NCAA Division I Football Championship
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NCAA Division I Football Championship

The NCAA Division I Football Championship[1] is an American college football tournament played each year to determine the champion of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Prior to 2006, the game was known as the NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship. The FCS is the highest division in college football to hold a playoff tournament sanctioned by the NCAA to determine its champion. The four-team playoff system used by the Bowl Subdivision is not sanctioned by the NCAA.

The reigning national champions are the North Dakota State Bison, who won their sixth championship in seven years after winning five consecutive titles from 2011-2015.


Appalachian State's National Championship trophies showing the differences between 2005 (I-AA), 2006 (FCS), and 2007 (FCS).

When Division I-AA was formed for football in 1978, the playoffs included just four teams, doubling to eight teams in its fourth season of 1981. In 1982, the I-AA playoffs were expanded to 12 teams, with each of the top four seeds receiving a first-round bye and a home game in the quarterfinals. In its ninth season of 1986, the playoffs expanded to a 16-team format, requiring four post-season victories to win the title. Eight conference champions received automatic bids, with the remaining eight bids available on an at-large basis. The field is traditionally set the Sunday before Thanksgiving and play begins that weekend. The top four teams are seeded; however, the matchups are not strictly set up by these seedings as geographic considerations are also taken into account to minimize travel.

In April 2008, the NCAA announced that the playoff field would expand to twenty teams in 2010, with the number of conferences receiving automatic bids increasing to ten. The structure then adopted included eight teams playing in four first-round games. The four first round winners advance to the second Round of Sixteen where they play the top four seeds. The playoffs expanded to 24 teams beginning with the 2013 season. The number of conferences whose champions receive automatic bids increased to eleven with the addition of a bid for the Pioneer Football League and the number of first-round games increased from four to eight.

The tournament was historically played in December; with the expansion to twelve teams in 1982, earlier rounds were held in late November. With the 2010 expansion to a 20-team field, the championship game moved from December to January, with several weeks between the semifinals and finals. From 1997 through 2009, the title game was played at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the home field of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In the five previous years (1992-1996) it was at Marshall University Stadium (now Joan C. Edwards Stadium) in Huntington, West Virginia.

Since 2010, the title game has been played in Frisco, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas, at Toyota Stadium (known as Pizza Hut Park until the day after the championship game of the 2011 season, and then as FC Dallas Stadium until September 2013), a multi-purpose stadium primarily used by FC Dallas of Major League Soccer. The original contract with Frisco began in the 2010 season and ran through the 2012 season.[2] The contract has since been extended twice, first through the 2015 season[3] and later through the 2019 season.[4]

Three Football Championship Subdivision conferences usually do not participate in the tournament. The Ivy League, which has been at the FCS level since 1982 and prohibits its members from awarding athletic scholarships in any sport, plays a strict ten-game regular season and does not participate in any post-season football, citing academic concerns.[5][6] The Southwestern Athletic Conference and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, two conferences consisting of historically black colleges and universities, opt to play the Celebration Bowl (which was established in 2015) instead of the FCS tournament; the MEAC gave up its automatic spot in the tournament prior to the 2015 season, while the SWAC (whose regular season extends through the Turkey Day Classic and Bayou Classic at the end of November and holds its own championship game in December) has not sent a team to the tournament since 1997.[7] Teams from the MEAC and SWAC may accept at-large bids, so long as they aren't committed to other post-season games that would conflict with the tournament, the last team from the MEAC to accept a bid was the NC A&T in 2016, while the last SWAC team to participate in the tournament was the 1997 Jackson State Tigers football team.

Historically, conferences in the Championship Subdivision that did not offer athletic scholarships were not granted automatic bids into the tournament and, although in theory were eligible for at-large bids, never received any. The last non-scholarship conference in the subdivision, the Pioneer Football League, received its at-large bid in 2013.

The teams that make the playoffs are determined by the FCS Playoff Selection Committee, which consists of one athletic director from each of the 10 conferences which have automatic bids. The current committee chairman is Mark Wilson (Tennessee Tech). The others who serve on the selection committee are Chuck Burch (Gardner-Webb), Troy Dannen (Northern Iowa), Brian Hutchinson (Morehead State), Richard Johnson (Wofford), Nathan Pine (Holy Cross), Marty Scarano (New Hampshire), Paul Schlickmann (Central Connecticut State), Dr. Brad Teague (Central Arkansas) and Jeff Tingey (former Idaho State).

+ The Ivy League abstains from the championship tournament and all postseason play.

++ The MEAC Champion, since 2015, forgoes its automatic bid to allow its champion to participate in the Celebration Bowl. Non-champions are eligible for at-large bids (an example being the 2016 North Carolina A&T Aggies football team).

% The SWAC abstains from the championship tournament to allow for a longer regular season, an conference championship game, and (since 2015) participation in the Celebration Bowl.


Year Champion[8] Runner-up Score Venue Location Attendance Winning head coach
1978 Florida A&M Massachusetts 35-28 Memorial Stadium Wichita Falls, Texas 13,604 Rudy Hubbard
1979 Eastern Kentucky Lehigh 30-7 Orlando Stadium Orlando, Florida 5,500 Roy Kidd
1980 Boise State Eastern Kentucky 31-29 Hughes Stadium Sacramento, California 8,157 Jim Criner
1981 Idaho State Eastern Kentucky 34-23 Memorial Stadium Wichita Falls, Texas 11,003 Dave Kragthorpe
1982 Eastern Kentucky (2) Delaware 17-14 Memorial Stadium Wichita Falls, Texas 11,257 Roy Kidd (2)
1983 Southern Illinois Western Carolina 43-7 Johnson Hagood Stadium Charleston, South Carolina 15,950 Rey Dempsey
1984 Montana State Louisiana Tech 19-6 Johnson Hagood Stadium Charleston, South Carolina 9,125 Dave Arnold
1985 Georgia Southern Furman 44-42 Tacoma Dome Tacoma, Washington 5,306 Erk Russell
1986 Georgia Southern (2) Arkansas State 48-21 Tacoma Dome Tacoma, Washington 4,419 Erk Russell (2)
1987 Northeast Louisiana+ Marshall 43-42 Minidome Pocatello, Idaho 11,513 Pat Collins
1988 Furman Georgia Southern 17-12 Holt Arena Pocatello, Idaho 11,500 Jimmy Satterfield
1989 Georgia Southern (3) Stephen F. Austin 37-34 Paulson Stadium Statesboro, Georgia 25,725 Erk Russell (3)
1990 Georgia Southern (4) Nevada 36-13 Paulson Stadium Statesboro, Georgia 23,204 Tim Stowers
1991 Youngstown State Marshall 25-17 Paulson Stadium Statesboro, Georgia 12,667 Jim Tressel
1992 Marshall Youngstown State 31-28 Marshall University Stadium Huntington, West Virginia 31,304 Jim Donnan
1993 Youngstown State (2) Marshall 17-5 Marshall University Stadium Huntington, West Virginia 29,218 Jim Tressel (2)
1994 Youngstown State (3) Boise State 28-14 Marshall University Stadium Huntington, West Virginia 27,674 Jim Tressel (3)
1995 Montana Marshall 22-20 Marshall University Stadium Huntington, West Virginia 32,106 Don Read
1996 Marshall (2) Montana 49-29 Marshall University Stadium Huntington, West Virginia 30,052 Bob Pruett
1997 Youngstown State (4) McNeese State 10-9 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 14,771 Jim Tressel (4)
1998 Massachusetts Georgia Southern 55-43 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 17,501 Mark Whipple
1999 Georgia Southern (5) Youngstown State 59-24 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 20,052 Paul Johnson
2000 Georgia Southern (6) Montana 27-25 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 17,156 Paul Johnson (2)
2001 Montana (2) Furman 13-6 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 12,698 Joe Glenn
2002 Western Kentucky McNeese State 34-14 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 12,360 Jack Harbaugh
2003 Delaware Colgate 40-0 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 14,281 K. C. Keeler
2004 James Madison Montana 31-21 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 16,771 Mickey Matthews
2005 Appalachian State Northern Iowa 21-16 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 20,236 Jerry Moore
2006 Appalachian State (2) Massachusetts 28-17 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 22,808 Jerry Moore (2)
2007 Appalachian State (3) Delaware 49-21 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 23,010 Jerry Moore (3)
2008 Richmond Montana 24-7 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 17,823 Mike London
2009 Villanova Montana 23-21 Finley Stadium Chattanooga, Tennessee 14,328 Andy Talley
2010 Eastern Washington Delaware 20-19 Pizza Hut Park? Frisco, Texas 13,027 Beau Baldwin
2011 North Dakota State Sam Houston State 17-6 Pizza Hut Park? Frisco, Texas 20,586 Craig Bohl
2012 North Dakota State (2) Sam Houston State 39-13 FC Dallas Stadium? Frisco, Texas 21,411 Craig Bohl (2)
2013 North Dakota State (3) Towson 35-7 Toyota Stadium Frisco, Texas 19,802 Craig Bohl (3)
2014 North Dakota State (4) Illinois State 29-27 Toyota Stadium Frisco, Texas 20,918 Chris Klieman
2015 North Dakota State (5) Jacksonville State 37-10 Toyota Stadium Frisco, Texas 21,836 Chris Klieman (2)
2016 James Madison (2) Youngstown State 28-14 Toyota Stadium Frisco, Texas 14,423* Mike Houston
2017 North Dakota State (6) James Madison 17-13 Toyota Stadium Frisco, Texas 19,090* Chris Klieman (3)

+ Known as University of Louisiana at Monroe since 1999.

? Now Toyota Stadium

* Toyota Stadium capacity reduced due to construction

Team titles

NCAA Division I Football Championship is located in the US
Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern
North Dakota State
Youngstown State
Youngstown State
Appalachian State
Appalachian State

Boise State
Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington
Florida A&M
Florida A&M
Idaho State
Northeast Louisiana
Montana State
Montana State
Southern Illinois
Southern Illinois
Schools with FCS championships
Gold pog.svg - 6 championships, Blue pog.svg - 4 championships
Pink pog.svg - 3 championships, Black pog.svg - 2 championships, White pog.svg - 1 championship
Italics indicate schools that have since moved to FBS
Team Titles Appearances Years Won Years Lost
Georgia Southern^ 6 8 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1999, 2000 1988, 1998
North Dakota State 6 6 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017
Youngstown State 4 7 1991, 1993, 1994, 1997 1992, 1999, 2016
Appalachian State^ 3 3 2005, 2006, 2007
Montana 2 7 1995, 2001 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2009
Marshall^ 2 6 1992, 1996 1987, 1991, 1993, 1995
Eastern Kentucky 2 4 1979, 1982 1980, 1981
James Madison 2 3 2004, 2016 2017
Delaware 1 4 2003 1982, 2007, 2010
Furman 1 3 1988 1985, 2001
Massachusetts^ 1 3 1998 1978, 2006
Boise State^ 1 2 1980 1994
Eastern Washington 1 1 2010
Florida A&M 1 1 1978
Idaho State 1 1 1981
Northeast Louisiana^ 1 1 1987
Montana State 1 1 1984
Richmond 1 1 2008
Southern Illinois 1 1 1983
Villanova 1 1 2009
Western Kentucky^ 1 1 2002
Arkansas State^ 0 1 1986
Colgate 0 1 2003
Illinois State 0 1 2014
Jacksonville State 0 1 2015
Lehigh 0 1 1979
Louisiana Tech^ 0 1 1984
McNeese State 0 2 1997, 2002
Nevada^ 0 1 1990
Northern Iowa 0 1 2005
Sam Houston State 0 2 2011, 2012
Stephen F. Austin 0 1 1989
Towson 0 1 2013
Western Carolina 0 1 1983

^ Now a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

See also


  1. ^ NCAA Division I Football Championship - Official Web Site
  2. ^ Caplan, Jeff (2010-02-26). "20 teams to compete for FCS crown". Retrieved .
  3. ^ "NCAA inks three-year extension to keep FCS title game in Frisco, Texas" (Press release). NCAA. December 19, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  4. ^ "NCAA keeping FCS title game in Frisco through at least 2020". USA Today. Associated Press. January 8, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ Torre, Pablo (2007-11-29). "No playoffs for you!". SI. Retrieved .
  6. ^ David Burrick (2003-09-18). "Ivy League not likely to see I-AA playoffs". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved .[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Craig T. Greenlee (2000-01-06). "Not Exactly for THE SPORT OF IT". Black Issues in Higher Education. Retrieved .
  8. ^ NCAA (2008). "FCS History". Archived from the original on 2012-09-18.

External links

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