Schools in Division I FBS are distinguished from those in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) by being allowed to provide scholarship aid to a total of 85 players, and may grant a full scholarship to all 85. FCS schools are limited to financial assistance amounting to a maximum of 63 full scholarships, although some conferences voluntarily place further restrictions on athletic aid. The NCAA classifies FBS football as a "head-count" sport, meaning that each player receiving any athletically-related aid from the school counts fully against the 85-player limit. By contrast, FCS football is classified as an "equivalency" sport, which means that scholarship aid is limited to the equivalent of a specified number of full scholarships. In turn, this means that FCS schools can freely grant partial scholarships, but are also limited to a total of 85 players receiving assistance. Another NCAA rule mandates that any multi-sport athlete who plays football and receives any athletic aid is counted against the football limit, with an exception for players in non-scholarship FCS programs who receive aid in another sport. The three service academies that play in Division I FBS — Air Force, Army, and Navy — are theoretically subject to this rule, but are exempt in practice because all students at these schools receive full scholarships from the federal government.
Starting in 2014, the FBS began playing a four-team tournament culminating in a National Championship Game to determine its national champion, a system that will be in place from the 2014-2025 seasons by contract with ESPN, broadcaster of the games. Formerly, Division I FBS football was the only NCAA sport without a formal tournament to determine an undisputed national champion, with the FBS schools instead playing in a series of postseason bowl games, culminating in the BCS National Championship Game, which attempted to crown a single national champion. Other organizations, most notably the Associated Press, crowned their own champions via polling. The BCS and AP have not always agreed on a single champion.
Conference affiliations are current for the 2016 season.
^ abWhen FBS was created in 1978 as Division I-A, the Southern Conference was designated as a I-A conference. The SoCon was downgraded to FCS (then Division I-AA) level beginning in the 1982 season. This school competed in SoCon football during the league's 1978–81 tenure as a I-A conference.
^At that time, the school was a two-year college known as Boise Junior College. The school did not become a four-year institution until 1965, and only began playing football against four-year schools in 1968.
^ abcHouston, Memphis, and SMU had originally planned to join the Big East Conference in 2013. However, the conference split along football lines in July 2013, with the seven non-FBS schools of the original conference buying the "Big East" name and reorganizing as a new, non-football Big East Conference. The FBS schools that did not leave at that time for the ACC joined with the three newcomers, remaining in the original conference structure under the new name of American Athletic Conference.
^Following the Sun Belt's decision not to renew its football membership contracts with Idaho and New Mexico State once they expire after the 2017 season, Idaho announced that it would return to FCS football in 2018, playing in the Big Sky Conference .
^The UNLV campus is not within the City of Las Vegas, but is instead in the unincorporated community of Paradise. The football team plays its home games in another unincorporated Las Vegas suburb, Whitney.
^Idaho had been a member of the grouping now known as FCS, then DIvision I-AA, from the group's creation in 1978 through 1995, after which it moved to the league then known as the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (now the Big West Conference). At that time, the PCAA sponsored FBS (then Division I-A) football.
Several schools have different athletic nicknames for men's and women's teams. Usually, this is a matter of preceding the main nickname with "Lady", such as LSU Lady Tigers and Tennessee Lady Vols. The two FBS schools nicknamed Cowboys, Oklahoma State and Wyoming, use Cowgirls for women's teams. However, in some cases, the women's team nickname has a completely different form, as in Hawaii Rainbow Wahine and Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters. Because this is a list of American football programs, which are traditionally all-male, only the men's form is given.
The Pac-12 considers the Pacific Coast Conference or PCC as part of its own history, even though the PCC was established with different charter members and was disbanded due to major crisis and scandal. There is considerable continuity between the two leagues. The Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU), which would eventually become the Pac-12, was founded by five former PCC members, and by 1964 all of the final PCC members except for Idaho had been reunited in the AAWU.