Power Five conferences

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In college football, the Power Five conferences (or power conferences) are athletic conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA Division I, the highest level of collegiate football in the United States. These conferences are designated in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) legislation as "autonomy conferences".[1] The classification of "autonomy" is not exclusive to these conferences, however, since all FBS institutions are given the opportunity to participate in additional athletic stipends.[2] It should also be noted that the term "Power Five" is not defined officially anywhere in the NCAA bylaws and the origin of this label is unknown.

Prior to the establishment of the College Football Playoff in 2014, the Power Five conferences, as well as the old Big East Conference, were called "Automatic Qualifying" (AQ) conferences, because the champion of each conference received an automatic berth in one of the five Bowl Championship Series (BCS) bowl games. The final college football season for which the BCS was in effect was the 2013 season.

With the split of the old Big East, there are now five power conferences: the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference (B1G), Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC). The power conferences make up five of the ten conferences in FBS; the other FBS conferences are informally known as the Group of Five.[3] The FBS consists of the Power Five, the Group of Five, and a small number of independent schools.

The term is also used in other college sports.

Current conferences and teams[edit]

ACC Big 12 Big Ten Pac-12 SEC
Boston College Baylor Illinois Arizona Alabama
Clemson Iowa State Indiana Arizona State Arkansas
Duke Kansas Iowa California Auburn
Florida State Kansas State Maryland UCLA Florida
Georgia Tech Oklahoma Michigan Colorado Georgia
Louisville Oklahoma State Michigan State Oregon Kentucky
Miami TCU Minnesota Oregon State LSU
North Carolina Texas Nebraska USC Mississippi
North Carolina State Texas Tech Northwestern Stanford Mississippi State
Pittsburgh West Virginia Ohio State Utah Missouri
Syracuse Penn State Washington South Carolina
Virginia Purdue Washington State Tennessee
Virginia Tech Rutgers Texas A&M
Wake Forest Wisconsin Vanderbilt
Notre Dame*

* Notre Dame football, an independent, plays five games a year against ACC opponents. The Fighting Irish are members of the ACC for all other sports, except ice hockey, which plays in the Big Ten Conference.

Under the College Football Playoff system[edit]

With the establishment of the College Football Playoff in 2014, the term "automatic qualifying conference" is no longer in use, as the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) has been discontinued. However, five of the six former AQ conferences are now known as the "Power Five conferences": the Big Ten Conference, the Big 12 Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Pac-12 Conference, and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The American Athletic Conference (AAC or its preferred short form of "The American"), the football successor to the Big East Conference, lost its status as a power conference. It is unknown where the term "Power Five Conference" originated from; it is not officially documented anywhere by the NCAA. However, it can be speculated that the driving force behind the term came from media sources, such as ESPN or CBS, that cover these teams and conferences.[citation needed]

The American and the other four conferences in the FBS are known as the "Group of Five" (sometimes called the G5). Besides The American, the other four members of the Group of Five are Conference USA (C-USA), the Mid-American Conference (MAC), the Mountain West Conference (MW), and the Sun Belt Conference.

The FBS also has six independent schools as of the upcoming 2018 season: Notre Dame, Army, BYU, Liberty, New Mexico State, and UMass. Notre Dame is currently considered equal to the Power Five schools, being a full but non-football member of the ACC with an annual five-game football scheduling agreement with that conference, its own national television contract, and its own arrangement for access to the CFP-affiliated bowl games should it meet stated competitive criteria. All Power Five leagues that require their members to schedule at least one Power Five team in nonconference play (currently the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC) consider Notre Dame to be a Power Five opponent for such purposes. The Big Ten and SEC also treat BYU and Army as Power Five opponents for purposes of meeting their members' out-of-conference scheduling requirements.[4][5] Additionally, the ACC considers BYU (but no other independent) a Power Five opponent for scheduling purposes.[6]

Teams from the Power Five and the Group of Five play each other during the season, and sometimes also play against FCS teams. However, many coaches of Power Five schools have argued that Power Five schools should only be allowed to schedule games against other Power Five schools.[3] In 2014, the NCAA gave the Power Five conferences greater autonomy in regards to issues such as stipends and recruiting rules.[7] Some Power Five conferences, including the Big Ten and SEC, require their teams to play at least one non-conference P5 opponent each season.[5][4]

The College Football Playoff rotates among six bowl games, with two bowl games used as each year as the national semi-finals, and four other bowls matching the remaining top teams in the country. These six bowl games are collectively known as the "New Year's Six" bowl games. Conference champions from the Power Five are not guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, and conference champions from the Group of Five, while not ineligible by any rule, have never been seriously considered, with selectors regularly discriminating against such conferences by claiming they have weaker schedules. Each conference champion from the Power Five and the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion is guaranteed a spot in either the playoff or one of the four other most prestigious bowl games.[8] Every year, a non-Power Five team is guaranteed one bid to the New Year's Six bowls, however, so far no additional bids beyond that one have ever been granted. Nonetheless, they have notched an overall record of 3-1 in this time, making the superiority of the Power Five schools, assumed in this system, questionable.

TV and revenues[edit]

U.S. TV sports rights
Conference National
TV contract
Total Revenues
(Per Year)
March Madness CBS, Turner $8.8bn ($1.1bn)
College Football Playoff ESPN $5.6bn ($470m)
Pac-12 Conference (Pac 12) Fox, ESPN $3.0bn ($250m)
Big Ten Conference (Big 10) Fox, ESPN $2.6bn ($440m) [9]
Big 12 Conference (Big 12) Fox, ESPN $2.6bn ($200m)
Southeastern Conference (SEC) CBS $0.8bn ($55m)
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
A map of every university in the "power five" conferences in 2014.

Realignment since the 1990s[edit]

The FBS has undergone several waves of realignment since the 1990s, when the Bowl Coalition was established. The first realignment occurred in the 1990s, and resulted in the demise of the Southwest Conference, which was a member of the Bowl Coalition and at times considered equal to some of the Power Five conferences; as well as many schools giving up independent status to join conferences. In the early 1990s, Arkansas left the Southwest Conference for the SEC; the original Big East Conference began sponsoring football, with eight former football independents joining either for all sports or football only; and other major independents such as Florida State (to the ACC), Penn State (to the Big Ten), and South Carolina (to the SEC) joined major conferences. In the 1996 NCAA conference realignment, the SWC dissolved, and four Texas teams from that conference joined with the Big 8 schools to form the Big 12 Conference.

During another phase of realignment in 2005, three schools (Boston College, Miami-FL and Virginia Tech) jumped from the Big East to the ACC, and Temple also left the conference (before eventually returning in 2013). The Big East responded by adding former basketball-only member Connecticut and three schools from C-USA.[10]

College football underwent another major conference realignment from 2010 to 2014, as the Big Ten and Pac-10 sought to become large enough to stage championship games. Members of the original 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 Big East Conference that does not sponsor football (only three of its 10 members sponsor football, all at the second-tier Division I FCS level). The American, the football successor to the Big East, is no longer considered a power conference. Despite the major conference realignment from 2010 to 2014, relatively few schools dropped out of or joined the ranks of the power conferences. Two of the three non-AQ schools that had appeared in multiple BCS bowls left the Mountain West Conference and joined a power conference, as Utah joined the Pac-12 and TCU joined the Big 12. Former Big East members Connecticut, Temple, Cincinnati, and South Florida are all now part of The American; of those, only Temple was a founding member of the Big East in football.[10]

At present, six of the nine former members of the Southwest Conference are in Power Five conferences: Arkansas and Texas A&M are members of the SEC, while TCU, Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech are members of the Big 12. Houston and SMU are members of the American, while Rice is a member of Conference USA.

Under the BCS system[edit]

From 1998 to 2013, the top teams in Division I FBS played in the BCS. It consisted of four or five bowl games, with a national championship game either rotating among the bowl sites (prior to the 2006 season) or played as a separate game. The BCS succeeded two other systems that were put in place after the 1991 season in order to ensure that one national champion could be crowned at the end of the season. The original Bowl Coalition consisted of the SEC, the Big Eight Conference (later succeeded by the Big 12), the Southwest Conference (SWC), the ACC, the Big East, and Notre Dame. The BCS added the Pac-10 (now known as the Pac-12) and the Big Ten, while the SWC dissolved in 1996. In 2013, the Big East split into two conferences, and its successor, the American Athletic Conference (The American), took the Big East's place for the 2013 season.

In addition to creating a national championship game, the BCS also created a set format for other major bowls. After the two top teams in the BCS rankings were matched up in the BCS National Championship Game, the other three or (after the 2005 season) four bowls selected other top teams. The term "BCS conference" was used by many fans to refer to one of the six conferences whose champions received an automatic berth in one of the five BCS bowl games, although the BCS itself used the term "automatic qualifying conference" (AQ conference).[11] While the number of AQ conferences was technically variable,[12] the BCS always had six AQ conferences since its inception in 1998. The Mountain West Conference (MW) was perhaps the closest of the other conferences to getting AQ status, but its request for AQ status was denied in 2012.[13] Each of the bowls had a historic link with one or more of the six BCS conferences with the exception of the former Big East, and the bowl games selected a team from each of these conferences if it was eligible for a BCS bowl and not playing in the national title game. The conferences included in this group, with their traditional bowl links, were:

Notre Dame is an independent in football, but was a founding member[14] of the BCS.[15] Because of the "Notre Dame rule", it had guaranteed access to the BCS bowls when it met certain defined performance criteria.[16]

A map of every university in the automatic qualifying conferences in 2013.

The other five conferences (listed below) were non-AQ conferences because they did not receive an annual automatic bid to a BCS bowl game. The highest ranked champion of any non-AQ conference received an AQ bid if they ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS poll or ranked in the top 16 and higher than a champion of an AQ conference.[17]

The conferences in this group were:[18]

Ten "non-AQ" teams appeared in the nine following BCS games, with an overall record of 5-3:

Of these appearances, all were via automatic qualifying bids, except Boise State's participation in the highly controversial 2010 Fiesta Bowl in which the Broncos were selected via at-large bid and played fellow BCS Buster TCU.

BCS and CFP Bowl Game appearances by conference[edit]

The following table lists the number of times that a member of each conference appeared in a CFP bowl game or a BCS bowl game. From 1999 to 2006 there were four such games, from 2007 to 2014 there were five such games, and starting in 2015 there are six CFP bowl games (not including the national championship game). A * indicates a team from that conference won the national championship, while a ^ indicates a team from that conference played in the national championship game.

Year ACC Big 12 Big Ten Pac-12 SEC Amer Others
2017 2 1 3 1 2*^ 1 -
2016 2* 1 3 2 2^ 1 1
2015 2 2 2* 2^ 3 - 1
2014 2* 2 2 1 2^ 1 -
2013 1 1 1 2 2* 1 2^
2012 2 1 2 2 2*^ 1 0
2011 1 1 2 2^ 2* 1 1
2010 1 1^ 2 1 2* 1 2
2009 1 2^ 2 1 2* 1 1
2008 1 2 2^ 1 2* 1 1
2007 1 1 2^ 1 2* 1 2
2006 1 1* 1 2^ 1 1 1
2005 1 2^ 1 1* 1 1 1
2004 1 2^ 2 1* 1* 1 0
2003 1 1 2* 2 1 1^ 0
2002 1 2^ 1 1 2 1* 0
2001 1^ 1* 1 2 1 1 1
2000 1* 1 2 1 2 1^ 0
1999 1^ 1 2 1 2* 1 0
Total 22 25 32 26 32 15 16
Champs 3 2 2 1 10 1 0

Other sports[edit]

The Power Five conferences sponsor other sports in addition to football.

Men's team sports
Sport ACC Big 12 Big Ten Pac-12 SEC Total
Football 15 10 14 12 14 65
Basketball 15 10 14 12 14 65
Baseball 14 9 13 11 14 61
Soccer 12 9 5 26
Lacrosse 5 6 11
Ice hockey 7 7

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bylaw Equivalency Computations, Application to Autonomy Conferences" (PDF). 2017–18 NCAA Division I Manual. August 1, 2017. p. 209. Retrieved September 4, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Bylaw Equivalency Computations, Application to Autonomy Conferences" (PDF). 2017–18 NCAA Division I Manual. August 1, 2017. p. 209. Retrieved September 4, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b McMurphy, Brett (August 7, 2014). "Power Five coaches polled on games". ESPN. Retrieved December 9, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Fornelli, Tom (March 19, 2015). "SEC will consider Notre Dame, BYU, and Army as Power Five opponents". CBS. Retrieved September 17, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b McMurphy, Brett (September 22, 2015). "Independents BYU, Army, Notre Dame can fulfill Power 5 quota for Big Ten". ESPN. Retrieved September 17, 2016. 
  6. ^ McMurphy, Brett (January 29, 2015). "ACC: BYU to count as Power 5 team". ESPN.com. Retrieved February 3, 2015. 
  7. ^ Bennett, Brian (August 8, 2014). "NCAA board votes to allow autonomy". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 9, 2014. 
  8. ^ McMurphy, Brett (November 13, 2012). "Six bowls in playoff format". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 24, 2013. 
  9. ^ Facher, Lev (June 20, 2016). "Report: Big Ten getting $2.64 billion in new TV deal". Detroit Free Press. 
  10. ^ a b Bostock, Mike (November 30, 2013). "Tracing the History of N.C.A.A. Conferences". New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 28, 2009. Retrieved January 8, 2010. 
  12. ^ "AQ conferences could grow by 1 in 2012". Bowl Championship Series. April 22, 2010. 
  13. ^ "BCS denies Mountain West automatic qualifying exemption". Retrieved December 9, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Bowl Championship Series FAQ" Bowl Championship Series.
  15. ^ "BCS Governance" Bowl Championship Series.
  16. ^ Mandel, Stewart (August 18, 2010). "Would BYU be Notre Dame as a football independent ... or Navy?". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  17. ^ "BCS selection procedures". ESPN.com. January 12, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 7, 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2007.