|1978–1990||Virginia Tech||Division I Independent||Big East (1991–2003)||ACC (2004–present)|
|1978–1990||West Virginia||Division I Independent||Big East (1991–2011)||Big 12 (2012–present)|
|2008||Western Kentucky||Gateway Football Conference||Sun Belt (2009–2013)||C-USA in 2014[N 10]|
|1986||Wichita State||MVC||Dropped football|
|1978–1981||William & Mary||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982–1992)||CAA (1993–present)[N 8]|
- This school remained in the conference that includes the FBS members of the pre-2013 Big East Conference, which began operating as the American Athletic Conference in July 2013.
- The A10 football conference did not morph into the Colonial Athletic Association football conference until 2007. UConn was an A10 member only in football.
- UConn was a founding member of the original Big East Conference in 1979, but did not join for football until 2004.
- East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa have announced they will join the American Athletic Conference in 2014.
- The history of this conference is extremely convoluted. In 1985, the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference, a women's sports conference parallel to the Missouri Valley Conference, added football as its only men's sport by taking in the MVC's I-AA football teams. In 1992, the women's portion of the Gateway merged with the MVC; the football conference kept the Gateway charter, changing the conference name to Gateway Football Conference. The current name was adopted in 2008.
- Louisville and Rutgers are playing the 2013 season in the American Athletic Conference before leaving for other conferences in 2014.
- Louisville has announced it will join the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.
- The CAA football conference did not exist under that name until 2007, but has a continuous history dating back to 1938. It started with the formation of the New England Conference, which folded in 1947, with its member schools joining the newly formed Yankee Conference under a separate charter. In 1997, the Yankee Conference merged with the Atlantic 10 Conference. After the 2006 season, the A10 football conference disbanded, with all of its members joining a new CAA football conference. The automatic berth of the Yankee Conference in the I-AA/FCS playoffs passed in succession to the A10 and the CAA.
- Rutgers has announced it will join the Big Ten Conference in 2014.
- Western Kentucky has announced it will join Conference USA in 2014.
- College football national championships in NCAA Division I FBS
- NCAA Division I basketball independent schools
- NCAA Division I FCS independent schools
- NCAA Division I independent schools (ice hockey)
- NCAA Division II independent schools
- NCAA Division III independent schools
- NAIA independent schools
- Tenorio, Paul. "Bowl Game Brings Football Back to RFK". The Washington Post. September 11, 2008. Retrieved October 5, 2008.
- Katz, Andy (August 31, 2010). "BYU leaving MWC for 2011–12 season". ESPN.com. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
- "Idaho and New Mexico State to Join Sun Belt Conference As Football Members in 2014" (Press release). Sun Belt Conference. March 27, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
- At the time Navy announced it would leave the independent ranks, its destination conference was known as the Big East Conference. When that conference split into football-sponsoring and non-football conferences in July 2013, the non-football schools took the Big East name with them. The football-sponsoring conference now operate as the American Athletic Conference.
- Helliker, Kevin (2013-01-03). "Notre Dame's Holy Line". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
- Sandomir, Richard (1991-08-25). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Notre Dame Scored a $38 Million Touchdown on Its TV Deal". New York Times (nytimes.com). Retrieved 2008-04-06.
- "NBC and Notre Dame Extend Football Agreement Through 2010". und.cstv.com. 2003-12-18. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
- Gage, Jack (2006-12-22). "The most valuable college football teams". Forbes. newsinfo.nd.edu. Retrieved 2008-04-06.[dead link]
- "Notre Dame Football Program Ranked Most Valuable In College Football". Forbes.com. und.cstv.com. 2006-11-20. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
- Katz, Andy (August 18, 2010). "Sources: BYU mulling Notre Dame path". ESPN.com. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
- Harmon, Dick (August 24, 2010). "BYU's broadcast issues boiling over". Deseret News. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
- "BYU signs long-term deals with ESPN, Notre Dame". sltrib.com/cougars. September 3, 2010. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
- "Notre Dame Goes To ACC: Bowl Security, Football Scheduling Flexibility Key To Move". Sports Business Daily (Street and Smith’s Sports Group). September 13, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2013.