Football Bowl SubdivisionEdit

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.[1] 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 undergo radical change, with a four-team playoff to determine a national champion almost certain to be adopted.[2]

The remaining five conferences, often referred to as "Mid-majors",[3][4] 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.[5]

FBS schools are limited to a total of 85 football players receiving financial assistance.[6] 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.[7] 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. In 2012, they will be provisional FBS members without bowl eligibility, with full FBS membership following in 2013.

Three 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.[8]
  • 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.[9]
  • 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.[10]

Another school, Georgia Southern University, has announced plans for an eventual upgrade to FBS. The school announced on September 28, 2012 that its students had approved increases in student fees to fund an expansion of its football stadium and an FBS upgrade. The fees must still be approved by the board of regents of the University System of Georgia. If approved by that body, the stadium fee will go into effect in 2013–14, and the FBS fee will take effect after GSU receives an invitation from an FBS conference.[11]

Any conference with at least 12 football teams may split its teams into two divisions and conduct a championship game between the division winners.[12][13] 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 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), Southwest (Houston, SMU) and Far West (Boise State, San Diego State).


Conference Nickname Founded Members Sports Headquarters
Atlantic Coast Conference ** ACC 1953 12 (14 by July 2013, 13 by July 2014, 15 at an undetermined future date)[FBS 1] 25 Greensboro, North Carolina
Big East Conference ** Big East 1979[FBS 2] 15 (18 by July 2013, 16–19 by July 2014, 9 by July 2015)[FBS 3][FBS 4] 23 Providence, Rhode Island
Big Ten Conference ** Big Ten 1896 12 (13 by July 2014, 14 at a date TBD)[FBS 5] 25 Park Ridge, Illinois
Big 12 Conference ** Big 12 1996 10 21 Irving, Texas
Conference USA C-USA 1995[FBS 6] 12 (14 by July 2013, 15 by July 2014)[FBS 7][FBS 8][FBS 9] 21 Irving, Texas
Division I FBS Independents[FBS 10] 4 (6 in July 2013, 5 by July 2015)[FBS 11]
Mid-American Conference MAC 1946 12[FBS 12] 23 Cleveland, Ohio
Mountain West Conference MW (official)
MWC (informal)
1999 9 [FBS 13][FBS 9] 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 11 (12 by July 2013, 10 by July 2014)[FBS 16][FBS 17] 19 New Orleans, Louisiana
Western Athletic Conference WAC 1962 10 (8 in July 2013, 7 by July 2014)[FBS 18][FBS 19][FBS 20] 19 Greenwood Village, Colorado

(** BCS Automatic Qualification (AQ) Conferences; this status will end in 2014 when the BCS establishes a four-team championship playoff)

  1. "Sports :NCAA Football Tournament: An Imagined Solution to a Real Problem". Meridian Magazine. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  2. Schlabach, Mark (April 27, 2012). "Playoff details to be debated". Retrieved April 27, 2012.
  3. "Mid-major conferences use strong schedules to earn at-large bids – College Sports". ESPN. 2007-11-28. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  4. "Rise & Fall: Mid-Major Conference Review | College Basketball by". 2008-08-11. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  5. "CFB – - FOX Sports on MSN". 2006-02-19. Archived from the original on April 6, 2008. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  6. "College Football Scholarships. NCAA and NAIA Football Recruiting". Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  7. "WKU Football Playing on New FieldTurf Surface – Western Kentucky University Official Athletics Site". 2009-04-03. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  8. McMurphy, Brett (April 7, 2012). "Sun Belt adding Georgia State". Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  9. "Conference USA Adds Five New Members" (Press release). Conference USA. May 4, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  10. McMurphy, Brett (May 16, 2012). "ODU will join C-USA in 2013". College Football Insider ( Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  11. "Georgia Southern University Students Vote to Support Three Proposed Student Fees" (Press release). Georgia Southern University Athletics. September 28, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  12. "An unlikely champ for Big Ten expansion: Paterno | Berry Tramel's Blog". Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  13. "Ground Zero East Lansing: Big Ten Roundtable – Antepenultimate edition". 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2009-11-19.

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