Here is everything you need to know about the FCS championship: the tournament to decide the national champion in the Football Championship Subdivision of NCAA Division I football:

What is the difference between the FCS and FBS?

Unlike in all other NCAA sports, NCAA Division I football is split into two divisions. This split happened in 1978, when Division I-A and Division I-AA were created. In 2006, those subdivisions were renamed. The higher level, Division I-A, became the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the lower level, Division I-AA, became the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

The main differences between the two are the number of full scholarships teams can give to their players (85 in FBS, 63 in FCS) and postseason format:

  • FBS teams currently vie for the opportunity to play in the 4-team College Football Playoff (which was created in 2014), with postseason-eligible teams that don’t make the cut playing in one-off bowl games.
  • FCS teams have always played in a single-elimination bracket tournament (similar to most other NCAA sports). Since 2013, the field for that tournament has been 24 teams.

10 must-see plays from the FCS playoffs

When did the FCS start?

The FCS first began as Division I-AA in 1978, but was renamed the FCS in 2006. 

The first Division I-AA championship was a four-team tournament in 1978, where Florida A&M defeated Massachusetts 35-28 in the title game.

How has the FCS changed since 1978?

Currently, the FCS consists of 13 conferences comprised of 125 teams.

The championship has evolved quite a bit in the past few decades. 

In 1981, the playoff was expanded to eight teams. In 1982, it expanded to 12 teams. It expanded again in 1986 to 16. It stayed that size until 2010, when the field was expanded again to 20 teams, and the championship location moved to Frisco, TX, where it has stayed since. 

In 2013, the field was expanded to its current format of 24 teams.

Take a look inside the FCS Championship

How do teams get into the FCS playoffs?

The field of 24 is split into two different qualifiers: 10 automatic and 14 at-large.

The automatic qualifiers are the teams that win one of the 10 conferences that receive automatic bids. 

The at-large qualifiers are selected by the FCS Playoff Selection Committee.