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Football Bowl Subdivision

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Football Bowl Subdivision

Division I (D-I) is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States. D-I schools include the major collegiate athletic powers, with larger budgets, more elaborate facilities, and more athletic scholarships than Divisions II and III as well as many smaller schools committed to the highest level of intercollegiate competition. This level was once called the University Division of the NCAA, in contrast to the College Division; this terminology was replaced with numeric divisions (I, II, III) in 1973.[1] In football only, Division I was further subdivided in 1978 into Division I-A (the principal football schools) and Division I-AA.[2] In 2006, Division I-A and I-AA were renamed "Football Bowl Subdivision" (FBS) and "Football Championship Subdivision" (FCS),[3] which, along with the "Non-Football" schools, now make up all of Division I.[4][5] For the 2012-13 school year, Division I contains 340 of the NCAA's 1,066 member institutions, with 125 in FBS, 122 in FCS, and 98 in NFS.[6] There was a moratorium on any additional movement up to D-I until 2012, after which any school desirous of moving to D-I must first be accepted for membership by a conference and must show the NCAA that it has the financial ability to support a D-I program.

All D-I schools must field teams in at least seven sports for men and seven for women or six for men and eight for women, with at least two team sports for each gender.[7] There are several other NCAA sanctioned minimums and differences that distinguish Division I from Divisions II and III.[7]

In addition to the schools that compete fully as D-I institutions, the NCAA allows D-II and D-III schools to classify one men's and one women's sport (other than football or basketball) as a D-I sport, as long as they had been sponsoring those sports prior to the latest rules change in 2011.[8]

Scholarship limits by sport

The NCAA imposes limits on the total financial aid each Division I member may award in each sport that the school sponsors. It divides sports that it sponsors into two types for purposes of scholarship limitations:

  • "Head-count" sports, in which the NCAA limits the total number of individuals that can receive athletic scholarships, but allows each player to receive up to a full scholarship.
  • "Equivalency" sports, in which the NCAA limits the total financial aid that a school can offer in a given sport to the equivalent of a set number of full scholarships. Roster limitations may or may not apply, depending on the sport.

The term "counter" is also key to this concept. The NCAA defines a "counter" as "an individual who is receiving institutional financial aid that is countable against the aid limitations in a sport."[9]

The number of scholarships that Division I members may award in each sport is listed below. In this table, scholarship numbers for head-count sports are indicated without a decimal point; for equivalency sports, they are listed with a decimal point, with a trailing zero if required.

Sport Men's Women's
11.7[10][nb 1]
Cross-country/track & field
12.6[17][nb 2]
18.0[16][nb 3]
Field hockey
85 (FBS)[19][nb 4]
63.0 (FCS)[20][nb 5]
Ice hockey
18.0[22][nb 6]
18.0[nb 7]
3.6[17][nb 8]
Sand volleyball
5.0[nb 9]
Swimming and diving
Water polo
  1. Each counter must receive athletic aid equal to at least 25% of a full scholarship.[11] The 25% rule does not apply to baseball schools that offer only need-based aid (such as Ivy League members).[12] A second exception to the 25% rule, added in 2012, is for players in their final year of athletic eligibility who have not previously received athletically related aid in baseball.[13]

Rules for multi-sport athletes

The NCAA also has rules specifying the sport in which multi-sport athletes are to be counted, with the basic rules being:[26]

  • Anyone who participates in football is counted in that sport, even if he does not receive financial aid from the football program. An exception exists for players at non-scholarship FCS programs who receive aid in another sport.[27]
  • Participants in basketball are counted in that sport, unless they also play football.
  • Participants in men's ice hockey are counted in that sport, unless they also play football or basketball.
  • Participants in both men's swimming and diving and men's water polo are counted in swimming and diving, unless they count in football or basketball.
  • Participants in women's (indoor) volleyball are counted in that sport unless they also play basketball.
  • All other multi-sport athletes are counted in whichever sport the school chooses.


Division I athletic programs generated $8.7 billion in revenue in the 2009–2010 academic year. Men's teams provided 55% of the total, women's teams 15%, and 30% was not categorized by sex or sport. Football and men's basketball are usually the only sports that are profitable for universities, with others usually losing money.[28] The BYU Cougars, for example, in 2009 had revenue of $41 million and expenses of $35 million, resulting in a profit of $5.5 million or about 16% margin. Football (60% of revenue, 53% profit margin) and men's basketball (15% of revenue, 8% profit margin) were profitable; women's basketball (less than 3% of revenue) and all other sports were unprofitable.[29] From 2008 to 2012, 205 varsity teams were dropped in NCAA Division I - 72 for women and 133 for men, with men’s tennis, gymnastics and wrestling hit particularly hard.[30]

In the Football Bowl Subdivision (125 schools in 2013), between 50 and 60 percent of football and men’s basketball programs generated revenues.[31] However, in the Football Championship Subdivision (124 schools in 2013), only four percent of football and five percent of men’s basketball programs generated revenues.[32]

In 2012, 2% of athletic budgets were spent on equipment, uniforms and supplies for male athletes at NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision school, with the median spending per-school at $742,000. [33]


Men's Team Sports

Number Sport Teams Conferences Scholarships
per team
1 Football 249 23 85 (FBS)
63.0 (FCS)
2 Basketball 350 32 13 Winter
3 Baseball 280 31 11.7 Spring
4 Soccer 204 23 9.9 Fall
5 Ice Hockey 59 5 18.0 Winter
6 Lacrosse 63 10 12.6 Spring
7 Water Polo 42 3 4.5 Fall
8 Volleyball 23 3 4.5 Spring

Sports are ranked according to total possible scholarships (number of teams x number of scholarships per team). Scholarship numbers for head-count sports are indicated without a decimal point. Numbers for equivalency sports are indicated with a decimal point, with a trailing zero if needed.


  • Football — D-I football programs are divided into FBS and FCS. The 125 FBS programs, 119 of them competing in 10 conferences and six others competing as football independents, can award financial aid to as many as 85 players, with each player able to receive up to a full scholarship. The 124 FCS programs, with 119 competing in 13 conferences and five others competing as football independents, can award up to the equivalent of 63 full scholarships, divided among no more than 85 individuals. Some FCS conferences restrict scholarships to a lower level or prohibit scholarships altogether.
  • Soccer — The Big 12 and the SEC are the only two major traditional D-I conferences that do not sponsor soccer. Several other D-I conferences also do not sponsor the sport—the Big Sky, MEAC, Mountain West, Ohio Valley, Southland, and SWAC.
  • Ice Hockey — Almost all D-I ice hockey programs are in the Northeast, the Upper Midwest, or the Colorado Front Range. Since the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference dropped the sport in 2003, none of the traditional conferences have sponsored ice hockey, with all current conferences historically hockey-specific leagues. Beginning with the 2013-14 season, the Big Ten will sponsor hockey for the first time. Of the 59 D-I hockey schools, 22 are otherwise classified as either D-II or D-III; D-II has an insufficient number of schools to sponsor a separate divisional championship, and the D-III schools in D-I were "grandfathered" in through their having sponsored hockey as a scholarship sport prior to the creation of D-III. (The D-II Northeast-10 Conference sponsors ice hockey, but it and its 6 competing teams do not compete in D-I.)
  • Lacrosse — The vast majority of D-I lacrosse programs are from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. There are only two D-I programs west of the Mississippi, both on the Colorado Front Range (Air Force and Denver).
  • Water Polo —No school outside of California has ever made the finals of the championship. All champions since 1998 have come from one of the four California based Pac-12 schools.
  • Volleyball — The number of D-I schools sponsoring volleyball has fluctuated between 20 and 24 teams since 1986.[34] None of the traditional D-I conferences sponsor volleyball. Two of the three conferences are volleyball-specific conferences; the other is a multi-sport conference that does not sponsor either football or basketball. In addition to the D-I schools, 21 D-II schools and one D-II conference compete in D-I volleyball, since D-II does not have a separate competition. (Neither D-I nor D-II has a sufficient number of teams to sponsor a national championship without the other.)

Women's Team Sports

Number Sport Teams Conferences Scholarships
per team
1 Basketball 348 32 15 Winter
2 Soccer 327 32 14.0 Fall
3 Softball 291 31 12.0 Spring
4 Volleyball 332 32 12* Fall
5 Rowing 88 12 20.0 Spring
6 Lacrosse 100 13 12.0 Spring
7 Field Hockey 80 11 12.0 Fall
8 Ice Hockey 36 4 18.0 Winter
9 Water Polo 44 6 8.0 Spring
10 Sand Volleyball 36 1 5.0* Spring
11 Rugby 3 -- 12.0


  • = Sand Volleyball and Rugby are classified by the NCAA as "emerging sports" for women.
  • * = The number of scholarships are partially linked for Volleyball and Sand Volleyball. Schools that field both indoor and sand volleyball teams are allowed 5.0 full scholarship equivalents specifically for sand volleyball in 2013–14 (increasing to 6.0 in 2014–15), with the further limitations that (1) no player receiving aid for sand volleyball can be on the indoor volleyball roster and (2) a maximum of 14 individuals can receive aid in sand volleyball. If a school fields only a sand volleyball team, it is allowed 8.0 full scholarship equivalents for that sport, also distributed among no more than 14 individuals.
  • As in the men's table above, sports are ranked in order of total possible scholarships. Numbers for head-count sports are indicated without a decimal point; those for equivalency sports are indicated with a decimal point, with a trailing zero if needed.

Football subdivisions

Subdivisions in Division I exist only in football.[5][35] In all other sports, all Division I conferences are equivalent. The subdivisions were recently given names to reflect the differing levels of football play in them.

The method by which the NCAA determines whether a school is Bowl or Championship subdivision is first by attendance numbers and then by scholarships.[36] For attendance reporting methods, the NCAA allows schools to report either total tickets sold or the number of persons in attendance at the games. They require a minimum average of 15,000 people in attendance every other year.[36] These numbers get posted to the NCAA statistics website for football each year. With the new rules starting in the 2006 season, the number of Bowl Subdivision schools could drop in the future if those schools are not able to pull in enough fans into the games. Additionally, 14 FCS schools had enough attendance to be moved up in 2012.[37] Under current NCAA rules, these schools must have an invitation from an FBS conference in order to move to FBS. Three of them—Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Old Dominion—began FBS transitions in 2013. All had the required FBS conference invitations, with Old Dominion joining Conference USA n 2013, and Appalachian State and Georgia Southern set to join the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.

Football Bowl Subdivision

Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the top level of college football, which is currently the only NCAA-sponsored sport without an organized tournament to determine its champion.[38] Schools in Division I FBS compete in post-season bowl games, with the champions of six conferences receiving automatic bids to the Bowl Championship Series to determine a national champion. This is due to many factors, including that bowl games are sanctioned by the NCAA (primarily in terms of amateurism regulations and guaranteeing a minimum payout to conferences of the participating schools), but are not under its direct administration. Starting with the 2014 season, the BCS will be dissolved, with a four-team playoff to determine a national champion (the College Football Playoff), replacing it.[39]

The remaining four conferences, often referred to as "Mid-majors",[40][41] do not receive automatic bids but their conference champions are eligible for an automatic bid if it ranks in the BCS top 12 or in the top 16 and ahead of the champion from a conference with an automatic bid. Only one "mid-major" champion can qualify for an automatic bid in any year. The one exception is Notre Dame, which only has to rank in the top eight of the BCS standings to earn an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game.[42]

FBS schools are limited to a total of 85 football players receiving financial assistance.[43] For competitive reasons, a student receiving partial scholarship counts fully against the total of 85. Nearly all FBS schools that are not on NCAA probation give 85 full scholarships.

As of 2012, there are 120 full members of Division I FBS. The most recent addition to FBS was Western Kentucky University, which ended its two-year transition period from Division I FCS in 2008 and became a full FBS member in 2009.[44] In July 2011, four schools began transitions to FBS, starting as FCS members. Under NCAA rules, these schools were ineligible for the FCS playoffs in 2011.

Five other schools have announced future transitions to FBS:

  • Georgia State University began its FBS transition in 2012. The Panthers, currently full members of the CAA, started a football program in 2010. Like UMass in 2011, the 2012 Panthers played a full CAA schedule and were technically classified as CAA members. In July 2013, Georgia State will return to the Sun Belt Conference, which it had left in 1981, and will play a full conference schedule. Full FBS membership will follow in 2014.[45]
  • The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte) will begin its FBS transition in 2013, the same year it starts its football program and rejoins C-USA. It will play as an FCS independent in 2013 and an FBS independent without bowl eligibility in 2014 before joining the C-USA football league in 2015.[46]
  • Old Dominion University, another full member of the CAA, has announced its departure for C-USA, also effective in 2013. Unlike Georgia State, ODU will not begin its FBS transition until 2013; this means that the 2012 Monarchs will be full CAA members and eligible for the FCS playoffs. ODU will become a C-USA football member alongside Charlotte in 2015.[47]
  • Two members of the Southern Conference, Appalachian State University and Georgia Southern University, were officially announced on March 27, 2013 as future members of the Sun Belt Conference. Both schools will begin FBS transitions in 2013 in advance of their 2014 entry into the Sun Belt. They will be counted as FBS members for scheduling purposes in 2014, and will be eligible for the Sun Belt football championship, but will not be eligible for bowl games until completing their transitions in 2015.[48][49] Georgia Southern began preparations for its FBS move in September 2012, when it announced that its students had approved increases in student fees to fund FBS-related expenses (such as additional scholarships, coaching positions, and facilities) and an expansion of its football stadium.[50] With GSU's invitation to the Sun Belt secured, both fees will go into effect in 2013–14.

Any conference with at least 12 football teams may split its teams into two divisions and conduct a championship game between the division winners.[51][52] The prize is normally a specific bowl game bid for which the conference has a tie-in, or a guaranteed spot in the BCS (depending on the conference).

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 and 12 with the addition of Nebraska in 2011. The Big 12 Conference was established in 1996 with 12 members, but continues to use that name even after the 2011 departure of Colorado and Nebraska 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.


Conference Nickname Founded Members Sports Headquarters
American Athletic Conference ** The American 1979 [FBS 1] 10 (11 by July 2014)[FBS 2][FBS 3] 21 Providence, Rhode Island
Atlantic Coast Conference ** ACC 1953 15 [FBS 4] 25 Greensboro, North Carolina
Big Ten Conference ** Big Ten 1896 12 (14 by July 2014)[FBS 5] 26 [FBS 6] Park Ridge, Illinois
Big 12 Conference ** Big 12 1996 10 21 Irving, Texas
Conference USA C-USA 1995[FBS 7] 16 (14 by July 2014)[FBS 8][FBS 9] 21 Irving, Texas
Division I FBS Independents[FBS 10] 6 (4 by July 2014, 3 by July 2015)[FBS 11]
Mid-American Conference MAC 1946 12[FBS 12] 23 Cleveland, Ohio
Mountain West Conference MW (official)
MWC (informal)
1999 11[FBS 13] 19 Colorado Springs, Colorado
Pacific-12 Conference ** Pac-12 1915[FBS 14] 12[FBS 15] 22 Walnut Creek, California
Southeastern Conference ** SEC 1932 14 20 Birmingham, Alabama
Sun Belt Conference Sun Belt 1976 10 (11 by July 2014)[FBS 16][FBS 17] 19 New Orleans, Louisiana

(** BCS Automatic Qualification (AQ) Conferences; this status will end in 2014 when the BCS is dissolved in favor of the College Football Playoff.)

  1. Louisville and Rutgers will leave The American, respectively for the ACC and Big Ten.
  2. In 2015:
    • Navy will become a football-only member.
  3. Colorado College, a Division III school with a Division I men's ice hockey team, plays Division I women's soccer in Conference USA; it filled the place left vacant by Tulane when it suspended women's soccer in 2005 due to the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina. Tulane has not reinstated the sport.
  4. Nine schools participate only in women's rowing. Alabama, Sacramento State, San Diego State, and Tennessee compete solely as C-USA members. The five Big 12 schools that sponsor the sport—Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia—have dual membership, competing among themselves for a Big 12 championship and also contesting the C-USA championship.
  5. In 2014:
    • East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa will all leave for The American.
    • Western Kentucky will join from the Sun Belt.
  6. Hartwick and West Virginia in men's soccer.
  7. Missouri, Northern Iowa, and Old Dominion in wrestling.
  8. UMass in football.
  9. Missouri State in women's field hockey and men's swimming and diving.
  10. Idaho and New Mexico State will join for football only.
  11. Western Kentucky will leave for C-USA.

Football Championship Subdivision

The Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA, determines its national champion on the field in a 20-team, single-elimination tournament.[53] With the expansion of the tournament field in 2010 from 16 teams to 20, the champions of 10 conferences receive automatic bids, with 10 "at-large" spots; and the top 12 teams receive first-round byes. A team must have at least seven wins to be eligible for an at-large spot.[54][55]

The tournament traditionally begins on Thanksgiving weekend in late November, and during the era of the 16-team field ran for four weeks, ending with the championship game in mid-December. Since 2010, the tournament has run for four weeks (for seeds 13–20) to determine the two finalists, who play for the FCS national title in early January in Frisco, Texas, the scheduled host through the 2015 season. For thirteen seasons, the title game was played in Chattanooga, Tennessee, (1997–2009), preceded by five seasons in Huntington, West Virginia, where host Marshall advanced to the title game in four of the five years.[56]

When I-AA was formed in 1978, the playoffs included just four teams for its first three seasons, doubling to eight teams for one season in 1981. From 1982 to 1985, I-AA had a 12-team tournament, with each of the top four seeds receiving a first-round bye and a home game in the quarterfinals.[57] The I-AA playoffs went to 16 teams in 1986, and the FCS playoffs expanded to 20 teams starting in 2010. After 28 seasons, the "I-AA" was dropped by the NCAA in 2006, although it is still informally and commonly used.


The Football Championship Subdivision includes several conferences which do not participate in the eponymous post-season championship tournament. The Ivy League was lowered to I-AA (FCS) following the 1981 season,[58] and plays a strict ten-game schedule. It has yet to participate in the post-season tournament, despite an automatic bid, citing academic concerns. The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) has its own championship game in mid-December between the champions of its East and West divisions. Also, three of its member schools traditionally do not finish their regular seasons until Thanksgiving weekend. Grambling State and Southern play each other in the Bayou Classic, and Alabama State plays Tuskegee University (a Division II team) in the Turkey Day Classic. SWAC teams are eligible to accept at-large bids if their schedule is not in conflict. The last SWAC team to participate in the I-AA playoffs was Jackson State in 1997; the SWAC never achieved success in the tournament, going winless in 19 games in twenty years (1978–97).

From 2006 through 2009, the Pioneer Football League and Northeast Conference champions played in the Gridiron Classic, though all conference teams technically remained tournament eligible. If a league champion was invited to the national championship, the second-place team would play in the Gridiron Classic. That game was scrapped after the 2009 season when its four-year contract ran out; this coincided with the NCAA's announcement that the Northeast Conference would get an automatic bid to the tournament starting in 2010. The Big South Conference also received an automatic bid in the same season. The Pioneer Football League will earn an automatic bid beginning in 2013.

Schools in a transition period after joining the FCS from a lower division (or from the NAIA) are also ineligible for the playoffs.


Division I FCS schools are currently restricted to giving financial assistance amounting to 63 full scholarships. As FCS football is an "equivalency" sport (as opposed to the "head-count" status of FBS football), Championship Subdivision schools may divide their allotment into partial scholarships. However, FCS schools may only have 85 players receiving any sort of athletic financial aid for football—the same numeric limit as FBS schools. Because of competitive forces, however, a substantial number of players in Championship Subdivision programs are on full scholarships. Another difference is that FCS schools are allowed to award financial aid to as many as 30 new players per season, as opposed to 25 in FBS. Finally, FCS schools are limited to 95 individuals participating in preseason practices, as opposed to 105 at FBS schools (the three service academies that play FBS football are exempt from preseason practice player limits by NCAA rule).

A few Championship Subdivision conferences are composed of schools that offer no athletic scholarships at all, most notably the Ivy League and the Pioneer Football League (PFL), a football-only conference. The Ivy League allows no athletic scholarships at all, while the PFL consists of schools that offer scholarships in other sports but choose not to take on the expense of a scholarship football program. The Northeast Conference also sponsored non-scholarship football, but began offering a maximum of 30 full scholarship equivalents in 2006, which grew to 40 in 2011 after a later vote of the league's school presidents and athletic directors. The Patriot League only began awarding football scholarships in the 2013 season, with the first scholarships awarded only to incoming freshmen. Before the conference began its transition to scholarship football, athletes receiving scholarships in other sports were ineligible to play football for member schools. When the transition is complete in the 2016 season, member schools will be allowed up to 60 full scholarship equivalents.[59]


Conference Nickname Founded Full Members Sports Headquarters FCS Tournament Bid
Big Sky Conference Big Sky 1963 11 (12 by July 2014)[FCS 1][FCS 2] 15 Ogden, Utah Automatic
Big South Conference Big South 1983 12 (11 by July 2014)[FCS 3] 18 Charlotte, North Carolina Automatic
Colonial Athletic Association CAA 1983[FCS 4] 9 (10 by July 2014)[FCS 5][FCS 6] 21 Richmond, Virginia Automatic
Division I FCS Independents [FCS 7] 6 (none by July 2014) [FCS 8] Invitation
Ivy League Ivy League 1954[FCS 9] 8 33 Princeton, New Jersey Automatic – (Abstains)
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference MEAC 1970 13[FCS 10] 15 Norfolk, Virginia Automatic
Missouri Valley Football Conference MVFC 1985[FCS 11] 10 1 St. Louis, Missouri Automatic
Northeast Conference NEC 1981 10 [FCS 12][FCS 13] 22 Somerset, New Jersey Automatic
Ohio Valley Conference OVC 1948 12[FCS 14][FCS 15] 17 Brentwood, Tennessee Automatic
Patriot League Patriot 1986[FCS 16] 10[FCS 17][FCS 18] 23 Center Valley, Pennsylvania Automatic
Pioneer Football League PFL 1991 12 (11 by July 2014)[FCS 19] 1 St. Louis, Missouri Automatic
Southern Conference SoCon 1921 11 (10 by July 2014)[FCS 20][FCS 21][FCS 22] 19 Spartanburg, South Carolina Automatic
Southland Conference SLC 1963 14[FCS 23] 17 Frisco, Texas Automatic
Southwestern Athletic Conference SWAC 1920 10 18 Birmingham, Alabama Abstains

  1. In 2015, Kennesaw State, which is beginning an FCS football program, will become a football-only associate.
  2. In 1946, after the departure of Northeastern, the remaining members of the New England Conference affiliated with the University of Vermont to form the Yankee Conference under a separate charter, with athletic competition starting in 1947.
  3. In 1997, the Yankee Conference was absorbed by the Atlantic 10 Conference. The A10 inherited the Yankee Conference's automatic berth in the Division I-AA (now FCS) playoffs. In addition to the four charter New England Conference members mentioned above, five other members of the Yankee Conference at the time of the A10 merger are still in the CAA football conference.
  4. After the 2006 season, all of the A10 football teams left for the new CAA football conference. The CAA inherited the A10's automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.
  5. Dayton competes in women's golf. Richmond, a football affiliate, also houses its women's golf team in the CAA.
  6. UMass, Penn State, and Saint Joseph's play men's lacrosse. Penn State will leave the CAA in July 2014 when its main conference, the Big Ten, launches a men's lacrosse league.
  7. Fairfield will become a men's lacrosse affiliate in July 2014.
  8. Charlotte and Old Dominion, both transitioning to FBS, are new members of Conference USA. Neither team is eligible for the 2013 FCS playoffs. In the 2014 season, both will be counted as FBS members for scheduling purposes; Old Dominion will become a football member of C-USA at that time, while Charlotte will be counted as an FBS independent before joining C-USA football in 2015.
  9. Monmouth, a new member of the non-football Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 2013 and remaining in FCS, will become a football-only member of the Big South in 2014.
  10. Hobart, otherwise a Division III member, and Saint Joseph's participate in men's lacrosse..
  11. Non-football member Davidson will leave for the A10, and all-sports member Elon will leave for the CAA.
  12. East Tennessee State, Mercer, and VMI will join as full members; ETSU will initially be a non-football member.
  13. In 2015, ETSU will relaunch its football program in the SoCon.

Division I non-football schools

Several Bowl Subdivision and Championship Subdivision conferences have member institutions that do not compete in football. Such schools are sometimes unofficially referred to as I-AAA.[60]

The following non-football conferences have full members that sponsor football:

The following Division I conferences do not sponsor football. These conferences still compete in Division I for all sports that they sponsor.


Conference Nickname Founded Members Sports Headquarters
America East Conference America East 1979 9 [NF 1] 22 Boston, Massachusetts
Atlantic Sun Conference A-Sun 1978 10 (8 by July 2014)[NF 2][NF 3] 20 Macon, Georgia
Atlantic 10 Conference A-10 1975 13 (14 by July 2014)[NF 4][NF 5] 21 Newport News, Virginia
Big East Conference Big East 2013[NF 6] 10[NF 7] 22 TBA
Big West Conference Big West 1969 9[NF 8] 16 Irvine, California
Horizon League Horizon 1979 9 19 Indianapolis, Indiana
Independents[NF 9] Independents 1 [NF 10]
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference MAAC 1980 11[NF 11] 23 Edison, New Jersey
Missouri Valley Conference MVC / Valley 1907 10 [NF 12] 19 St. Louis, Missouri
The Summit League The Summit 1982 8 [NF 13] 19 Elmhurst, Illinois
West Coast Conference WCC 1952 10[NF 14] 14 San Bruno, California
Western Athletic Conference WAC 1962 9 (8 by July 2014)[NF 15][NF 16] 19 Greenwood Village, Colorado

  1. Detroit, Elon, and Howard play only women's lacrosse. Elon will spend only one season as an A-Sun affiliate, as it will join the lacrosse-sponsoring CAA in July 2014.
  2. Furman plays both men's and women's lacrosse.
  3. Old Dominion will join for women's lacrosse in July 2014.
  4. Bellarmine, otherwise a Division II member, will move its Division I men's lacrosse program to the conference in July 2014.
  5. Connecticut, Louisville, and Temple participate in both field hockey and women's lacrosse. The Louisville teams will only spend the 2013–14 school year in the Big East before being reunited with the rest of the school's athletic program in the ACC.
  6. Denver participates in men's lacrosse.
  7. Old Dominion participates in field hockey.
  8. Rutgers is participating in field hockey, men's lacrosse, and women's lacrosse for 2013–14 only before all three teams are reunited with Rutgers' other sports in the Big Ten.
  9. Detroit participates in men's lacrosse.
  10. Drake participates in women's rowing.
  11. St. Francis (NY), Villanova, VMI, and Wagner participate in women's water polo.
  12. Bryant participates in field hockey and men's swimming and diving.
  13. Robert Morris and Sacred Heart participate in field hockey and women's rowing.
  14. Jacksonville participates in women's rowing and the non-NCAA sport of men's rowing.
  15. Central Arkansas and SIU Edwardsville are associates in men's soccer.
  16. Dallas Baptist, otherwise a Division II institution, plays baseball.
  17. Seattle participate in women's golf.
  18. Utah Valley participates in softball.
    • CSU Bakersfield and Utah Valley have dual membership for softball in the WCC and their all-sports conference, the WAC. The WAC does not currently qualify for an automatic bid to the NCAA softball tournament because Grand Canyon, one of the six WAC schools sponsoring the sport, is reclassifying from NCAA Division II and is thus ineligible for the NCAA softball tournament.
  19. Houston Baptist and San Jose State participate only in men's soccer.
  20. North Dakota and Northern Colorado both participate in baseball and women's swimming and diving. North Dakota also participates in men's swimming and diving.
  21. Northern Arizona participates in women's swimming and diving.
  22. Sacramento State participates in baseball.
  23. Wyoming participates in men's swimming and diving.

Of these, the three that most recently sponsored football were the Atlantic 10, MAAC, and WAC. The A-10 football league dissolved in 2006 with its members going to the Colonial Athletic Association. In addition, four A-10 schools (Dayton, Fordham, Duquesne, and Massachusetts) play football in a conference other than the new CAA, which still includes two full-time A-10 members (Rhode Island and Richmond). The MAAC stopped sponsoring football in 2007, after most of its members gradually stopped fielding teams. The only pre-2007 MAAC member that still sponsors football is Marist; Monmouth became the second full MAAC member with football upon its arrival in 2013. Marist plays in the Pioneer Football League, while Monmouth will spend the 2013 season as an FCS independent before moving its football program into the Big South. The WAC dropped football at the end of the 2012 season, after a near-complete membership turnover that saw the conference stripped of all but two of its football-sponsoring members. The two remaining football-sponsoring schools, Idaho and New Mexico State, are playing the 2013 season as FBS independents before becoming football-only members of the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.

Division I in ice hockey

Some sports, most notably ice hockey[61] and men's volleyball, have completely different conference structures that operate outside of the normal NCAA sports conference structure.

As ice hockey is limited to a much smaller number of almost exclusively Northern schools, there is a completely different conference structure for teams.[61] These conferences feature a mix of teams that play their other sports in various Division I conferences, and even Division II and Division III schools. For most of the early 21st century, there was no correlation between a team's ice hockey affiliation and its affiliation for other sports, with the exception of the Ivy League's hockey-playing schools all being members of the ECAC. For example, before 2013, the Hockey East men's conference consisted of one ACC school, one Big East school, four schools from the America East, one from the A-10, one CAA school, and two schools from the D-II Northeast Ten Conference, while the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) both had some Big Ten representation, plus Division II and III schools. Also, the divisional structure is truncated, with the Division II championship abolished in 1999.

Starting with the 2013–14 season, Division I men's hockey experienced a major realignment. The Big Ten Conference became the first regular all-sport Division I conference to sponsor hockey since the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference ceased its sponsorship of the sport in 2003,[62] with the remaining members forming Atlantic Hockey. Existing Big Ten schools withdrew their membership from the WCHA and CCHA.[63] Additionally, six other schools from those conferences withdrew to form the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference at the same time.[64] The fallout from these moves led to the demise of the CCHA, two more teams entering the NCHC, and further membership turnover in the men's side of the WCHA.

Women's hockey was largely unaffected by this realignment. The Big Ten still has only four members with varsity women's hockey, with six teams required under conference bylaws for official sponsorship. As a result, the only changes in women's hockey affiliations in the 2010–13 period occurred in College Hockey America, which saw two schools drop the sport and three new members join.


Conference Nickname Founded Members (Men/Women)
Atlantic Hockey AHA 1997 12 (12/none) (11/none in July 2014) [H 1]
Big Ten Conference Big Ten 1896 [H 2] 6 (6/none)
College Hockey America CHA 1999 [H 3] 6 (none/6)
ECAC Hockey N/A 1962 12 (12/12)
Hockey East N/A 1984 12 (11/8) (12 [12/8] in July 2014)[H 4]
Independents 1 (none/1)[H 5]
National Collegiate Hockey Conference NCHC 2011[H 6] 8 (8/none)
Western Collegiate Hockey Association WCHA 1951 16 (10/8)


In the early 21st century, a controversy arose in the NCAA over whether schools will continue to be allowed to have one showcased program in Division I with the remainder of the athletic program in a lower division, as is the case of, notably, Johns Hopkins University lacrosse as well as Colorado College and University of Alabama in Huntsville in ice hockey. This is an especially important issue in hockey, which has no Division II national championship and has several schools whose other athletic programs compete in Division II and Division III.

This controversy was resolved at the 2004 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee when the members supported Proposal 65-1, the amended legislation co-sponsored by Colorado College, Clarkson University, Hartwick College, the Johns Hopkins University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rutgers University-Newark, St. Lawrence University, and SUNY Oneonta.[65][66] Each school affected by this debate is allowed to grant financial aid to student-athletes who compete in Division I programs in one men's sport and one women's sport. It is still permitted for other schools to place one men's and one women's sport in Division I going forward, but they cannot offer scholarships without bringing the whole program into compliance with Division I rules. In addition, schools in Divisions II and III are allowed to "play up" in any sport that does not have a championship for the school's own division, but only Division II programs and any Division III programs covered by the exemption can offer scholarships in those sports.

The Division I programs at each of the eight "waiver schools" which were grandfathered with the passing of Proposal 65-1 were:

See also


External links

  • List of Division I schools at
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