|NCAA Division I|
|Stadium||Toyota Stadium (2010–present)|
|Location||Frisco, Texas (2010–present)|
|Previous stadiums||Finley Stadium (1997–2009)|
Marshall University Stadium (1992–1996)
|Previous locations||Chattanooga, Tennessee (1997–2009)|
Huntington, West Virginia (1992–1996)
|Preceded by||NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship (1978–2005)|
|2017 season matchup|
|North Dakota State vs. James Madison|
|(North Dakota State 17–13)|
|2018 season matchup|
|North Dakota State vs. Eastern Washington|
|(North Dakota State 38–24)|
The NCAA Division I Football Championship is a annual post-season college football game, played since 2006, used to determine a national champion of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). From 1978 to 2005, the game was known as the NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship.
The game serves as the final match of an annual postseason bracket tournament between top teams in FCS. Since 2013, 24 teams participate in the tournament, with some teams receiving automatic bids upon winning their conference championship, and other teams determined by a selection committee. The reigning national champions are the North Dakota State Bison, who have won seven championship games in the past eight seasons (2011–2015, 2017–2018).
The FCS is the highest division in college football to hold a playoff tournament sanctioned by the NCAA to determine its champion. The four-team College Football Playoff used by the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) is not sanctioned by the NCAA.
In the inaugural season of Division I-AA, the 1978 postseason included just four teams; three regional champions (East, West, and South) plus an at-large selection. The field doubled to eight teams in 1981, with champions of five conferences—Big Sky, Mid-Eastern, Ohio Valley, Southwestern, and Yankee—receiving automatic bids. The tournament was expanded to 12 teams in 1982, with each of the top four seeds receiving a first-round bye and a home game in the quarterfinals. Champions of the Southern and Southland conferences also received automatic bids.
The number of automatic bids has varied over time, due to changes in the number and size of conferences, with an automatic bid typically granted only to champions of conferences with at least six teams. Initially, the tournament was played in December; since the expansion to twelve teams in 1982, earlier rounds have been held in late November.
The playoffs expanded to a 16-team format in 1986, requiring four postseason victories to win the title. In April 2008, the NCAA announced that the playoff field would expand to 20 teams in 2010, with the Big South and Northeast Conference earning automatic bids for the first time. That bracket structure included eight teams playing in four first-round games, with winners advancing to the second round to face the top four seeds. The playoffs expanded to 24 teams beginning in 2013, with the champion of the Pioneer Football League receiving an automatic bid for the first time, and the number of first-round games increasing from four to eight.
The field is traditionally set the Sunday before Thanksgiving and play begins that weekend. Top teams have been seeded in the bracket since 2004. Initially there were four seeded teams; this increased to five in 2010, and since 2013 there have been eight seeded teams. Geographical considerations are taken into account for placement of unseeded teams in the bracket, in order to minimize travel.
At-large selections and seeding within the bracket are determined by the FCS Playoff Selection Committee, which consists of one athletic director from each conference with an automatic bid. As of the 2018 season, there are 10 conferences with automatic bids and the selection committee makes 14 at-large selections. For the 2018 season, the committee was chaired by Dr. Brad Teague of the University of Central Arkansas.
The tournament culminates with the national championship game, played between the two remaining teams from the playoff bracket. Originally played in December, with the 2010 expansion to a 20-team field, the championship game moved to January, with two or three weeks between the semifinals and final.
From 1997 through 2009, the title game was played at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the home field of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In the five prior years (1992–1996) it was held at Marshall University Stadium (now Joan C. Edwards Stadium) in Huntington, West Virginia.
Since 2010, the title game has been played in Frisco, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas, at Toyota Stadium , a multi-purpose stadium primarily used by FC Dallas of Major League Soccer. The stadium was known as Pizza Hut Park until the day after the championship game of the 2011 season, and then as FC Dallas Stadium until September 2013. The original contract with Frisco began in the 2010 season and ran through the 2012 season. The contract has since been extended three times; first through the 2015 season, then through the 2019 season, and most recently through the 2024 season with an option for the 2025 season.
Three FCS conferences usually do not participate in the tournament. The Ivy League, which has been at the FCS level since 1982 and prohibits its members from awarding athletic scholarships in any sport, plays a strict ten-game regular season and does not participate in any postseason football, citing academic concerns. The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), two conferences consisting of historically black colleges and universities, opt to play the Celebration Bowl (which was established in 2015) instead of the FCS tournament. MEAC gave up its automatic spot in the tournament prior to the 2015 season, while SWAC (whose regular season extends through the Turkey Day Classic and Bayou Classic at the end of November and holds its own championship game in December) has not sent a team to the tournament since 1997. Teams from the MEAC and SWAC may accept at-large bids, so long as they aren't committed to other postseason games that would conflict with the tournament. The most recent team from the MEAC to accept a bid were the 2016 North Carolina A&T Aggies, while the most recent SWAC team to participate in the tournament were the Jackson State Tigers in 1997.
Historically, conferences in FCS that did not offer athletic scholarships were not granted automatic bids into the tournament and, although in theory were eligible for at-large bids, never received any. The last non-scholarship conference in the subdivision, the Pioneer Football League, now receives a tournament bid, which was initiated with the 2013 postseason.
|Big Sky Conference||Big Sky||1963||12||16||Ogden, Utah|
|Big South Conference||Big South||1983||10||19||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Colonial Athletic Association||CAA||1979||10||21||Richmond, Virginia|
|Ivy League %||1954||8||33||Princeton, New Jersey|
|Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference||MEAC||1970||13||16||Norfolk, Virginia|
|Missouri Valley Football Conference||MVFC||1982||10||1||St. Louis, Missouri|
|Northeast Conference||NEC||1981||10||22||Somerset, New Jersey|
|Ohio Valley Conference||OVC||1948||12||18||Brentwood, Tennessee|
|Patriot League||1986||10||24||Center Valley, Pennsylvania|
|Pioneer Football League||PFL||1991||11||1||St. Louis, Missouri|
|Southern Conference||SoCon||1921||10||20||Spartanburg, South Carolina|
|Southland Conference||1963||11||17||Frisco, Texas|
|Southwestern Athletic Conference||SWAC||1920||10||18||Birmingham, Alabama|
% The Ivy League abstains from the championship tournament and all postseason play.
The MEAC champion, since 2015, forgoes its automatic bid to allow its champion to participate in the Celebration Bowl. Non-champions are eligible for at-large bids (an example being the 2016 North Carolina A&T Aggies football team).
The SWAC abstains from the championship tournament to allow for a longer regular season, a conference championship game, and participation in the Celebration Bowl against the MEAC champion since 2015.
The following table lists the champion for each season, starting with the inaugural season of Division I-AA play, 1978. The runner-up, and score of the championship game, are also noted, along with the stadium, host city, attendance at the championship game, and head coach of the championship team.
- † Known as University of Louisiana at Monroe since 1999.
- ‡ Now Toyota Stadium
- * Toyota Stadium capacity reduced due to construction
Since 2009, a Most Outstanding Player has been named for each championship game.
|2010||Bo Levi Mitchell||Eastern Washington||QB|
|2011||Travis Beck||North Dakota State||LB|
|2012||Brock Jensen||North Dakota State||QB|
|2013||Brock Jensen||North Dakota State||QB|
|2014||Carson Wentz||North Dakota State||QB|
|2015||Carson Wentz||North Dakota State||QB|
|2016||Bryan Schor||James Madison||QB|
|2017||Easton Stick||North Dakota State||QB|
|2018||Darrius Sheppard||North Dakota State||WR|
Note: starting with the 2010 season, the championship game is played in January of the next calendar year.
The following table summarizes appearances in the championship game, by team, since the 1978 season, the first year of Division I-AA (the predecessor of FCS). Updated through completion of the 2018 season (41 championship games, 82 total appearances).
|Team||Record||Appearances by season|
|6||2||.750||1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1999, 2000||1988, 1998|
|North Dakota State||
|7||0||1.000||2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018|
|4||3||.571||1991, 1993, 1994, 1997||1992, 1999, 2016|
|2||5||.286||1995, 2001||1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2009|
|2||4||.333||1992, 1996||1987, 1991, 1993, 1995|
|2||2||.500||1979, 1982||1980, 1981|
|1||3||.250||2003||1982, 2007, 2010|
|3||0||1.000||2005, 2006, 2007|
|Sam Houston State||
|Stephen F. Austin||
^ Team is now a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
The below map shows the locations of teams that have won the championship; the color of the dot indicates the number of titles.
- List of NCAA Division I FCS football programs
- College football national championships in NCAA Division I FBS
- NCAA Division I FCS Consensus Mid-Major Football National Championship
- NCAA Division II Football Championship
- NCAA Division III Football Championship
- NAIA National Football Championship
- NJCAA National Football Championship
- List of college bowl games
- "Television Debut May Ignite FAMU". The Palm Beach Post. AP. November 18, 1978. p. 49. Retrieved January 6, 2019 – via newspapers.com.
- "Recommends expansion for I-AA playoffs". The Des Moines Register. AP. April 10, 1982. p. 8. Retrieved January 6, 2019 – via newspapers.com.
- Sutton, Stan (September 9, 1982). "Will I-AA numbers hamper Eastern's playoff bid?". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. p. 11. Retrieved January 6, 2019 – via newspapers.com.
- "SWAC loses automatic bid". The Times. Shreveport, Louisiana. October 28, 1983. p. 6. Retrieved January 6, 2019 – via newspapers.com.
- Graham, Tony (April 26, 2008). "NEC granted access to playoffs". Asbury Park Press. Asbury Park, New Jersey. p. 28. Retrieved January 6, 2019 – via newspapers.com.
- Moorman, Chris (August 4, 2013). "Flyers set sights on playoff prize". Dayton Daily News. Dayton, Ohio. p. 37. Retrieved January 6, 2019 – via newspapers.com.
- Barnett, Zach (November 15, 2018). "With one week to go, here's your FCS playoff primer". footballscoop.com. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
- "Dr. Brad Teague - Staff Directory". ucasports.com. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
- Caplan, Jeff (2010-02-26). "20 teams to compete for FCS crown". ESPNDallas.com. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
- "NCAA inks three-year extension to keep FCS title game in Frisco, Texas" (Press release). NCAA. December 19, 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-02-20. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- "NCAA keeping FCS title game in Frisco through at least 2020". USA Today. Associated Press. January 8, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
- "FCS Championship Will Stay in Frisco Through 2025 With Option for 2026" (Press release). Southland Conference. January 4, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
- Torre, Pablo (2007-11-29). "No playoffs for you!". SI. Retrieved 2009-06-27.
- David Burrick (2003-09-18). "Ivy League not likely to see I-AA playoffs". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved 2009-06-27.[permanent dead link]
- Craig T. Greenlee (2000-01-06). "Not Exactly for THE SPORT OF IT". Black Issues in Higher Education. Retrieved 2009-06-27.
- NCAA (2008). "FCS History". Archived from the original on 2012-09-18.
- "Future Dates & Sites". ncaa.com. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
- "Outstanding players of FCS championship game". ESPN. AP. January 5, 2019. Retrieved January 6, 2019.