Pioneer Football League

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Pioneer Football League
Pioneer Football League logo
Established 1991
Association NCAA
Division Division I FCS
Members 11 in 2014
Sports fielded 1 (football) (men's: 1; women's: 0)
Region Nationwide
Headquarters St. Louis, Missouri
Commissioner Patty Viverito (since 1994)
Pioneer Football League locations

The Pioneer Football League (PFL) is a collegiate athletic conference which operates in the East, Midwest, and California of the United States. It has member schools that range from New York, North Carolina, and Florida in the east to California in the west. The conference participates in the NCAA's Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) as a football-only conference. Unlike most other Division I FCS conferences, the Pioneer League consists of institutions that choose not to award athletic scholarships ("grants-in-aid") to football players.

Most of the PFL's members are private schools. Morehead State University is the only public school in the conference.



Alternate Logo

Following an NCAA rule change passed in January 1991, which required Division I schools to conduct all sports at the Division I level by 1993, the conference was formed by charter members Butler University, the University of Dayton, Drake University, the University of Evansville, and Valparaiso University.[1] The University of San Diego joined in 1992, and the league played its first season in 1993. Talk of Creighton University and Bradley University joining the league in its origins never materialized by 1993.[citation needed] The six original schools which played in the 1993 season had previously sponsored football at the Division I, Division II and Division III levels.

Membership changes[edit]

Original contraction

In 1997, the league reduced to five members when the University of Evansville downgraded football from Division I to club status; Evansville explored upgrading football back to Division I in 2007, but decided against it.

2001 expansion

In 2001, the conference nearly doubled in size and was reorganized with the five pre-2001 members forming the North Division, and newcomers Austin Peay State University, Davidson College, Jacksonville University and Morehead State University forming the South Division. The reorganization spawned a new championship system in which the best record holders from each division would play in a title game for the conference championship.

2005–2008 membership changes

On April 8, 2005, Austin Peay announced its departure from the league effective after the 2005 season; Austin Peay returned to scholarship-granting competition in 2007 as a member of the Ohio Valley Conference in which it competes in other sports. As a result, the conference reverted to round-robin play; the divisions and championship game were abolished. On April 7, 2006, Campbell University announced the reinstatement of football effective in 2008, and on December 5, 2007, accepted an invitation to the PFL.[2] In February 2008, Marist College announced that it would join the PFL for the 2009 season, after the MAAC stopped sponsoring football.[3] Although Campbell moved in 2011 from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the Big South Conference, which sponsors football, it did not join the Big South in football and remains in the PFL.[4]

2013 membership changes & automatic playoff berth

On June 13, 2011, Mercer University and Stetson University were announced as league members (effective 2013) bringing membership to 12 schools.[5] In addition, as of 2013, the league has an automatic bid into the FCS division I playoffs.[6] Soon after its PFL membership was announced, Mercer accepted an invitation to join the Southern Conference (scholarship-granting) effective July 1, 2014.[7] During its one season in the league, Mercer set a Division I win-loss record for start-up programs; Mercer finished the 2013 season with an overall record of 10-2 including an undefeated 8-0 record at home, also a Division I record held jointly with Auburn University, which likewise went undefeated at home in 2013.

On July 1, 2014, Mercer University joined the Southern Conference for all sports including football.

Member schools[edit]

Current members[edit]

Institution Location Founded First
Type Enrollment Joined Nickname Primary
the PFL
Butler University Indianapolis, Indiana 1855 1887 Private 3,897 1991 Bulldogs Horizon Big East
Campbell University Buies Creek, North Carolina 1887 1925 (2008) Private 9,471 2008 Fighting Camels Atlantic Sun (A-Sun) Big South
Davidson College Davidson, North Carolina 1837 1897 Private 1,700 2001 Wildcats SoCon Atlantic 10 (A-10)
University of Dayton Dayton, Ohio 1850 1905 Private 7,426 1991 Flyers Horizon Atlantic 10 (A-10)
Drake University Des Moines, Iowa 1881 1883 Private 3,164 1991 Bulldogs Missouri Valley
Jacksonville University Jacksonville, Florida 1934 1934 (1998) Private 7,426 2001 Dolphins Atlantic Sun (A-Sun)
Marist College Poughkeepsie, New York 1929 1978 Private 4,200 2009 Red Foxes MAAC
Morehead State University Morehead, Kentucky 1922 1927 Public 11,358 2001 Eagles OVC
University of San Diego San Diego, California 1949 1956 Private 4,904 1992 Toreros WCC
Stetson University DeLand, Florida 1883 1901 (2013) Private 2,200 2013 Hatters Atlantic Sun (A-Sun)
Valparaiso University Valparaiso, Indiana 1859 1919 Private 2,917 1991 Crusaders Summit Horizon

Former members[edit]

Institution Location Founded First
Type Enrollment Joined Left Nickname Primary
the PFL
University of Evansville* Evansville, Indiana 1854 1898 Private 3,050 1991-92 1997-98 Purple Aces Missouri Valley
Austin Peay State University Clarksville, Tennessee 1927 1970 Public 8,650 2001-02 2005-06 Governors OVC
Mercer University Macon, Georgia 1833 1892 (2013) Private 8,300 2013-14 2013-14 Bears Atlantic Sun (A-Sun) Southern
  • Evansville dropped football following the 1997–98 season.

Membership timeline[edit]

Stetson University Mercer University Marist College Campbell University Morehead State University Jacksonville University Davidson College Austin Peay State University University of San Diego Valparaiso University University of Evansville Drake University University of Dayton Butler University


Two in-state rivalries currently exist in the PFL.

Butler and Valparaiso first played in 1927, and had nine meetings prior to 1951. That year, the two teams began playing every year, and in 2006 began playing for the Hoosier Helmet Trophy. Butler currently leads 47-24. The two schools had an all-sports rivalry as well when both were in the Horizon League together from 2007–2012.

Campbell and Davidson began their rivalry in 2008 when the Fighting Camels joined the PFL. Davidson leads 4-1.

Jacksonville and Stetson will begin their football rivalry in 2013 when Stetson begins PFL play, the schools are already rivals in other sports as both are members of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Butler and Dayton also have a rivalry based on proximity to each other. The teams have met every year since 1977 with the exception of 1991 and 1992. Dayton leads 26-11-1.

Conference championships[edit]

Locations of current Pioneer Football League member institutions.

PFL champions[edit]

Season Champion Record
1993 Dayton 5–0–0
1994 Butler 4–1–0
Dayton 4–1–0
1995 Drake 5–0–0
1996 Dayton 5–0–0
1997 Dayton 5–0–0
1998 Drake 4–0
1999 Dayton 4–0
2000 Dayton 3–1
Drake 3–1
Valparaiso 3–1
2001 Dayton Championship Game
2002 Dayton Championship Game
2003 Valparaiso Championship Game
2004 Drake Championship Game
2005 San Diego Championship Game
2006 San Diego 7–0
2007 Dayton 6–1
San Diego 6–1
2008 Jacksonville 7–1
2009 Butler 7–1
Dayton 7–1
2010 Jacksonville 8–0
Dayton 8–0
2011 San Diego 7–1
Drake 7–1
2012 Butler 7–1
Drake 7–1
San Diego 7–1
2013 Butler 7–1
Marist 7–1
2014 San Diego 7–1[8]

League titles by school[edit]

School Championships Championship Years
1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001*, 2002*, 2007, 2009, 2010
1995, 1998, 2000, 2004*, 2011, 2012
San Diego
2005*, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2014
1994, 2009, 2012, 2013
2008, 2010
2000, 2003*
Morehead State
Austin Peay

* - Won at PFL Championship Game

PFL Championship Game[edit]

Season Season Champion Record Date Game Champion Score Runner-Up Location
2001 Dayton 4–0 Nov. 17, 2001 Dayton 46–14 Jacksonville Dayton, OH
2002 Dayton 4–0 Nov. 23, 2002 Dayton 28–0 Morehead State Morehead, KY
2003 Valparaiso 3–1 Nov. 22, 2003 Valparaiso 54–42 Morehead State Valparaiso, IN
2004 Drake 4–0 Nov. 20, 2004 Drake 20–17 Morehead State Morehead, KY
2005 San Diego 4–0 Nov. 19, 2005 San Diego 47–40 Morehead State San Diego, CA

Postseason games[edit]

The Pioneer Football League has had alliances with the Gridiron Classic and the Sports Network Cup. In addition, league members are allowed to accept at-large invitations to other college bowl games and teams are eligible to compete in the FCS playoffs, and holds an automatic qualifier.

Starting in 2013, the Pioneer League joined ten other FCS conferences (Big Sky, Southern, Southland, MEAC, NEC, CAA, Big South, MVFC, OVC, Patriot League) that receive an automatic bid to compete in the Division I Football Championship as the playoffs expand from twenty teams to 24. The PFL is 0-2 in the playoffs to date. In 2013 Butler was defeated in the first round 31-0 by Tennessee State, while in 2014 San Diego was routed by Montana 52-14.

The PFL was a participant in the NCAA Division I FCS Consensus Mid-Major Football National Championship, along with the Northeast Conference and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, two other conferences without automatic playoff bids. The Consensus championship has since been discontinued; the NEC first earned an automatic postseason bid in 2010, while the MAAC no longer sponsors football.

Members pre-PFL postseason results[edit]

Below are postseason accomplishments by past and current members prior to the formation of the Pioneer Football League.

Season Champion Runner-up Bowl
1945 Drake 13 Fresno State 12 Raisin Bowl
1946 Evansville 19 Northern Illinois 7 Turkey Bowl
1947 Evansville 20 Northern Illinois 0 Hoosier Bowl
1948 Drake 14 Arizona 13 Salad Bowl
1948 Evansville 13 Missouri Valley 7 Refrigerator Bowl
1949 Evansville 22 Hillsdale 7 Refrigerator Bowl
1950 Wisconsin-La Crosse 47 Valparaiso 14 Cigar Bowl
1951 Houston 26 Dayton 21 Salad Bowl
1957 Louisville 34 Drake 20 Sun Bowl
1969 Arkansas State 29 Drake 21 Pecan Bowl
1969 Toledo 56 Davidson 33 Tangerine Bowl
1972 Tennessee State 29 Drake 7 Pioneer Bowl
1973 Wittenberg 21 San Diego 14 Division III Playoffs
1974 Central (IA) 31 Evansville 14 Division III Playoffs
1980 Dayton 63 Ithaca 0 Stagg Bowl
1981 Widener 17 Dayton 10 Stagg Bowl
1983 Cal Davis 25 Butler 3 Division II Playoffs
1987 Wagner 19 Dayton 3 Stagg Bowl
1988 Tennessee-Martin 23 Butler 3 Division II Playoffs
1989 Dayton 17 Union (NY) 7 Stagg Bowl
1991 Ithaca 34 Dayton 20 Stagg Bowl
1991 Pittsburg State 26 Butler 16 Division II Playoffs

PFL Sports Network Cup results[edit]

PFL Gridiron Classic results[edit]

On May 16, 2006, the Pioneer Football League (PFL) and Northeast Conference (NEC) announced a four-year agreement to meet in the Gridiron Classic, an exempted postseason football game that matched the champions of the two conferences which were technically members of Division I FCS, but which were not the recipients of automatic invitations to the football championship playoff.

Season Champion Runner-up
2006 San Diego 27 Monmouth 7
2007 Dayton 42 Albany 21
2008 Albany 28 Jacksonville 0
2009 Butler 28 Central Connecticut State 23

Historical standings[edit]

* Butler granted automatic qualifier for FCS playoffs over Marist.[22][23]
San Diego self-disqualified due to violation of league rules.[24]
° Jacksonville ineligible for PFL title, FCS playoffs.[25]

Conference facilities[edit]

School Football Stadium Capacity
Butler Butler Bowl 7,500[26]
Campbell Barker–Lane Stadium 5,200
Davidson Richardson Stadium 6,000
Dayton Welcome Stadium 11,000
Drake Drake Stadium 14,557[27]
Jacksonville D. B. Milne Field 5,500
Marist Leonidoff Field 5,000[28]
Morehead State Jayne Stadium 10,000
San Diego Torero Stadium 6,000
Stetson Spec Martin Memorial Stadium 6,000
Valparaiso Brown Field 5,000


  1. ^ "Drake joins new league". Des Moines, Iowa: The Telegraph-Herald. November 22, 1991. pp. Page 1B. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "Marist gets a National Stage and Travel Schedule". September 11, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Campbell University To Re-Join Big South Conference" (Press release). Big South Conference. May 14, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2010. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Birch, Tommy (August 23, 2012). "Pioneer Football League officially announces automatic bid". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  7. ^ VMI, ETSU, Mercer to join SoCon | College Football
  8. ^ "Football Program Compliance Update". Jacksonville University. November 14, 2014. Archived from the original on November 19, 2014. Retrieved November 19, 2014. 
  9. ^ Official Homepage of the Pioneer Football League at the Wayback Machine (archived December 12, 2001)
  10. ^
  11. ^ Official Internet Home of the Pioneer Football League at the Wayback Machine (archived December 6, 2003)
  12. ^ Official Internet Home of the Pioneer Football League at the Wayback Machine (archived December 4, 2004)
  13. ^ Official Internet Home of the Pioneer Football League at the Wayback Machine (archived December 2, 2005)
  14. ^ Pioneer Football League - Standings/Schedules
  15. ^ Pioneer Football League at the Wayback Machine (archived December 16, 2008)
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Standings - 2012 PFL Standings - Pioneer Football League Official Site
  20. ^ Pioneer Football League - Standings/Schedules
  21. ^ Pioneer Football League - Standings/Schedules
  22. ^ "Butler football earns its first FCS playoff bid". The Indianapolis Star. 2013-11-19. 
  23. ^ "Butler University wins PFL tiebreaker, Division I Football Championship automatic qualification". Pioneer Football League. 2013-11-19. 
  24. ^ Norcross, Dan (14 November 2013). "USD forgoes consideration for PFL title". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  25. ^ "Jacksonville ineligible for PFL title, FCS playoffs". Fox News. 2014-11-14. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Drake Stadium History -—Official Web site of Drake University Athletics
  28. ^ "Tenney Stadium at Leonidoff Field". Marist Athletics. 

External links[edit]