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NCAA Division I (D-I) is the highest level of
intercollegiate athletics College athletics encompasses non-professional A professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns their living from a specified professional activity. The term also describes the standards of education and training that prepare m ...
sanctioned by the
National Collegiate Athletic Association The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and op ...
(NCAA) in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...

United States
, which accepts players globally. D-I schools include the major collegiate athletic powers, with larger budgets, more elaborate facilities and more
athletic scholarship An athletic scholarship is a form of scholarship A scholarship is an award of Student financial aid, financial aid for a student to further their education at a private elementary or secondary school, or a private or public post-secondary colle ...
s 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 lower-level College Division; these terms were replaced with numeric divisions in 1973. The University Division was renamed Division I, while the College Division was split in two; the College Division members that offered scholarships or wanted to compete against those who did became Division II, while those who did not want to offer scholarships became Division III. For
college football College football (french: football universitaire) is gridiron football consisting of American football in the United States, American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by Higher education in the United States, American univ ...
only, D-I schools are further divided into the
Football Bowl Subdivision The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the highest level of college football College football (french: football universitaire) is gridiron football consisting of American football in the Uni ...
(FBS), the
Football Championship Subdivision NCAA Division I (D-I) is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athle ...
(FCS), and those institutions that do not have any football program. FBS teams have higher game attendance requirements and more players receiving athletic scholarships than FCS teams. The FBS is named for its series of postseason
bowl games In North America, a bowl game is one of a number of post-season college football College football is gridiron football consisting of American football in the United States, American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by H ...

bowl games
, with various polls ranking teams after the conclusion of these games, while the FCS national champion is determined by a multi-team bracket tournament. For the 2020–21 school year, Division I contained 357 of the NCAA's 1,066 member institutions, with 130 in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), 127 in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), and 100 non-football schools, with six additional schools in the transition from Division II to Division I. There was a moratorium on any additional movement up to D-I until 2012, after which any school that wants to move to D-I must be accepted for membership by a conference and show the NCAA it has the financial ability to support a D-I program.


D-I schools

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. Teams that include both men and women are counted as men's sports for the purposes of sponsorship counting. Division I schools must meet minimum financial aid awards for their athletics program, and there are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Division I school cannot exceed. Several other NCAA sanctioned minimums and differences distinguish Division I from Divisions II and III. Members must sponsor at least one sport (not necessarily a team sport) for each sex in each playing season (fall, winter, spring), again with coeducational teams counted as men's teams for this purpose. There are contest and participant minimums for each sport, as well as scheduling criteria. For sports other than football and basketball, Division I schools must play 100 percent of the minimum number of contests against Division I opponents—anything over the minimum number of games has to be 50 percent Division I. Men's and women's basketball teams have to play all but two games against Division I teams; for men, they must play one-third of all their contests in the home
arena An arena is a large enclosed platform, often circular or oval-shaped, designed to showcase theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actors or actresses, to present the e ...
. 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 sponsored those sports before the latest rules change in 2011. Also, Division II schools are eligible to compete for Division I national championships in sports that do not have a Division II national championship, and in those sports may also operate under D-I rules and scholarship limits.


FBS and FCS

For
football Football is a family of team sport A team is a Football_Bowl_Subdivision_ The_NCAA_Division_I_Football_Bowl_Subdivision_(FBS),_formerly_known_as_Division_I-A,_is_the_highest_level_of_college_football_ College_football_(french:_football_universitaire)_is_gridiron_football_consisting_of_American_football_in_the_Uni_...
"_(FBS)_and_"Football_Championship_Subdivision NCAA_Division_I_(D-I)_is_the_highest_level_of__intercollegiate_athletics_sanctioned_by_the_National_Collegiate_Athletic_Association The_National_Collegiate_Athletic_Association_(NCAA)_is_a_nonprofit_organization_that_regulates_student_athle_...
"_(FCS),_respectively. FBS_teams_are_allowed_a_maximum_of_85_players_receiving_athletically_based_aid_per_year,_with_each_player_on_scholarship_receiving_a_full_scholarship._FCS_teams_have_the_same_85-player_limit_as_FBS_teams,_but_are_allowed_to_give_aid_equivalent_to_only_63_full_scholarships._FCS_teams_are_allowed_to_award_partial_scholarships,_a_practice_technically_allowed_but_essentially_never_used_at_the_FBS_level._FBS_teams_also_have_to_meet_minimum_game_attendance_requirements_(average_15,000_people_in_actual_or_paid_attendance_per_home_game),_while_FCS_teams_do_not_need_to_meet_minimum_attendance_requirements. Another_difference_is_postseason_play._Since_1978,_FCS_teams_have_played_in_an_NCAA-sanctioned_Bracket_(tournament).html" ;"title="roup (disambiguation), group of individuals (human or non-human) working together to achieve their goal. As defined by Professor Leigh Thompson (academic), Leigh Thompson of the Kellogg Sch ...
only, Division I was further subdivided in 1978 into Division I-A (the principal football schools), Division I-AA (the other schools with football teams), and Division I (those schools not sponsoring football). In 2006, Division I-A and I-AA were renamed "
Football Bowl Subdivision The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the highest level of college football College football (french: football universitaire) is gridiron football consisting of American football in the Uni ...
" (FBS) and "
Football Championship Subdivision NCAA Division I (D-I) is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athle ...
" (FCS), respectively. FBS teams are allowed a maximum of 85 players receiving athletically based aid per year, with each player on scholarship receiving a full scholarship. FCS teams have the same 85-player limit as FBS teams, but are allowed to give aid equivalent to only 63 full scholarships. FCS teams are allowed to award partial scholarships, a practice technically allowed but essentially never used at the FBS level. FBS teams also have to meet minimum game attendance requirements (average 15,000 people in actual or paid attendance per home game), while FCS teams do not need to meet minimum attendance requirements. Another difference is postseason play. Since 1978, FCS teams have played in an NCAA-sanctioned Bracket (tournament)">bracket tournament culminating in a title game, the
NCAA Division I Football Championship The NCAA Division I Football Championship is an annual post-season college football College football (french: football universitaire) is gridiron football consisting of American football in the United States, American football played by te ...
, to determine a national champion. Meanwhile, FBS teams play in bowl games, with various polls ranking teams after the conclusion of these games, yielding a Consensus National Champion annually since 1950. Starting with the 2014 postseason, a four-team
College Football Playoff The College Football Playoff (CFP) is an annual postseason knockout invitational tournament to determine a national champion for the National Collegiate Athletic Association The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonpr ...
has been contested, replacing a one-game championship format that had started during the 1992 postseason with the
Bowl Coalition The Bowl Coalition was formed through an agreement among Division I-A college football College football is gridiron football consisting of American football in the United States, American football played by teams of student athletes fielded b ...
. Even so, Division I FBS football remains the only NCAA sport in which a yearly champion is not determined by an NCAA-sanctioned championship event.


Finances

Division I athletic programs generated $8.7 billion in revenue in the 2009–2010 academic year. Men's teams provided 55%, women's teams 15%, and 30% was not categorized by sex or sport. Football and men's basketball are usually a university's only profitable sports, and are called "revenue sports". 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. In the Football Bowl Subdivision (130 schools in 2017), between 50 and 60 percent of football and men's basketball programs generated positive revenues (above program expenses). However, in the Football Championship Subdivision (124 schools in 2017), only four percent of football and five percent of men's basketball programs generated positive revenues. 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. In 2014, the NCAA and the student athletes debated whether student athletes should be paid. In April, the NCAA approved students-athletes getting free unlimited meals and snacks. The NCAA stated "The adoption of the meals legislation finished a conversation that began in the Awards, Benefits, Expenses and Financial Aid Cabinet. Members have worked to find appropriate ways to ensure student-athletes get the nutrition they need without jeopardizing Pell Grants or other federal aid received by the neediest student-athletes. With their vote, members of the council said they believe loosening NCAA rules on what and when food can be provided from athletics departments is the best way to address the issue." According to the finance section of the NCAA page, "The NCAA receives most of its annual revenue from two sources: television and marketing rights for the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and ticket sales for all championships. That money is distributed in more than a dozen ways — almost all of which directly support NCAA schools, conferences and nearly half a million student-athletes. About 60% of the NCAA’s annual revenue — around $600 million — is annually distributed directly to Division I member schools and conferences, while more than $150 million funds Division I championships" (NCAA 2021). https://www.ncaa.org/finances


Football Conferences

Under NCAA regulations, all Division I conferences defined as "multisport conferences" must meet the following criteria: * A total of at least seven active Division I members. * Separate from the above, at least seven active Division I members that sponsor both men's and women's basketball. * Sponsorship of at least 12 NCAA Division I sports. * Minimum of six men's sports, with the following additional restrictions: ** Men's basketball is a mandatory sport, and at least seven members must sponsor that sport. ** Non-football conferences must sponsor at least two men's team sports other than basketball. ** At least six members must sponsor five men's sports other than basketball, including either football or two other team sports. * Minimum of six women's sports, with the following additional restrictions: ** Women's basketball is a mandatory sport, with at least seven members sponsoring that sport. ** At least two other women's team sports must be sponsored. ** At least six members must sponsor five women's sports other than basketball, including either football or two other team sports. If a conference officially sponsors an NCAA "emerging sport" for women (as of 2020, acrobatics & tumbling, equestrianism, rugby union, triathlon, or wrestling), that sport will be counted if five members (instead of six) sponsor it.


FBS conferences

FBS conferences must meet a more stringent set of requirements for NCAA recognition than other conferences: * A total of at least eight active FBS members. * To be counted toward this total, a school must participate in conference play in at least six men's and eight women's sports, including men's and women's basketball, football, and at least two other women's team sports. ** Each school may count one men's and one women's sport not sponsored by its primary conference toward the above limits, as long as that sport competes in another Division I conference. The men's and women's sports so counted need not be the same sport."Power Five" conferences with guaranteed berths in the
New Year's Six The New Year's Six, sometimes abbreviated as NY6, is an unofficial but commonly used term used to describe NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the high ...
, the bowl games associated with the
College Football Playoff The College Football Playoff (CFP) is an annual postseason knockout invitational tournament to determine a national champion for the National Collegiate Athletic Association The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonpr ...

"Group of Five" conferences ;Notes


FCS conferences

;Notes


Sports


Men's team sports

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. Notes: : The NCAA officially classifies the men's championships in volleyball and water polo as "National Collegiate" championships, that being the designation for championships that are open to members of more than one NCAA division. The ice hockey championship, however, is styled as a "Division I" championship because of the previous existence of a separate Division II championship in that sport. * Football — D-I football programs are divided into FBS and FCS. The 128 FBS programs 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 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 — As of 2021–22, 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, Sun Belt, and SWAC. The most recent conference to drop men's soccer is the Sun Belt, doing so after the 2020–21 season, but it has since announced plans to reinstate men's soccer in 2023–24. * Ice Hockey — Almost all D-I ice hockey programs are in the
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, the
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, or the
Colorado Front Range The Front Range Urban Corridor is an oblong region of urban population located along the eastern face of the Southern Rocky Mountains The Rocky Mountains, also known as the Rockies, are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky M ...

Colorado Front Range
. Only one D-I all-sports conference, the
Big Ten The Big Ten Conference (stylized B1G, formerly the Western Conference and the Big Nine Conference) is the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports teams, playing competitively against ea ...
, sponsors a men's hockey league. All other conferences operate as hockey-specific leagues. Of the 59 teams scheduled to compete in D-I hockey in 2021–22, 21 are otherwise classified as either D-II or D-III; a number of schools from D-II play in D-I ice hockey as the NCAA no longer sponsors a championship in D-II and many have traditional/cultural fan bases that support ice hockey, and the D-III schools were "grandfathered" in to D-I through their having sponsored hockey prior to the creation of D-III. * Lacrosse — The vast majority of D-I lacrosse programs are from the Northeast and
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. There are only three D-I programs west of the Mississippi—
Air Force
Air Force
and
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on the Colorado Front Range, and
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. * Volleyball — Of the traditional D-I conferences, only the
Big West The Big West Conference (BWC) is an American collegiate List of NCAA conferences, athletic conference whose member institutions participate in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's NCAA Division I, Division I. The conference was originally ...
sponsors men's volleyball, and it did not do so until the 2017–18 school year. The
Northeast Conference The Northeast Conference (NEC) is a collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports team A sports team is a group of individuals who play sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive phy ...
will become the second traditional D-I conference to sponsor the sport in 2022–23. Two of the other three major volleyball conferences, defined here as leagues that include full Division I members, are volleyball-specific conferences; the third is the
Mountain Pacific Sports Federation The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) is a college athletic conference with members located mostly in the western United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a ...
, a multi-sport conference that does not sponsor football or basketball. In addition to the D-I schools, 32 D-II schools originally planned to compete in the National Collegiate division in 2020–21; nine of these are members of
Conference Carolinas Conference Carolinas, formerly known as the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference (CVAC) or the Carolinas Conference, is a collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports teams, playing competitively against each o ...
, the first all-sports league outside Division III to sponsor the sport, and the
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) is a collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports teams, playing competitively against each other at the professional, collegiate, or high school level. I ...
was to start play in 2020–21 with six newly launched teams. Several of these teams, including all six SIAC men's volleyball schools, chose not to compete in that season due to COVID-19 concerns. * Water Polo — The number of D-I schools sponsoring men's water polo has declined from 35 in 1987/88 to 22 in 2010/11. No school outside of California has ever made the finals of the championship, and all champions since 1998 have come from one of the four California-based Pac-12 schools.


Men's individual sports

The following table lists the men's individual DI sports with at least 1,000 participating athletes. Sports are ranked by number of athletes. DI college wrestling has lost almost half of its programs since 1982.


Women's team sports

Notes: * 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. * Women's soccer is the fastest growing NCAA D-I women's team sport over a prolonged period, increasing from 22 teams in 1981/82 to 315 teams in 2010/11. However, in recent years, the fastest-growing has been beach volleyball, which went from 14 Division I teams in 2011–12 to 55 in 2016–17. * = In the 2016–17 school year, rugby is classified by the NCAA as an "emerging sport" for women. Beach volleyball, which had previously been an "emerging sport" under the name of "sand volleyball", became an official NCAA championship sport in 2015–16. * * = The number of scholarships are partially linked for (indoor) volleyball and beach volleyball. Schools that field both indoor and beach volleyball teams are allowed 6.0 full scholarship equivalents specifically for beach volleyball as of 2016–17, with the further limitations that (1) no player receiving aid for beach volleyball can be on the indoor volleyball roster and (2) a maximum of 14 individuals can receive aid in beach volleyball. If a school fields only a beach volleyball team, it is allowed 8.0 full scholarship equivalents for that sport, also distributed among no more than 14 individuals.


Women's individual sports

The following table lists the women's individual DI sports with at least 1,000 participating athletes. Sports are ranked by number of athletes.


Broadcasting and revenue

NCAA Division I schools have broadcasting contracts that showcase their more popular sports — typically football and men's basketball — on network television and in basic cable channels. These contracts can be quite lucrative, particularly for DI schools from the biggest conferences. For example, the Big Ten conference in 2016 entered into contracts with Fox and ESPN that pay the conference $2.64 billion over six years. The NCAA also holds certain TV contracts. For example, the NCAA's contract to show the men's basketball championship tournament (widely known as March Madness) is currently under a 14-year deal with CBS and Turner that runs from 2010 to 2024 and pays $11 billion. For the 2014–15 fiscal year, the conferences that earned the most revenues (and that distributed the most revenues to each of their member schools) were: # SEC — $527 million (dispersed $33 million to each of its member schools) # Big 10 — $449 million (dispersed $32 million each) # Pac-12 — $439 million (dispersed $25 million each) # ACC — $403 million (dispersed $26 million each) # Big 12 — $268 million (dispersed $23 million each)


Scholarship limits by sport

The NCAA has limits on the total financial aid each Division I member may award in each sport that the school sponsors. It divides sports that are sponsored 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." 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.


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: * 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. * 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.


Football subdivisions

Subdivisions in Division I exist only in
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. 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.Football Bowl Subdivision Membership Requirements
(pdf file)
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. 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. Under current NCAA rules, these schools must have an invitation from an FBS conference in order to move to FBS. Three of them—
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,
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, and Old Dominion—began FBS transitions in 2013. All had the required FBS conference invitations, with Old Dominion joining Conference USA in 2013, and Appalachian State and Georgia Southern joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. The difference in the postseasons in each of the subdivisions grant the FCS an advantage to have the best record in college football history, 17–0, while the FBS only allows a 15–0 record.


Football Bowl Subdivision

Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the top level of
college football College football (french: football universitaire) is gridiron football consisting of American football in the United States, American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by Higher education in the United States, American univ ...
. Schools in Division I FBS compete in post-season
bowl games In North America, a bowl game is one of a number of post-season college football College football is gridiron football consisting of American football in the United States, American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by H ...
, with the champions of five conferences, along with the highest-ranked champion of the other five conferences, receiving automatic bids to the access bowls. FBS schools are limited to a total of 85 football players receiving financial assistance. 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 the 2019 college football season, there will be 130 full members of Division I FBS. The most recent school to become a full FBS member is
Liberty University Liberty University (LU) is a private evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia. It was founded by Jerry Falwell Sr. and Elmer L. Towns in 1971. Although the university's physical campus is in Lynchburg, most of its students are ...
, which made the transition from FCS in
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and
2018 2018 was designated as the third International Year of the Reef by the International Coral Reef Initiative. Events January * January 13 – The killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, in a fake encounter killings by police, encounter staged by po ...
. Since the
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, all FBS conferences have been allowed to conduct a championship game that does not count against the limit of 12 regular-season contests. Under the current rules, such a game can be held either (1) between the winners of each of two divisions, with each team having played a full round-robin schedule within its division, or (2) between the conference's top two teams after a full round-robin conference schedule. Previously, "exempt" championship games could only be held between the divisional winners of conferences that had at least 12 football teams and split into divisions. The prize is normally a specific bowl game bid for which the conference has a tie-in. 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, 12 with the addition of Nebraska , and 14 with the arrival of Maryland and Rutgers . The Big 12 Conference was established in 1996 with 12 members, but continues to use that name even after a number of departures and a few replacements left the conference with 10 members. On the other hand, the Pac-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 "Pac-12" (instead of "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.


Conferences

(** "Big Five" or "Power Five" conferences with guaranteed berths in the "access bowls" associated with the
College Football Playoff The College Football Playoff (CFP) is an annual postseason knockout invitational tournament to determine a national champion for the National Collegiate Athletic Association The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonpr ...
) (*** "Group of Five" conferences) ;Notes


Football Championship Subdivision

The Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA, consists of 128 teams as of the 2021 season; one program is independent, while the remaining 127 teams are structured into 14 conferences. The "I-AA" designation was dropped by the NCAA in 2006, although it is still informally and commonly used. FCS teams are limited to 63 players on scholarship (compared to 85 for FBS teams) and usually play an 11-game schedule (compared to 12 games for FBS teams). The FCS determines its national champion through an NCAA-sanctioned single-elimination bracket tournament, culminating in a title game, the
NCAA Division I Football Championship The NCAA Division I Football Championship is an annual post-season college football College football (french: football universitaire) is gridiron football consisting of American football in the United States, American football played by te ...
. As of the 2018 season, the tournament begins with 24 teams; 10 conference champions that received automatic bids, and 14 teams selected
at-large At-large is a description for members of a governing body who are elect An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office.
by a selection committee. The postseason tournament traditionally begins on
Thanksgiving Thanksgiving is a national holiday A holiday is a day set aside by Norm (social), custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work including school, are suspended or reduced. Generally, holidays are intended to allow ...
weekend in late November. 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, there was a 12-team tournament; this expanded to 16 teams in 1986. The playoffs expanded to 20 teams starting in 2010, then grew to 24 teams in 2013. Since the 2010 season, the title game is held in early January at Toyota Stadium in
Frisco, Texas Frisco is a city in Collin and Denton counties in the U.S. state In the , a state is a , of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a , each state holds al jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory where it ...
. From 1997 through 2009, the title game was played in December in
Chattanooga, Tennessee Chattanooga ( ) is a city in and the county seat A county seat is an administrative centerAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of publi ...

Chattanooga, Tennessee
, preceded by five seasons in
Huntington, West Virginia Huntington is a city in Cabell and Wayne Wayne may refer to: People with the given name and surname * Wayne (given name) * Wayne (surname) Geographical Places with name ''Wayne'' may take their name from a person with that surname; the ...
.


Abstainers

The Football Championship Subdivision includes several conferences which do not participate in the eponymous post-season championship tournament. The
Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports team A sports team is a group of individuals who play sport Sport pertains to any form ...
was reclassified to I-AA (FCS) following the 1981 season, and plays a strict ten-game schedule. Although it qualifies for an automatic bid, the Ivy League has not played any postseason games at all since becoming a conference for the 1956 NCAA University Division football season, citing academic concerns. (The last college which is now an Ivy League member to play in a bowl game was
Columbia Columbia may refer to: * Columbia (personification), the historical female national personification of the United States, and a poetic name for the Americas Places North America Natural features * Columbia Plateau, a geologic and geographic regio ...
in the 1934 Rose Bowl.) The
Southwestern Athletic Conference The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is a collegiate List of NCAA conferences, athletic conference headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, which is made up of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the Southern United State ...
(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 Grambling State University (GSU, Grambling, or Grambling State) is a Public university, public Historically black colleges and universities, historically black university in Grambling, Louisiana. The university is home of the Eddie Robinson (footb ...
and
Southern The name Southern may refer to: * South South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earl ...
play each other in the
Bayou Classic The Bayou Classic is the annual college football College football is gridiron football consisting of American football in the United States, American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by Higher education in the United Stat ...
, and Alabama State plays Tuskegee (of Division II) 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). It had greater success outside the conference while in Division II and the preceding College Division. From 2006 through 2009, the
Pioneer Football League The Pioneer Football League (PFL) is a collegiate athletic conference which operates in the United States. The conference participates in the NCAA The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulate ...
and
Northeast Conference The Northeast Conference (NEC) is a collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports team A sports team is a group of individuals who play sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive phy ...
champions played in the Gridiron Classic. If a league champion was invited to the national championship playoff as an at-large bid (something the Pioneer league, at least, never received), 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 The Big South Conference is a collegiate List of NCAA conferences, athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA's NCAA Division I, Division I. Originally a non-college football, football conference, the B ...
also received an automatic bid in the same season. The Pioneer Football League earned an automatic bid beginning in 2013. The
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) is a collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports teams, playing competitively against each other at the professional, collegiate, or high school level. In many cases ...
(MEAC) began abstaining from the playoffs with the 2015 season. Like the SWAC, its members are eligible for at-large bids, and the two conferences have faced off in the
Celebration Bowl The Celebration Bowl is a postseason college football bowl game, first played in the 2015 season, contested between the champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC)—the two prominent ...
as an alternative postseason game since the 2015 season. Schools in a transition period after joining the FCS from a lower division (or from the NAIA) are also ineligible for the playoffs.


Scholarships

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 no longer have a limit on the number of new players that can be provided with financial aid in a given season, while FBS schools are limited to 25 such additions per season. 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 The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports team A sports team is a group of individuals who play sport Sport pertains to any form ...
and the
Pioneer Football League The Pioneer Football League (PFL) is a collegiate athletic conference which operates in the United States. The conference participates in the NCAA The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulate ...
(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 The Northeast Conference (NEC) is a collegiate athletic conference An athletic conference is a collection of sports team A sports team is a group of individuals who play sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive phy ...
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 and has since increased to 45. The
Patriot League The Patriot League is a collegiate List of NCAA conferences, athletic conference comprising private institutions of higher education and two United States service academies based in the Northeastern United States. Outside the Ivy League, it is am ...
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. Since the completion of the transition with the 2016 season, member schools have been allowed up to 60 full scholarship equivalents.


Conferences

;Notes


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.
The following non-football conferences have full members that sponsor football: * The
America East Conference The America East Conference is a collegiate List of NCAA conferences, athletic conference affiliated with the NCAA Division I whose members are located in the Northeastern United States, Northeastern United States. The conference has ten core memb ...
has four football-sponsoring schools, all of which play in the
Colonial Athletic Association The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) is a collegiate List of NCAA conferences, athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA's NCAA Division I, Division I whose full members are located in East Coast st ...
(CAA)—
Albany Albany, derived from the Gaelic name for Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the C ...
,
Maine Maine () is a U.S. state, state in the New England region of the United States, bordered by New Hampshire to the west; the Gulf of Maine to the southeast; and the Provinces and territories of Canada, Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Qu ...
,
New Hampshire New Hampshire ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the New England region of the United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Gulf of Maine to the east, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the nor ...
, and Stony Brook. * The
ASUN Conference The ASUN Conference, formerly the Atlantic Sun Conference, is a collegiate List of NCAA conferences, athletic conference operating mostly in the Southeastern United States. The league participates at the NCAA Division I level, and will begin spons ...
has seven football-sponsoring members, with an eighth joining in 2022; however, two of this group will leave the conference in 2023. **
Central Arkansas Central Arkansas, also known as the Little Rock metro, designated by the United States Office of Management and Budget as the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area, is the most populous metro area in the U.S. state of ...
,
Eastern Kentucky Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in Shanghai *Eastern Air, former name of Zambia Skyways *Eastern Air Lines, a defunct American airline that operated from 1926 to 1991 *Eastern Air Lin ...
, and Jacksonville State, which joined the ASUN in 2021, are de facto football affiliates of the
Western Athletic Conference The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) is an NCAA Division I conference. The WAC covers a broad expanse of the western United States with member institutions located in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah and Washington (state), Washington along ...
for the 2021 season, competing in a formal partnership between the ASUN and WAC. With
Austin Peay Austin Peay (June 1, 1876 – October 2, 1927) was an American politician who served as Governor of Tennessee from 1923 to 1927. He was the state's first governor since the Civil War to win three consecutive terms, and the first to die in offic ...
, a football-sponsoring school, arriving from the Ohio Valley Conference in 2022, the three 2021 arrivals will become part of the ASUN's new football league. However, Jacksonville State will move to FBS and
Conference USA Conference USA (C-USA or CUSA) is an intercollegiate {{Short pages monitor