Monday, January 4, 2016

NCAA 2015 Football Divisions - Simplified (Ha!)

I am a dedicated Auburn fan and a football fanatic, but for a long time I didn’t understand that the NCAA’s Division I football category has two subdivisions. I kept trying to make FBS and FCS two different divisions. (I am still annoyed that the NCAA didn’t take the time to make things a little clearer for those of us who illogically want things to be logical.) As I read through several websites, almost defeated by the boring history of frequent changes of categories and names, I finally got a little closure on this topic. Here are the results of my “research” for any of you who share my confusion.

The placement into divisions and subdivisions for football depends on the financial ability of a school to support a sports program based on NCAA’s somewhat bewildering requirements, including a maximum number of scholarships, minimum average attendance for home games, a specified number of funded sports by gender, and a commitment to academic achievement and appropriate facilities—all this plus adherence to scheduling criteria with plenty of legalese tossed into the mix. A school can even be in different categories for different sports!

Challenge: Try this crossword puzzle before (or after) reading below.

I.                 Division I – Two different groups of teams!

A.     FBS - Football Bowl Subdivision (128 football teams*)

                        Examples: Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, UCLA

FBS schools are allowed 85** athletic scholarships.

The college football playoff is a contractual system of six bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta, and Peach), plus the championship game.

A committee following NCAA protocol selects twelve schools for the six bowl games. These must include the champions of the five major conferences plus wild cards. (It's actually much more complicated than this!)

B.     FCS - Football Championship Subdivision (125 football teams)

                        Examples: Jacksonville State and Samford (Alabama) and
Mercer and Kennesaw State (Georgia)

FCS schools are limited to 63 athletic scholarships.

For national playoffs, the field consists of 10 automatic qualifiers through conference wins and 14 at-large teams selected by the NCAA. The teams participate in a typical playoff format.

An aside: Jacksonville State advanced to the national finals in January, 2016, but lost to North Dakota State, now a five-time national champion.

II.               Division II (170 football teams)

Examples: North Alabama and Tuskegee (Alabama) and
Valdosta State and Fort Valley State (Georgia)

These schools are limited to 36 athletic scholarships.

The NCAA selects 28 teams in four regions to participate in the national finals in typical bracket structure.

III.              Division III (248 football teams)

Examples: Birmingham-Southern and Huntington (Alabama) and
Berry and LaGrange (Georgia)

These schools do not offer athletic scholarships. (But athletes can get other types of scholarships, such as leadership.)

For the playoffs, automatic bids are issued to the winners of 25 conferences and seven at-large teams, resulting in eight teams in four brackets in a typical playoff structure.

An aside: For several years the national championship Stagg Bowl was played in Phenix City, Alabama.

*The number of teams in each category varies with the different sources of information. One of the reasons for the inconsistency is that schools are constantly entering/leaving categories.

**The number of scholarships in each category varies with the different sources of information. Sometimes scholarships can be part- or full-time; this option leads to varying numbers of scholarships. The numbers here are approximations.