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.
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.
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.
What does the Selection Committee look at in its process?
For information on selecting, seeding, and bracketing teams, the committee may consider comparative data of individual teams, including but not limited to:
- Overall record
- Record against Division I opponents (an institution with fewer than six Division I wins may place that team in jeopardy of not being selected)
- Record against opponents from other AQ conferences
- Record against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents
- Head-to-head record
- Record against common opponents
- NCAA Simple Rating System (NCAA SRS) Data
- FCS Coaches Poll
- Input from regional advisory committees
How does seeding for the FCS playoff work?
Once the full field of 24 teams is completed, the committee seeds the top eight teams. This begins with committee members recommending teams for the top-eight seed pool. A team must receive at least 30 percent of the votes to be included in the seed pool. Once this is done, each committee member ranks the teams in the seed pool via poll vote. The committee reviews and discusses this preliminary ranking before voting again. This final vote produces the eight seeded teams, in order.
The seeded teams receive a first-round bye in the tournament. The remaining 16 teams play first-round games and are paired according to geographic proximity and then placed in the bracket according to geographic proximity to the top eight seeds.
Teams cannot travel more than 400 miles via ground, and teams from the same conference that played each other during the regular season will not be paired for first-round games.
How does the FCS playoff work?
The tournament progresses in a single-elimination bracket. Of the 24 teams in the tournament, the top eight receive a first-round bye. The other 16 play in a first-round game. Then, the remaining 16 teams play in four rounds that culminate with a championship in Frisco, TX.
Who has won the most FCS championships?
Since 1978, 21 different teams have won an FCS championship, but none have won more than North Dakota State. The Bison didn’t win their first title until 2011, but they have won seven of the eight available championships since, including five in a row from 2011 to 2015.
Here is who has won every FCS championship since the first in 1978:
|2018||North Dakota State||Chris Klieman||38-24||Eastern Washington||Frisco, Texas|
|2017||North Dakota State||Chris Klieman||17-13||James Madison||Frisco, Texas|
|2016||James Madison||Mike Houston||28-14||Youngstown State||Frisco, Texas|
|2015||North Dakota State||Chris Klieman||37-10||Jacksonville State||Frisco, Texas|
|2014||North Dakota State||Chris Klieman||29-27||Illinois State||Frisco, Texas|
|2013||North Dakota State||Craig Bohl||35-7||Towson||Frisco, Texas|
|2012||North Dakota State||Craig Bohl||39-13||Sam Houston State||Frisco, Texas|
|2011||North Dakota State||Craig Bohl||17-6||Sam Houston State||Frisco, Texas|
|2010||Eastern Washington||Beau Baldwin||20-19||Delaware||Frisco, Texas|
|2009||Villanova||Andy Talley||23-21||Montana||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|2008||Richmond||Mike London||24-7||Montana||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|2007||Appalachian State||Jerry Moore||49-21||Delaware||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|2006||Appalachian State||Jerry Moore||28-17||Massachusetts||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|2005||Appalachian State||Jerry Moore||21-16||UNI||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|2004||James Madison||Mickey Matthews||31-21||Montana||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|2003||Delaware||K.C. Keeler||40-0||Colgate||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|2002||Western Kentucky||Jack Harbaugh||34-14||McNeese State||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|2001||Montana||Joe Glenn||13-6||Furman||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|2000||Georgia Southern||Paul Johnson||27-25||Montana||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|1999||Georgia Southern||Paul Johnson||59-24||Youngstown State||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|1998||Massachusetts||Mark Whipple||55-43||Georgia Southern||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|1997||Youngstown State||Jim Tressel||10-9||McNeese State||Chattanooga, Tenn.|
|1996||Marshall||Bob Pruett||49-29||Montana||Huntington, W.Va.|
|1995||Montana||Don Read||22-20||Marshall||Huntington, W.Va.|
|1994||Youngstown State||Jim Tressel||28-14||Boise State||Huntington, W.Va.|
|1993||Youngstown State||Jim Tressel||17-5||Marshall||Huntington, W.Va.|
|1992||Marshall||Jim Donnan||31-28||Youngstown State||Huntington, W.Va.|
|1991||Youngstown State||Jim Tressel||25-17||Marshall||Statesboro, Ga.|
|1990||Georgia Southern||Tim Stowers||36-13||Nevada||Statesboro, Ga.|
|1989||Georgia Southern||Erk Russell||37-34||Stephen F. Austin *||Statesboro, Ga.|
|1988||Furman||Jimmy Satterfield||17-12||Georgia Southern||Pocatello, Idaho|
|1987||Louisiana-Monroe||Pat Collins||43-42||Marshall||Pocatello, Idaho|
|1986||Georgia Southern||Erk Russell||48-21||Arkansas State||Tacoma, Wash.|
|1985||Georgia Southern||Erk Russell||44-42||Furman||Tacoma, Wash.|
|1984||Montana State||Dave Arnold||19-6||Louisiana Tech||Charleston, S.C.|
|1983||Southern Illinois||Rey Dempsey||43-7||Western Carolina||Charleston, S.C.|
|1982||Eastern Kentucky||Roy Kidd||17-14||Delaware||Wichita Falls, Texas|
|1981||Idaho State||Dave Kragthorpe||34-23||Eastern Kentucky||Wichita Falls, Texas|
|1980||Boise State||Jim Criner||31-29||Eastern Kentucky||Sacramento, Calif.|
|1979||Eastern Kentucky||Roy Kidd||30-7||Lehigh||Orlando, Fla.|
|1978||Florida A&M||Ruby Hubbard||35-28||Massachusetts||Wichita Falls, Texas|
* — Stephen F. Austin’s participation in 1989 championship vacated.
2020 FCS Championship date, location
The 2020 FCS Championship game (for the 2019-2020 season) will take place on Saturday, January 11, 2020, in Frisco, Texas.