|2011 NCAA Division I FBS season|
|Number of teams||120|
|Duration||September 1 – December 10|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Oklahoma|
|Duration||December 17, 2011 – January 9, 2012|
|Heisman Trophy||Robert Griffin III (quarterback, Baylor)|
|Bowl Championship Series|
|2012 BCS Championship Game|
|Site||Mercedes-Benz Superdome New Orleans, Louisiana|
|NCAA Division I FBS football seasons|
The regular season began on September 1, 2011 and ended on December 10, 2011. The postseason concluded on January 9, 2012 with the BCS National Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The #2 Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the #1 LSU Tigers 21–0. For the first time since 2007, and for only the third time in the Bowl Championship Series era, no team from an automatic-qualifying BCS conference finished the season with an undefeated record.
Several rule changes took effect this season:
- If a player is penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for actions that occurred during a play ending in a touchdown, but before the goal line was crossed, the touchdown will be nullified and the fifteen-yard penalty enforced from the spot of the foul. This change was made the year after Georgia receiver A. J. Green was called for a personal foul after catching a pass for a touchdown against LSU. The fifteen-yard penalty was assessed on the resulting kickoff, which helped LSU's position for the winning score. In another game, North Dakota State defensive back Josh Gatlin pointed at the crowd at the seven-yard line before scoring a touchdown against South Dakota State. Gatlin received a penalty, but the touchdown was not taken back. A similar proposal that would have nullified touchdowns for taunting or excessive celebration after the score failed to pass the NCAA Football Rules Committee.
- Due to how the fourth quarter ended in the 2010 Music City Bowl, a 10-second runoff will be implemented (similar to the NFL rule adopted in 1980) when a team commits a foul in the final minute of either half that results in a clock stoppage. The opposing team has the option to:
- Take the penalty yardage and the 10 second runoff.
- Take the penalty yardage and decline the 10 second runoff.
- Decline both the penalty and the 10 second runoff.
- Each half of a game can end due to a runoff of the game clock following a penalty. Teams can take a time-out to stop the clock and avoid the 10 second runoff. The new rule has been informally dubbed the "Dooley Rule", after then Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley.
- Video monitors will be allowed in coaches' booths to allow coaching staffs to determine whether they should challenge a call. The televisions will have access only to the live broadcast feed, with no video recorders. The technology, if made available at a stadium, must be provided to both teams.
- Players lined up outside the tackle box—more specifically, those lined up more than 7 yards from the center—will now be allowed to block below the waist only if they are blocking straight ahead or toward the nearest sideline.
- On placekicks, no offensive lineman can now be engaged by more than two defensive players. A violation will be a 5-yard penalty.
- A three-man wedge is prohibited during kickoffs and punts. The penalty will be a fifteen-yard penalty from the spot of the foul, if non-contact, or from the end of the run, if contact.
- Players will no longer be required to wear pants that cover the knees.
- The officials' uniforms were slightly changed. The shirt stripes are wider, they now wear black pants instead of white, and the initial of the official's role (ex. "R" for referee, "U" for umpire) is displayed on the front uniform pocket.
In addition, the NCAA recommends that conferences without a pregame warm-up policy should use a ten-yard, no-player zone between the 45-yard lines beginning 60 minutes before kickoff.
Five FBS schools switched conferences prior to the 2011 season. Each of these moves had been formally announced in 2010.
|School||Former conference||New conference|
|Boise State||WAC||Mountain West|
|BYU||Mountain West||FBS independent (WCC in other sports)|
|Nebraska||Big 12||Big Ten|
On April 20, 2011, UMass announced that it would upgrade its football program to the FBS level and become a football-only member of the Mid-American Conference beginning in 2012. Full FBS membership and eligibility for the conference championship and bowl games would follow in 2013.
On September 18, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced that Big East Conference mainstays Pittsburgh and Syracuse had been officially accepted as the conference's 13th and 14th members. At the time, the two schools' departure date was uncertain, as Big East bylaws require a 27-month notice period for departing members. The earliest that Pitt and Syracuse could join the ACC, barring other developments, was July 2014.
On September 26, the Southeastern Conference announced that Texas A&M would leave the Big 12 Conference and become the league's 13th member in July 2012. Missouri also announced plans to depart the Big 12 to join the SEC on November 6, bringing SEC conference membership to 14 schools.
Facing the imminent loss of four members, the Big 12 announced the addition of TCU from the Mountain West Conference on October 10. In order to join the Big 12, TCU had to renege on an agreement it had made less than year earlier to join the Big East.
On October 14, the Mountain West and Conference USA announced their intention to merge their football operations and form a two-division, 22-team conference in hopes of earning an automatic qualifier to a BCS bowl. The agreement was abandoned in 2012 after both conferences added new members.
The next change came on October 28, when the Big 12 formally accepted West Virginia from the Big East. This move led to a legal battle in which West Virginia filed suit against the Big East to overturn the standard 27-month notice period, and the Big East suing in another court to have the requirement enforced. In February 2012, the two parties reached a settlement that allowed West Virginia to join the Big 12 that July. Several months later, both Pittsburgh and Syracuse reached their own settlements with the Big East that allowed them to leave for the ACC in July 2013.
Changes in membership reduced the number of teams in the Big 12 from twelve to ten for the 2011 season and beyond, forcing the conference to drop its annual football championship game to comply with NCAA rules.
In response to the departures of three mainstay members and TCU, the Big East announced on December 7 that five schools would join the conference for football in 2013: Houston, SMU, and UCF would join as full members in all sports, while Boise State and San Diego State would leave the Mountain West and become football-only members. Boise State's other sports would return to the Western Athletic Conference, while San Diego State's would rejoin the Big West after a 35-year absence. Later developments in conference realignment, namely the demise of both the Big East and WAC's football competitions following the 2012 season, prompted both schools to abandon these plans and remain the Mountain West.
Teams transitioning to FBS
Four schools began a two-year transition from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to FBS in July 2011. These schools competed as FCS members in 2011 and would be upgraded to provisional FBS status in 2012. Full FBS membership would follow in 2013.
- The University of Massachusetts (UMass), a member of the non-football Atlantic 10 Conference and a football-only member of the Colonial Athletic Association, will move for football only to the Mid-American Conference effective in 2012. The Minutemen became eligible for the conference championship upon completion of their FBS transition in 2013. As a part of this process, UMass moved its home games from its on-campus Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots, starting in 2012. In the meantime, McGuirk Stadium was to undergo a major expansion, adding 8,000 seats to its current capacity of 17,000, though in the end the renovation plans were scaled back, as the stadium reopened in 2014 with essentially no increase in capacity. UMass hoped to move some home games back to campus as early as 2014; it was contractually committed to play all 2012 and 2013 home games, plus at least four games in each season from 2014 to 2016, in Foxborough.
- The University of South Alabama played its first complete season in the NCAA. The Jaguars, then as now members of the Sun Belt Conference, played a 10-game schedule, although they were allowed to play as many as 12 as a transitional FBS program. South Alabama launched its program in 2009, playing seven games that season and 10 in 2010. The Jaguars played their home games at Ladd–Peebles Stadium in their home city of Mobile, Alabama, home to the bowl game now known as the Dollar General Bowl and also to the Senior Bowl All-Star Game. They were coached by Joey Jones.
- Texas State University–San Marcos (Texas State, which has since dropped its city from its formal name) was one of two transitioning schools that moved from the Southland Conference (though it played the 2011 season as an FCS independent) to the Western Athletic Conference in 2012. In January 2011, the Bobcats brought back Dennis Franchione, who had coached the team in 1990 and 1991 before going on to head coaching jobs at New Mexico, TCU, Alabama, and Texas A&M, to oversee their FBS transition. Texas State expanded its current on-campus Bobcat Stadium to an ultimate capacity of 34,800 for its official FBS debut.
- The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) was the other transitioning school leaving the Southland Conference for the WAC. Like Texas State, UTSA also played as an FCS Independent in 2011. The Roadrunners, then coached by former Miami head coach Larry Coker, played their first-ever football season in 2011, and began play at the Alamodome in downtown San Antonio, their home to this day.
New and updated stadiums
|Florida Atlantic||FAU Stadium||30,000|
|North Texas||Apogee Stadium||30,850|
- North Carolina continued renovations to Kenan Memorial Stadium, which were completed in time for the start of the season. The project included a new student center and premium seating sections. The addition of new seats enclosed the stadium for the first time and brought the total capacity to 63,000.
- California played the season at AT&T Park in San Francisco, home to the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball. California Memorial Stadium, the Golden Bears' on-campus home since 1923, was undergoing a major renovation that included a full seismic retrofit. The Bears returned to Memorial Stadium in 2012. Although AT&T Park is primarily a baseball venue, it has hosted several football teams and events; at that time, it was home to the Fight Hunger Bowl.
- Washington played the first six games of its home schedule at on-campus Husky Stadium. Following the November 5 game against Oregon, construction began on a $280 million renovation project. As a result, the Apple Cup rivalry game with Washington State was moved to CenturyLink Field. Washington remained at CenturyLink Field for the entire 2012 season.
Infractions, investigations, and scandals
Five Ohio State players were alleged to have improperly traded dozens of items to the owner of a tattoo parlor in exchange for tattoos, cash, and, in one case, a sport-utility vehicle. The players, along with head coach Jim Tressel, were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. Tressel was under investigation for lying to the university and investigators regarding his knowledge of the incident. The program was also under investigation by the NCAA, the school having going before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in August 2011, with findings and decisions following shortly thereafter. The scandal led to the resignation of Tressel on May 30. On June 8, starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, one of the five suspended players, announced that he would forgo his final year of college eligibility.
Initially, Ohio State offered to vacate its entire 2010 season, return money received from the 2011 Sugar Bowl, impose two years of probation, and use five fewer football scholarships over the next three seasons. However, after the school went before the NCAA, further rules violations emerged. Three players were suspended before the start of the season for receiving $200 from a booster. Then, midway through the season, it was discovered that the same booster had overpaid several players for summer jobs.
The NCAA announced its final penalties on December 20. While accepting Ohio State's initial self-imposed penalties, it levied additional sanctions. One extra year of probation and scholarship reductions was added, running through the 2014 season. The Buckeyes will also be banned from postseason play in 2012. Tressel, who joined the staff of the Indianapolis Colts during the 2011 NFL season and has since taken a non-athletic position at his alma mater of the University of Akron, was hit with a five-year show-cause penalty, which effectively bars him from college coaching through the 2016 season. Finally, the school was required to disassociate itself from Pryor for five years.
The school initially vacated its 2008 and 2009 seasons, reduced its scholarship allotment by nine over the next three seasons, and self-imposed two years of probation. Although the NCAA praised the university for its investigation, it found several aggravating factors. The NCAA confirmed academic fraud, found that players had received at least $31,000 in impermissible benefits, determined that six players had played while ineligible, and also found evidence of rampant agent involvement in the program. The NCAA added an extra year of probation, and also banned the Tar Heels from the 2012 postseason. John Blake, an assistant who had been forced out with Davis, was found to have received personal loans from agent Gary Wichard that he did not report to UNC, specifically for access to players. He was also cited for not cooperating with investigators. Blake received a three-year show-cause penalty.
On August 16, Yahoo! Sports broke a story in which former Miami Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro, currently imprisoned for running a Ponzi scheme, stated that from 2002 through 2010 he had given massive amounts of improper benefits to Miami players and coaches, mostly in football but also in men's basketball. Shapiro indicated that the benefits included cash, various goods, prostitutes, and even an abortion.
On November 5, former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky was indicted on multiple felony charges of sex abuse against minors. Two other high-ranking Penn State administrators—athletic director Tim Curley and vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz (whose job includes supervision of the university police department)—were charged with perjury in the case. The day after the indictments, the university Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting, at which Curley requested to be placed on administrative leave and Schultz stepped down. Paterno, who had received notice of inappropriate behavior by Sandusky in 2002 and had reported the allegations to university administrators (though not to police), was not charged or implicated in any wrongdoing. On November 9, he announced his retirement effective at the end of the season, stating he was "absolutely devastated by the developments in this case." However, hours later, the Penn State Board of Trustees fired Paterno, effective immediately.
Rankings reflect the Week 14 AP Poll before the games were played.
Conference championship games
|Conference||Champion||Runner-Up||Score||Offensive Player of the Year||Defensive Player of the Year||Coach of the Year|
|ACC||#21 Clemson||#5 Virginia Tech||38–10||David Wilson, Virginia Tech||Luke Kuechly, Boston College||Mike London, Virginia|
|Big Ten||#15 Wisconsin||#11 Michigan State||42–39||Montee Ball, Wisconsin||Devon Still, Penn State||Brady Hoke, Michigan|
|C-USA||#24 Southern Miss||#7 Houston||49–28||Case Keenum, Houston (MVP)
Patrick Edwards, Houston
|Vinny Curry, Marshall||Kevin Sumlin, Houston|
|MAC||Northern Illinois||Ohio||23–20||Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois||Drew Nowak, Western Michigan||Ron English, Eastern Michigan|
|Pac-12||#8 Oregon||UCLA||49–31||Andrew Luck, Stanford||Mychal Kendricks, California||David Shaw, Stanford|
|SEC||#1 LSU||#12 Georgia||42–10||Trent Richardson, Alabama||Tyrann Mathieu, LSU||Les Miles, LSU|
Other conference champions
|Conference||Champion||Record||Offensive Player of the Year||Defensive Player of the Year||Coach of the Year|
|Big 12||#3 Oklahoma State||11–1 (8–1)||Robert Griffin III, Baylor||A.J. Klein, Iowa State & Frank Alexander, Oklahoma||Bill Snyder, Kansas State|
#22 West Virginia
|Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati||Khaseem Greene, Rutgers &
Derrick Wolfe, Cincinnati
|Butch Jones, Cincinnati|
|MWC||#18 TCU||10–2 (7–0)||Kellen Moore, Boise State||Tank Carder, TCU||Dave Christensen, Wyoming|
|Sun Belt||Arkansas State||10–2 (8–0)||Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State||Brandon Joiner, Arkansas State||Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State|
|WAC||Louisiana Tech||8–4 (5–1)||Robert Turbin, Utah State||Adrien Cole, Louisiana Tech||Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech|
Final BCS rankings
|7||Boise State||11–1||Las Vegas|
|9||South Carolina||10–2||Capital One|
2012 Bowl Championship Series
|Jan. 2||Rose Bowl presented by Vizio||Rose Bowl
|ESPN||#10 Wisconsin Badgers (11–2)
#5 Oregon Ducks (11–2)
|Tostitos Fiesta Bowl||University of Phoenix Stadium
|#3 Oklahoma State Cowboys (11–1)
#4 Stanford Cardinal (11–1)
|Oklahoma State 41–38 (OT)|
|Jan. 3||Allstate Sugar Bowl||Mercedes-Benz Superdome
New Orleans, LA
|#13 Michigan Wolverines (10–2)
#11 Virginia Tech Hokies (11–2)
|Michigan 23–20 (OT)|
|Jan. 4||Discover Orange Bowl||Sun Life Stadium
Miami Gardens, FL
|#15 Clemson Tigers (10–3)
#23 West Virginia Mountaineers (9–3)
|West Virginia 70–33|
|Jan. 9||Allstate BCS National Championship Game||Mercedes-Benz Superdome
New Orleans, LA
|#1 LSU Tigers (13–0)
#2 Alabama Crimson Tide (11–1)
Other bowl games
- Navy, which had the primary contract for this slot, was not bowl-eligible. For the 2011 season, the TicketCity Bowl and Military Bowl have contingency contracts with the Big 12 if those games' primary partners are not available. Since the TicketCity Bowl's primary partners (the Big Ten and C-USA) both filled their slots, Navy's Military Bowl slot was passed to the Big 12; however the Big 12 did not have enough teams to fulfill their contract, so Toledo from the MAC was invited.
- Army, which had the primary contract for this slot, was not bowl-eligible. The ACC had a contingency contract for the slot, but could only fill it if it produced nine bowl-eligible teams. Miami's self-imposed bowl ban made it impossible for the conference to fill that slot.
Bowl Challenge Cup standings
|Division I FBS Independents||1||1||.500|
Awards and honors
The Heisman Trophy is given to the year's most outstanding player.
|Robert Griffin III||Baylor||QB||405||168||136||1,687|
Other major awards
- AP Player of the Year: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
- Maxwell Award (top player): Andrew Luck, Stanford
- Walter Camp Award (top player): Andrew Luck, Stanford
- Campbell Trophy ("academic Heisman"; formerly the Draddy Trophy): Andrew Rodriguez, Army
- Wuerffel Trophy (humanitarian-athlete): Barrett Jones, Alabama
- Paul Hornung Award (most versatile player): Brandon Boykin, Georgia
- Burlsworth Trophy (top player who began as walk-on): Austin Davis, Southern Miss
- Davey O'Brien Award (quarterback): Robert Griffin III, Baylor
- Johnny Unitas Award (senior/4th year quarterback): Andrew Luck, Stanford
- Manning Award (quarterback): Robert Griffin III, Baylor
- Sammy Baugh Trophy (quarterback, specifically passer): Case Keenum, Houston
- Dave Rimington Trophy (center): David Molk, Michigan
- Outland Trophy (interior lineman): Barrett Jones, Alabama
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy (defensive player): Luke Kuechly, Boston College
- Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player): Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
- Lott Trophy (defensive impact): Luke Kuechly, Boston College
- Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end): Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
- Rotary Lombardi Award (defensive lineman): Luke Kuechly, Boston College
- Dick Butkus Award (linebacker): Luke Kuechly, Boston College
- Lou Groza Award (placekicker): Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
- Ray Guy Award (punter): Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
- AP Coach of the Year: Les Miles, LSU
- Paul "Bear" Bryant Award: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
- The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award: Les Miles, LSU
- Walter Camp Coach of the Year: Les Miles, LSU
- Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
- Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award: Dabo Swinney, Clemson
- Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year Award: Nick Saban, Alabama
- Several significant records were tied or broken on October 22:
- East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis set two FBS records for consecutive pass completions in the Pirates' 38–35 win over Navy.
- Davis completed his first 26 pass attempts, breaking the single-game record of 23 first set in 1998 by Tee Martin of Tennessee against South Carolina and tied in 2004 by Aaron Rodgers of California against USC.
- Since Davis had also completed his final 10 passes in the Pirates' game the previous week against Memphis, his streak against Navy gave him a total of 36 consecutive completions over two games, breaking the record of 26 set by Rodgers in 2004.
- Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore led the Broncos to a 37–26 win over Air Force, giving him 45 career wins as a starter. This tied the FBS record of Texas' Colt McCoy (2006–2009); after a bye week, Moore could (and ultimately did) take sole possession of the record at UNLV on November 5. He finished his career 50-3.
- In Houston's 63–28 win over Marshall, Cougars quarterback Case Keenum set a new FBS record for career total offense, surpassing the 16,910 yards amassed by Timmy Chang of Hawaiʻi from 2000 to 2004. He also brought his career total of touchdowns accounted for (combined passing, rushing, receiving, and returns) to 150, tying the record set by Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour from 2006 to 2009.
- Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, already the holder of the record for most career wins in FBS, tied Eddie Robinson of Grambling for the most wins in Division I history, with 408, when the Nittany Lions defeated Northwestern 34–24. Paterno, in what would prove to be his final game coached, would claim the record outright the following week, when Penn State defeated Illinois in a defensive struggle, 10-7.
- East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis set two FBS records for consecutive pass completions in the Pirates' 38–35 win over Navy.
- On October 27, Keenum's nine touchdown passes in Houston's 73–34 win over crosstown rival Rice gave him 139 for his college career, surpassing the previous record of 134 by Texas Tech's Graham Harrell from 2005 to 2008. He also took sole possession of the record for most touchdowns accounted for, with 159 (and counting).
- On October 29, Paterno took sole possession of the record for most career wins by a Division I head coach when Penn State defeated Illinois 10–7. This would prove to be Paterno's final game, as he would be fired less than two weeks later in the midst of a sexual abuse scandal (more details below).
- On November 5:
- On November 19, Keenum added another major FBS record to his collection, surpassing Harrell's previous record of 1,403 career completions in the first quarter of Houston's 37–7 win over SMU. Keenum ended with 1,427 completions.
- On November 26, Kentucky defeated Tennessee for the first time since 1984. The Wildcats' 10–7 win ended the longest current losing streak against an annual opponent in FBS at 26.
Preseason and in-season
This is restricted to coaching changes that took place on or after May 1, 2011. For coaching changes that occurred earlier in 2011, see 2010 NCAA Division I FBS end-of-season coaching changes.
|Ohio State||Jim Tressel||May 30||Resigned||Luke Fickell (interim)|
|West Virginia||Bill Stewart||June 10||Resigned||Dana Holgorsen|
|North Carolina||Butch Davis||July 27||Fired||Everett Withers (interim)|
|New Mexico||Mike Locksley||September 25||Fired||George Barlow (interim)|
|Arizona||Mike Stoops||October 10||Fired||Tim Kish (interim)|
|Tulane||Bob Toledo||October 18||Resigned||Mark Hutson (interim)|
|Penn State||Joe Paterno||November 9||Fired||Tom Bradley (interim)|
End of season
Most watched regular season games in 2011
|1||November 5, 8:00 ET||#1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama (Game of the Century (2011))||CBS||20.01 Million|
|2||December 3, 4:00 ET||#1 LSU vs. #14 Georgia||CBS||12.01 Million|
|3||November 25, 2:30 ET||#3 Arkansas vs. #1 LSU||CBS||10.44 Million|
|4||November 19, 8:00 ET||USC vs. #4 Oregon, #5 Oklahoma vs. #22 Baylor||Regional ESPN on ABC||9.74 Million|
|5||September 17, 8:00 ET||#1 Oklahoma vs. #5 Florida State||ESPN on ABC||9.31 Million|
|6||November 12, 8:00 ET||#7 Oregon vs. #4 Stanford||ESPN on ABC||8.73 Million|
|7||October 29, 8:00 ET||#5 Clemson vs. Georgia Tech, #6 Stanford vs. USC||Regional ESPN on ABC||8.43 Million|
|8||November 26, 12:00 ET||Ohio State vs. #15 Michigan||ESPN on ABC||7.96 Million|
|9||December 3, 8:15 ET||#15 Wisconsin vs. #13 Michigan State||FOX||7.77 Million|
|10||September 3, 8:00 ET||#4 LSU vs. #3 Oregon||ESPN on ABC||7.75 Million|
|Special||December 10, 2:30 ET||Army vs. Navy||CBS||5.50 Million |
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- Media related to 2011 NCAA Division I FBS football season at Wikimedia Commons