NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision independent schools are four-year institutions in the United States whose football programs are not part of a football conference. This means that FCS independents are not required to schedule each other for competition as conference schools do.
As of the current 2020–21 FCS football season, mostly moved from its originally planned fall 2020 schedule to spring 2021 due to COVID-19, three schools are playing as FCS independents, all of which will join football conferences in July 2021.
Presbyterian spent only the 2020–21 season as an independent; it began a transition to non-scholarship FCS football in 2017 and played the final season of that transition as an FCS independent before joining the Pioneer Football League (PFL); it remains a full but non-football member of the Big South Conference. After two of the nine PFL members opted out of the league's rescheduled spring 2021 season, the PFL entered into a scheduling agreement that guaranteed the Blue Hose games against all remaining PFL teams. Presbyterian was not eligible for the PFL title, but was eligible for individual PFL awards and honors.
Also in 2020, Dixie State and Tarleton moved up from Division II, with both joining the non-football Western Athletic Conference. At the time, both schools announced they would play as FCS independents for the foreseeable future. That changed in January 2021 when the WAC announced it would reinstate football at the FCS level. The WAC had initially planned to relaunch its football league for the 2022 season with the arrival of five new members with FCS football. However, the relaunch of football was moved to fall 2021 after the Southland Conference, which was home to four of the five incoming WAC members, expelled those schools effective at the end of the 2020–21 school year.
A fourth school, Robert Morris, had initially planned to play the 2020 season as an independent. Robert Morris left the football-sponsoring Northeast Conference for the non-football Horizon League in July 2020 and had planned to join Big South football in 2021. However, after three Big South football teams opted out of playing in the conference's rescheduled spring 2021 season (with two playing in fall 2020 and the other not playing at all in 2020–21), the conference brought Robert Morris into its football league ahead of schedule. The Colonials will play in the Big South's spring 2021 season and are eligible for the league title.
The only school that had played as an FCS independent in the most recently completed 2019 season, North Dakota, joined the Missouri Valley Football Conference in July 2020. The Fighting Hawks left the Big Sky Conference for the non-football Summit League in July 2018, but agreed to honor existing contracts to play Big Sky members in football, and thus played a full Big Sky football schedule in both 2018 and 2019.
Current FCS independents
|Years||Team||Nickname||Previous conference||Future conference|
|2020||Presbyterian||Blue Hose||Big South||PFL (2021–future)|
|2020||Dixie State||Trailblazers||RMAC (Division II)||WAC (2021–future)|
|2020||Tarleton State||Texans||LSC (Division II)||WAC (2021–future)|
Former FCS independents
The following is a complete list of teams which have been Division I-AA/FCS Independents since the formation of Division I-AA in 1978. The "Current Conference" column indicates affiliations for the 2020–21 college football season. Years listed in this table are football seasons; since football is a fall sport, this means that the final season of independent status, or for membership in a given conference, is the calendar year before a conference change took effect.
Teams in italics are current FBS members; this includes second-year transitional schools that are counted as FBS for scheduling purposes but not bowl game eligibility.
|Years||Team||Previous conference||Conference joined||Current conference|
|2013||Abilene Christian||Lone Star (Div. II)||Southland (2014–2020)||WAC (2021–future)|
|1987–1991||Arkansas State||Southland||Division I-A Independent (1992)||Sun Belt (2001–present)[N 1]|
|1997–2000||Austin Peay||Ohio Valley[N 2]||Pioneer Football League (2001–2005)|
|2006||Pioneer Football League||Ohio Valley (2007–present)|
|1978–1985||Bucknell||Division II Independent||Patriot League (1986–present)[N 3]|
|1993–1998||Buffalo||Division III Independent||Mid-American Conference (1999–present)[N 4]|
|1996–2003||Cal Poly||American West||Great West (2004–2011)[N 5]||Big Sky (2012–present)|
|2001||Cal State Northridge||Big Sky||Dropped football|
|2006||Central Arkansas||Gulf South (Div. II)||Southland (2007–2020)||WAC (2021)|
ASUN (2022–future)[N 6]
|1993–1995||Central Connecticut||Division II Independent||Northeast (1996–present)|
|1993–2001||Charleston Southern||No football program||Big South (2002–present)|
|2013–2014||Charlotte||No football program||C–USA (2015–present)[N 7]|
|2016||Coastal Carolina||Big South||Sun Belt (2017–present)[N 8]|
|1982–1985||Colgate||Division I-A Independent||Patriot League (1986–present)[N 3]|
|1989||Davidson||Colonial League[N 3]||Division III Independent (1990–1992)|
|1993–2000||Division III Independent||Pioneer Football League (2001–present)|
|1980–1985||Delaware||Division II Independent||Yankee Conference (1986–1996)||CAA Football (2007–present)[N 9][N 10]|
|1993||Duquesne||Division III Independent||MAAC (1994–2007)||Northeast (2008–present)|
|2015||East Tennessee State||No football program[N 11]||Southern (2016–present)[N 12]|
|1984–1986||Eastern Washington||Division II Independent||Big Sky (1987–present)|
|1998–2001||Elon||Division II Independent||Big South (2002)||CAA Football (2014–present)|
|1984–1987||Florida A&M||MEAC[N 13]||MEAC (1988–2003, 2005–2020)||SWAC (2021–future)|
|2004||MEAC[N 14]||MEAC (2005–2020)||SWAC (2021–future)|
|2002–2004||FIU||No football program||Sun Belt (2005–2012)||C–USA (2013–present)|
|2001–2004||Florida Atlantic||No football program||Sun Belt (2005–2012)||C–USA (2013–present)|
|1989||Fordham||Liberty Football Conference||Patriot League (1990–present)|
|2000||Georgetown||MAAC||Patriot League (2001–present)|
|1984–1991||Georgia Southern||Club football||Southern (1992–2013)||Sun Belt (2014–present)|
|2011||Georgia State||Unclassified (exhibition only)||CAA Football (2012)||Sun Belt (2013–present)|
|2018||Hampton||MEAC||Big South (2019–present)|
|1991–2000||Hofstra||Division III Independent||Atlantic 10 (2001–2006)||Dropped football|
|1982–1985||Holy Cross||Division I-A Independent||Patriot League (1986–present)[N 3]|
|2013||Houston Baptist||No football program||Southland (2014–present)|
|2008||Iona||MAAC (1993–2007)||Dropped football|
|2013||Incarnate Word||Lone Star (Div. II)||Southland (2014–present)|
|1982–1985||Indiana State||Division I-A Independent||MVFC (1997–present)[N 15]|
|1998–2000||Jacksonville||No football program||Pioneer Football League (2001–2019)||Dropped football|
|1980–1992||James Madison||Division III Independent||Yankee Conference (1993–1996)||CAA Football (2007–present)[N 16][N 10]|
|1978–1985||Lafayette||Division II Independent||Patriot League (1986–present)[N 3]|
|1987–1989||Lamar||Southland||Dropped program (1989–2009)|
|2010||No football program||Southland (2011–2020)||WAC (2021–future)|
|1997–1998||La Salle||No football program (1942–1996)||MAAC (1999–2007)||Dropped football|
|1978–1985||Lehigh||Division II Independent||Patriot League (1986–present)[N 3]|
|1988–2001||Liberty||Division II Independent||Big South (2002–2017)[N 17]||Division I FBS independent (2018–present)[N 18]|
|1987–1988||Louisiana Tech||Southland||Division I-A Independent (1989–1992)||C–USA (2013–present)|
|1993||Marist||Liberty Football Conference||MAAC (1994–2007)|
|2008||MAAC||Pioneer Football League (2009–present)|
|1994–1995||Monmouth||Unclassified Independent||Northeast (1996–2012)|
|2013||Northeast||Big South (2014–present)|
|1996–2000||Morehead State||Ohio Valley||Pioneer Football League (2001–present)|
|2001–2002||Morris Brown||SIAC (Div. II)||Dropped football|
|1978||Nevada||Division II Independent||Big Sky (1979–1991)||Mountain West (2012–present)|
|1980–1983||Nicholls||Division II Independent||Gulf Star (1984–1986)||Southland (1992–present)|
|1987–1990||Gulf Star||Southland (1991–present)|
|2018||North Alabama||Gulf South (Div. II)||Big South (2019–present)|
|2018–2019||North Dakota||Big Sky||MVFC (2020–present)|
|1978–1992||Northeastern||Division II Independent||Yankee (1993–1996)||Dropped football (2010)|
|2003||Northern Colorado||North Central||Great West (2004–2005)||Big Sky (2006–present)|
|1978–1983||Northwestern State||Division I Independent||Gulf Star (1984–1986)||Southland (1987–present)|
|2009–2010||Old Dominion||No football program||CAA Football (2011–2012)|
|2013||CAA Football||C–USA (2014–present)|
|1978–1980||Portland State||Division II Independent||Division II Independent (1981)||Big Sky (1996–present)|
|1982–1985||Richmond||Division I-A Independent||Yankee Conference (1986–1996)||CAA Football (2007–present)[N 10]|
|1994–1995||Robert Morris||No football program||Northeast (1996–2019)||Big South (2020–present)|
|1993–1995||Saint Francis (PA)||Division III Independent||Northeast (1996–present)|
|1989–2002||Samford||Division III Independent||Ohio Valley (2003–2007)||Southern (2008–present)|
|2002–2009||Savannah State||Division II Independent||MEAC (2010–2018)||SIAC (Div. II; 2019–present)|
|2011||South Alabama||Unclassified (exhibition only)||Sun Belt (2012–present)[N 19]|
|1997–2000||South Florida||No football program||Division I-A Independent (2001–2002)||American (2013–present)[N 20]|
|1980–1983||Southeastern Louisiana||Division II Independent||Gulf Star (1984–1985)||Southland (2005–present)|
|2003–2004||No football program[N 21]||Southland (2005–present)|
|1996–2003||Southern Utah||American West||Great West (2004–2011)[N 5]||Big Sky (2012–2021)|
|1998–1999||St. John's||MAAC||Northeast (2000–2002)||Dropped football (2003)|
|1993–2003||Saint Mary's||Division II Independent||Dropped football (2004)|
|2007||Stony Brook||Northeast||Big South (2008–2012)||CAA Football (2013–present)|
|1981–1987||Tennessee State||Division I-A Independent||Ohio Valley (1988–present)|
|1987–1996||Towson||Division II Independent||Patriot League (1997–2003)||CAA Football (2007–present)[N 22]|
|1993–1995||Troy||Division II Independent||Southland (1996–2000)|
|2001||Southland||Division I-A Independent (2002–2003)||Sun Belt (2004–present)[N 23]|
|1993���1995||UAB||Division III Independent||Division I-A Independent (1996–1998)||C–USA (2017–present)[N 24]|
|1990–1995||UCF||Division II Independent||Division I-A Independent (1996–2001)||American (2013–present)|
|2011||UTSA||No football program||WAC (2012)||C–USA (2013–present)|
|1987||Villanova||No football program||Yankee Conference (1988–1996)||CAA Football (2007–Present)|
|1993–1995||Wagner||Liberty Football Conference||Northeast (1996–present)|
|1982–1998||Western Kentucky||Ohio Valley||Ohio Valley (1999–2000)|
|2007–2008||Gateway Football Conference[N 15]||Sun Belt (2009–2013)||C–USA (2014–present)|
|1982–1992||William & Mary||Division I-A Independent||Yankee Conference (1993–1996)||CAA Football (2007–present)[N 16][N 10]|
|1995–1996||Wofford||Division II Independent||Southern (1997–present)|
|2006||Winston–Salem State||CIAA (Div. II)||MEAC (2007–2009)||CIAA (Div. II) (2010–present)|
|1988–1996||Youngstown State||Ohio Valley||MVFC (1997–present)[N 15]|
- NCAA Division I FBS independent schools
- NCAA Division I independent schools
- NCAA Division II independent schools
- NCAA Division III independent schools
- NAIA independent schools
- Arkansas State has been a full Sun Belt member since 1991, but the conference did not sponsor football until 2001.
- Austin Peay only departed OVC football; it remained a full but non-football member before returning to OVC football in 2007.
- The conference now known as the Patriot League began in 1986 as the football-only Colonial League. It adopted its current name in 1990, when it became an all-sports conference.
- Buffalo became a full member of the MAC in 1998, but was not a football member until 1999.
- The Great West Conference began in 2004 as the Great West Football Conference. It became an all-sports conference in 2008.
- ASUN will sponsor football in 2022, but without a timetable on when conference competition is to begin.
- Charlotte's second and current stint as a Conference USA member began in 2013, the same time that it began its football program. The football team completed its FBS transition in 2015 and joined C-USA football at that time.
- Coastal Carolina joined the Sun Belt Conference as a full but non-football member in 2016, and joined Sun Belt football in 2017.
- Delaware has been a full CAA member since 2001. However, the CAA did not sponsor football until 2007, when it effectively took over the football league previously sponsored by the Atlantic 10 Conference (A10).
- The CAA football conference is the direct successor of both the Yankee Conference and A10 football conference. The football-only Yankee Conference was absorbed by the A10 after the 1996 season. After the 2006 season, the A10 dropped football after all of its football members joined the newly formed CAA football conference. The Yankee Conference's automatic bid to the I-AA/FCS playoffs passed in succession to the A10 and CAA.
- ETSU resurrected its football program, dormant since the end of the 2003 season, in 2015, playing that season as an independent before joining Southern Conference football in 2016.
- ETSU, which had previously been a Southern Conference member from 1978 to 2005, rejoined the SoCon in 2014, initially as a non-football member.
- Florida A&M was a member of the MEAC in 1986 & 1987, but games played did not count as conference games.
- Florida A&M was a member of the MEAC in 2004, but games played did not count as conference games
- The MVFC did not adopt its current name until 2008. Before then, it was known as the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference (1982–1993) and Gateway Football Conference (1993–2008).
- James Madison and William & Mary have been CAA members since the conference's establishment in 1979. However, the CAA did not sponsor football until 2007, when it effectively took over the football league previously sponsored by the Atlantic 10 Conference (A10).
- Liberty became a full member of the Big South in 1991, remaining a member until joining the non-football ASUN Conference in 2018, but the Big South did not sponsor football until 2002.
- Liberty began a transition to FBS in the 2017 season, and became a full FBS member in 2019.
- South Alabama has been a Sun Belt member from the conference's creation in 1976. However, the Sun Belt did not sponsor football until 2001. South Alabama did not start a football program until 2009, and did not play Sun Belt football until 2012.
- The original Big East Conference split into the football-sponsoring American Athletic Conference and a new non-football Big East Conference in 2013. South Florida remained with the FBS schools in The American.
- Southeastern Louisiana dropped football after the 1985 season.
- Towson was a CAA member at the conference's formation in 1979, but left in 1981; after having been a member of four other conferences, it rejoined the CAA in 2001. However, the CAA did not sponsor football until 2007, when it effectively took over the football league previously sponsored by the Atlantic 10 Conference (A10).
- Troy joined the Sun Belt for football in 2004, and became an all-sports member in 2005.
- UAB joined Conference USA in 1995, but did not join for football until 1999. The school dropped football after the 2014 season, but reinstated the sport in 2017, remaining a C-USA member throughout its football hiatus.
- "PFL Announces Updated Spring Schedule" (Press release). Pioneer Football League. February 2, 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- "Valparaiso's Washington, San Diego's Glajchen Highlight 2020-21 PFL Major Award Recipients" (Press release). Pioneer Football League. April 26, 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
- "WAC Announces Expansion, Plans to Reinstate Football" (Press release). Western Athletic Conference. January 14, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
- Blum, Sam (January 14, 2021). "As WAC announces addition of 5 schools, Frisco-based Southland Conference left in no man's land". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
- "WAC Announces Expedited Entrance for Four Texas Institutions" (Press release). Western Athletic Conference. January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
- "Big South Announces Football 2021 Spring Schedule" (Press release). Big South Conference. November 9, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
- "WAC Announces Expansion, Plans to Reinstate Football" (Press release). Western Athletic Conference. January 14, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
- Jeyarajah, Shehan (January 28, 2021). "Report: Three schools to join WAC football for 2021 season only". Dave Campbell's Texas Football. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
- "Lamar Football 2012 Info Guide" (PDF). Lamar University Department of Athletics. p. 101. Retrieved March 30, 2015.