NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision
|Current season, competition or edition:
2015 NCAA Division I FBS football season
|No. of teams||128|
|Most recent champion(s)||Ohio State Buckeyes|
The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the top level of college football in the United States. The FBS is the more competitive subdivision of NCAA Division I, which itself consists of the largest and most competitive schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). As of 2014, there are ten conferences and 128 schools in the FBS. Despite the popularity of the professional National Football League, college football is very popular throughout much of the United States, and the top schools generate tens of millions of dollars in yearly revenue. Top FBS teams draw tens of thousands of fans to games, and the ten largest American stadiums by capacity all host FBS teams. College athletes are not paid, and colleges are only allowed to provide players with non-monetary compensation such as athletic scholarships that provide for tuition, housing, and books.
The FBS is the highest level of college football in the United States, and FBS players make up the vast majority of the players picked in the NFL Draft. For every sport but football, the NCAA divides schools into three major divisions: NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II, and NCAA Division III. However, in football, Division I is further divided into two sub-divisions: the Bowl Subdivision, abbreviated as the FBS, and the Championship Subdivision, abbreviated as the FCS.
Although FCS programs can draw thousands of fans per game, many FCS schools attempt to join the FBS in hopes of increased revenue, corporate sponsorship, alumni donations, prestige, and national exposure. However, FBS programs also face increased expenses in regards to staff salaries, facility improvements, and scholarships. The athletic departments of many FBS schools lose money every year, and these athletic departments must rely on subsidies from the rest of the university. The 2014 decision by UAB (an FBS program) to discontinue the football program generated national headlines, and other FBS programs have also considered discontinuing their football program. In many states, the highest-paid public employee is the head coach of an FBS team. FBS schools are limited to a total of 85 football players receiving financial assistance. Nearly all FBS schools that are not on NCAA probation give 85 full scholarships.
In order to retain FBS membership, schools must meet several requirements. FBS schools must have an average home attendance of at least 15,000 (over a rolling two-year period). An FBS school must sponsor a minimum of sixteen varsity intercollegiate teams, with at least eight all-female teams. Across all sports, each FBS school must offer at least 200 athletic scholarships (or spend at least $4 million on athletic scholarships) per year, and FBS football teams must provide at least 90% of the maximum number of football scholarships (which is currently 85). In order to move up to the FBS, an FCS school must also gain membership in an FBS conference.
The FBS season begins in August or September with the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, and ends in January with the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Most FBS teams play twelve regular season games per year, with eight or nine of those games coming against conference opponents. Many conferences have a championship game that takes place between the end of the regular season and the start of the bowl season. This game matches up the top two teams in the conference, with the winner crowned as champion of the conference.
For the remaining regular season games, FBS teams are free to schedule match-ups against any other FBS team, regardless of conference. A small number of FBS teams are independent, and have total control over their own schedule. Non-conference games are scheduled by mutual agreement and often involve "home and homes" (where teams alternate as hosts) and long-established rivalries. A 2014 study found that teams from the stronger conferences frequently play non-conference games against teams from the weaker conferences or, occasionally, against FCS teams. FBS teams are free to schedule up to forty percent of their games against FCS teams, but FBS teams can only use one win per season against an FCS team for the purposes of bowl eligibility. An FBS team must schedule a total of five home games per year; for the purposes of scheduling, a "home game" must take place at a venue in which the team plays fifty percent of its "home games." FBS-FCS games, known as "money games," are often home games for the FBS team, and victories by FCS teams are usually considered to be upsets. FCS teams receive hundred of thousands of dollars for their participation in these games.
The Football Bowl Subdivision gets its name from the bowl games that many FBS teams play at the end of the year, although other college divisions also have their own bowl games. FBS bowl games are played at the end of the season in December or January, and collectively generate over $400 million per year as of 2012. For the 2014-15 season, there are 39 bowl games. In order to be bowl eligible, an FBS team must have a winning record. In certain cases, 5-7 and 6-7 teams can also be selected to bowls, usually to fill bowl vacancies.
|Year||Bowls||Teams in bowls|
Many bowls have an established conference tie-in; for example, the Russell Athletic Bowl provides a match-up between teams from ACC and the Big 12. A small number of long-established bowls played a major role in the Bowl Championship Series, which was used to select the national champion until 2015, and these bowls continue to play a major role in the College Football Playoff. Under the playoff, there are six major bowls, with automatic bids going to the conference champions of the Power Five conferences and the top-ranked member of the "Group of Five." Two of these bowls serve as semi-final games to the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Conferences receive millions of dollars for each school that appears in the playoff, and appearances in other bowls are also quite lucrative. In addition to the regular bowls, some post-season bowls, such as the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, match up teams of all-stars and NFL Draft entrants.
Between conference games, non-conference games, a conference championship game, and a bowl game, a successful FBS team could play fourteen games in a season. A team that plays in the national championship game could play up to fifteen games, as the College Football Playoff consists of a semifinal round and the national championship game. The NCAA has a special exemption that allows teams that play at Hawaii to schedule a thirteenth regular season game, so an FBS team that plays in a conference championship game, plays in the national championship game, and plays a game at Hawaii could theoretically play sixteen games in one season.
College football has been played for over one hundred years, but the game and the organizational structure of college football have evolved significantly during that time. The first college football game was played in 1869, but the game continued to develop during the late 19th and early 20th century. During this period, Walter Camp pioneered the concept of a line of scrimmage, the system of downs, and the College Football All-America Team. The 1902 Rose Bowl was the first bowl game in college football history, and the event began to be held annually starting with the 1916 Rose Bowl. In the 1930s, other bowl games came into existence, including the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl Classic, and the Orange Bowl. The 1906 college football season was the first season played under the IAAUS (which would later change its name to the NCAA) and the first season in which the forward pass was legal. The IAAUS had formed after President Theodore Roosevelt, responding to several deaths that had occurred during football games, requested that colleges find ways to make football a safer sport. In 1935, the Heisman Trophy was presented for the first time; the award is generally considered to be college football's most prestigious individual award. In 1965, the NCAA voted to allow the platoon system, in which different players played on offense and defense; teams had previously experimented with the concept in the 1940s. In 1968, the NCAA began allowing freshmen to compete in games; freshmen had previously been required to take a redshirt year. In 1975, after a growth of "grants-in-aid" (scholarships given for athletic rather than academic or need-based reasons), the NCAA voted to limit the number of athletic scholarships each school could offer. In 1968, the NCAA required all teams to identify as members of either the University Division (for larger schools) or the College Division (for smaller schools), and in 1973, the NCAA divided into three divisions. At the urging of several larger schools seeking increased autonomy and commonality, Division I-A was formed prior to the 1978 season; the remaining teams in Division I formed the Football Championship Subdivision (then known as Division I-AA). In 1981, members of the College Football Association attempted to create a fourth division consisting solely of the most competitive schools, but this effort was defeated. In 1992, the SEC played the first FBS conference championship game.
The NCAA does not officially award an FBS football championship, but several teams have claimed national championships. Other organizations have also sought to rank the teams and crown a national champion. The Dickinson System and other methods were formed in the early 20th century to select the best team in the country, and the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll began rankings teams in the middle of the 20th century. In many seasons, selectors such as the AP and the Coaches Poll designated different teams as national champions. Often, more than one team would finish undefeated, as the top teams were not guaranteed to play each other during the regular season or in bowl games. In 1992, five major conferences established the Bowl Coalition in order to determine the FBS champion. In 1998, the two remaining major conferences joined with the other five conferences to form the Bowl Championship Series. The BCS used a rankings system to match up the top two teams in the BCS National Championship Game. However, even the BCS era saw split national championships, as in 2003 the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll selected different national champions. The College Football Playoff, with a four-team field, replaced the BCS starting with the 2014 season.
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, 12 with the addition of Nebraska in 2011, and 14 with the arrival of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. The Big 12 Conference was established in 1996 with 12 members, but continues to use that name even after a number of departures and a few replacements 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.
The FBS on television
College football was first broadcast on radio in 1921, and first broadcast on television in 1939. Television became profitable for both schools and the NCAA, which tightly controlled the airing of games in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The NCAA as limited each football team to six television appearances over a two-year period. The 1984 Supreme Court case NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma granted television rights to individual schools as opposed to the NCAA and allowed teams to televise all of their games. After a period during which FBS schools negotiated collectively under the College Football Association, Notre Dame's 1991 television contract ushered in an era in which schools and conferences negotiate their own television contracts. This new era of television led to several waves of conference realignment. FBS games continue to be a major draw on television, as over 26 million people watched the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.
National networks such as CBS, ABC, NBC, several ESPN networks, several Fox networks have all covered the FBS, as have several regional and local networks. As conferences negotiate their own television deals, each conference is affiliated with a network that airs its home games. In the mid-2000s, college and conferences began to create their own television networks; such networks include the Big Ten Network, BYUtv, the Longhorn Network, and the Pac-12 Network. In 2012, college football games drew over 400 million viewers.
Teams and Conferences
As of 2014, there are ten conferences in the FBS; most of the 128 FBS schools are members of a conference, but there are also a small number of independents. The conferences are split into two groups for the purposes of the College Football Playoff. The "Power Five conferences" consist of most of the largest and most well-known college athletic programs in the country, and a school from one of the Power Five conferences won every BCS National Championship Game (which operated from 1999 to 2014). The remaining five conferences are known as the "Group of Five." Any conference with at least 12 football teams may split its teams into two divisions and conduct a championship game between the division winners.
|American Athletic Conference||The American||1979 [FBS 1]||11 [FBS 2]||21||Providence, Rhode Island|
|Atlantic Coast Conference **||ACC||1953||15 [FBS 3]||26||Greensboro, North Carolina|
|Big Ten Conference **||Big Ten, B1G||1896||14 [FBS 4]||28||Rosemont, Illinois|
|Big 12 Conference **||Big 12||1996||10 [FBS 5]||21||Irving, Texas|
|Conference USA||C-USA||1995[FBS 6]||14 [FBS 7][FBS 8]||19||Irving, Texas|
|Division I FBS Independents[FBS 9]||3|
|Mid-American Conference||MAC||1946||12[FBS 10]||23||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Mountain West Conference||MW (official)
|1999||11[FBS 11][FBS 12]||19||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
|Pacific-12 Conference **||Pac-12||1915[FBS 13]||12[FBS 14]||22||Walnut Creek, California|
|Southeastern Conference **||SEC||1932||14||20||Birmingham, Alabama|
|Sun Belt Conference||Sun Belt||1976||11 (12 in 2016)[FBS 15][FBS 16]||18||New Orleans, Louisiana|
- 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 Bowl Championship Series berth for the 2013 season, the last for the BCS.
- In addition to the full members, Navy is a football-only member, and Sacramento State, San Diego State, and Villanova are associate members in women's rowing.
- Notre Dame is a full member except in football, in which it remains independent. It has committed to play five games each season against ACC opponents, and to play each other ACC member at least once every three years.
- In addition to the full members, Johns Hopkins, a Division III member with Division I programs in men's and women's lacrosse, is a men's lacrosse affiliate. The Hopkins women's lacrosse program will join the Big Ten in July 2016.
- In addition to the full members, the Big 12 has 10 affiliate members, each of which sponsors one sport in the conference:
- The conference was founded in 1995, with football competition starting in 1996.
- In addition to the 14 full members, Conference USA features three schools that play men's soccer in the conference: Kentucky, New Mexico, and South Carolina.
- Currently, 13 of the 14 members field football teams in the conference. UAB dropped football after the 2014 season, but will reinstate the sport in 2017 as a C-USA member.
- 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.
- In addition to the 12 full members, the Mid-American Conference features nine members which only participate in one sport each, and one other school that competes in two sports:
- Binghamton in men's tennis.
- Evansville and Southern Illinois in men's swimming and diving.
- Longwood in women's field hockey.
- Missouri, Northern Iowa, and Old Dominion in wrestling.
- UMass in football through the 2015 season, after which it will leave for an as-yet-undetermined conference affiliation.
- Missouri State in field hockey and men's swimming and diving.
- West Virginia in men's soccer.
- Since 2012, Hawaii has been a football-only associate member, with most of its remaining teams in the non-football Big West Conference.
- In addition to the 11 full members and football affiliate Hawaii, Colorado College, a Division III school with a Division I men's ice hockey team, plays Division I women's soccer in the MW.
- 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 June 1959, 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.
- Nine Sun Belt Conference members currently sponsor football, with Arkansas–Little Rock and UT Arlington as the two non-football members. Idaho and New Mexico State are football-only members. Coastal Carolina will join the conference in July 2016, initially as a full but non-football member; the football team will join the conference in 2017, the second year of its transition from FCS.
- In addition to the full members and football-only affiliates, three other schools—Hartwick (a Division III school with Division I programs in men's soccer and women's water polo), Howard, and NJIT—are affiliates in men's soccer. NJIT will move its men's soccer team to its all-sports league, the Atlantic Sun Conference, in 2016.
Teams transitioning to the FBS
Currently, no schools are transitioning from FCS to FBS.
The most recent school to announce a future transition is Coastal Carolina University, now in the FCS Big South Conference. On September 1, 2015, the Sun Belt Conference announced that Coastal Carolina would become a full but initially non-football member in July 2016. At that time, the football program will begin a transition to FBS. The Chanticleers will join Sun Belt football in 2017 and become fully bowl-eligible in 2018.
The FBS has experienced several realignments since its formation in 1978, with many teams changing conferences, dropping out of the FBS, or moving up from the FCS. In 1982, the size of the division was cut considerably, and the Southern Conference and the Ivy League were demoted to the FCS. In 1985, the Missouri Valley Conference stopped sponsoring football. In the 1980s and 1990s, several independents joined conferences, dropped football, or joined the FCS. In the 1996 NCAA conference realignment, the Southwest Conference dissolved, and four Texas teams from that conference joined with the Big 8 schools to form the Big 12 Conference. The Western Athletic Conference expanded to sixteen members, but half of the schools left in 1999 to form the Mountain West Conference. Conference USA formed from a merger of the Metro Conference and the Great Midwest Conference, two conferences which had not sponsored football. The Big West stopped sponsoring football after the 2000 season, and was essentially replaced by the Sun Belt Conference, which added former Big West members and began sponsoring football in 2001. In the mid-2000s, the Big East added former basketball-only member Connecticut, while Temple left the conference (before eventually returning in 2013). During another phase of realignment in 2005, three schools jumped from the Big East to the ACC. The Big East responded by adding schools from Conference USA.
College football underwent another major conference realignment from 2010-2013. Members of the Big East left the conference to join the Big 12, Big Ten, and ACC. The Big 12 lost members to the SEC, the Pac-12, and the Big Ten, while the Big Ten also gained one former ACC member. The remaining members of the Big East split into two conferences: the American Athletic Conference ("The American") and a new conference that assumed the Big East name but does not sponsor football. The American added several schools from Conference USA, which in turn added FCS schools and schools from the Sun Belt Conference. The Sun Belt Conference replenished its membership by adding FCS schools and schools from the Western Athletic Conference. The Mountain West lost schools to the Big 12, Pac-12 and the FBS independent ranks, and added several schools from the Western Athletic Conference. After several defections, the WAC dropped its sponsorship of football.
The latest realignment cycle also affected the FBS independent ranks. BYU left the MW in 2011 for football independence and the non-football West Coast Conference. In 2013, Idaho and New Mexico State, the last two football-sponsoring schools in the WAC, became FBS independents, but would return to their former football home of the Sun Belt Conference as football-only members the following year. Also in 2013, Notre Dame became a full but non-football member of the ACC, entering into a scheduling agreement with that conference that calls for the Fighting Irish football team to play five games each season against ACC schools, and to play each other ACC school at least once every three years. Finally, in 2015, Navy became a football-only member of The American, ending more than a century of football independence.
Several awards are given each year to players and coaches in the FBS. Although all college football players are eligible for many of these awards (such as the Heisman Trophy), FBS players usually win these awards, and other awards (such as the Walter Payton Award) exist to honor players in other divisions and the FCS. In addition to the national awards listed below, FBS conferences also have their own awards, and several organizations release a yearly College Football All-America Team. In 1951, the National Football Foundation established the College Football Hall of Fame. Notable individual awards include:
- Best/most valuable player: Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Archie Griffin Award, AP Player of the Year, SN Player of the Year
- Defensive player of the year: Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Lott Trophy
- Position awards: Dave Rimington Trophy (Center), Davey O'Brien Award and Manning Award (Quarterback), Dick Butkus Award (Linebacker), Doak Walker Award (Running back), Fred Biletnikoff Award (Wide receiver), Jim Thorpe Award (Defensive back), John Mackey Award (Tight end), Lombardi Award (Lineman/linebacker)Lott Trophy, Lou Groza Award (Placekicker), Outland Trophy (Interior lineman), Ray Guy Award (Punter), Ted Hendricks Award (Defensive end), Jet Award (Return Specialist)
- Coaching awards: AFCA Coach of the Year , Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, SN Coach of the Year, Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award, Paul "Bear" Bryant Award, AP Coach of the Year, Broyles Award, AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year
- Other awards: William V. Campbell Trophy, Wuerffel Trophy, Burlsworth Trophy, Rudy Award, Amos Alonzo Stagg Award, Walter Camp Man of the Year, Theodore Roosevelt Award
There are also several national championship awards. The winner of the College Football Playoff receives the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy. The AP awards the AP National Championship Trophy, while the American Football Coaches Association awards the AFCA National Championship Trophy; the AFCA trophy was awarded to the winner of the BCS National Championship Game (which operated from 1999 to 2014). The Football Writers Association of America awards the Grantland Rice Trophy, and the National Football Foundation awards the MacArthur Bowl.
Map of teams
- NCAA Division I
- NCAA Men's Division I Football Bowl Subdivision alignment history
- Football Championship Subdivision
- List of NCAA Division I non-football programs
- List of NCAA Division I FBS football stadiums
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