What is the definition of FCS in American Football?
FCS, or Football Championship Subdivision, is the second-highest level of college football in the United States, sitting just below the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), FCS football offers an opportunity for student-athletes to compete at a high level and gain exposure while pursuing their academic goals.
The FCS consists of 128 programs across 14 conferences as of the 2023 season. With a rich history and a passionate fan base, FCS football provides a stepping stone for many players to showcase their talents and potentially move on to play in the NFL. The season culminates in a thrilling championship tournament, where the best teams battle it out for the coveted title of national champions.
- FCS football represents the second-highest level of college football in the US
- The subdivision consists of 128 programs in 14 conferences
- The FCS season ends with a championship tournament to determine national champions
Understanding FCS Football
FCS Football, or Football Championship Subdivision, is one of the two main levels of collegiate football in the United States, with the other being the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). FCS was established in 1978 as a way for smaller colleges and universities to compete against each other at a more equal level. This division falls under the NCAA Division I and boasts its own postseason playoff system to determine a true national champion for the subdivision.
In contrast to the FBS, FCS football places more emphasis on the traditional aspects of college football and prioritizes developing student-athletes within a competitive athletic environment. They are known for fostering a close-knit community where fans can closely connect with their favorite teams and players. The FCS football programs often act as a stepping stone for players to continue their careers at the FBS level or in professional leagues.
The FCS football postseason consists of a single-elimination playoff system, with 24 total teams competing in various rounds to determine the national champion. Ten of the 24 spots are given to conference champions (automatic qualifiers), while the remaining 14 are awarded as at-large bids. This playoff format has evolved over time, having expanded to include more teams and accommodate emerging conferences within the FCS.
Within the FCS, there are currently 13 conferences spanning the United States, showcasing a wide range of talent and rivalries. These conferences include the Big Sky, Big South, Colonial Athletic Association, Ivy League, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Missouri Valley Football Conference, Northeast Conference, Ohio Valley Conference, Patriot League, Pioneer Football League, Southern Conference, Southland Conference, and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The national championship game is held annually in early January, following the conclusion of the FCS playoffs. With a smaller and dedicated fan base, FCS football games are often played in more intimate venues compared to the larger arenas found in FBS events. This environment adds to the unique experience of FCS football, allowing fans to enjoy the games in a more accessible and community-oriented manner.
Major Teams and Conferences
There are several well-known teams in the FCS, such as the North Dakota State Bison, who have enjoyed considerable success in recent years. The South Dakota State Jackrabbits are also a prominent team in the division, frequently making it into the playoffs. Other notables include the Montana Grizzlies, James Madison Dukes, Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens, and historical black colleges and universities (HBCU) like Alcorn State and South Carolina State.
FCS is also renowned for its participation by Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Penn. Additionally, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) features several HBCU teams, including Morgan State, Howard, Norfolk State, and Delaware State.
There are numerous conferences that make up the FCS, and among them, the Big Sky Conference is particularly noteworthy. It consists of teams such as Montana, Montana State, Eastern Washington, and Weber State. The Big Sky has consistently placed teams deep into the FCS playoffs, with four different programs playing for a national championship since 2000.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) is another standout in the division, featuring teams like North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Illinois State, and Youngstown State. The MVFC has regularly produced strong squads competing for national titles.
The Ivy League is unique within the FCS because it does not participate in the NCAA FCS playoffs. However, the conference’s prestige and history, as well as the tradition of its teams, make this conference an integral part of the FCS football landscape.
Lastly, the Southern Conference is an influential division that has produced high-level talent. Teams like The Citadel, Mercer, and Chattanooga showcase the conference’s competitive nature and add depth to the national FCS landscape.