About Championships

The NCAA conducts 89 national championships in 23 sports. Competition is conducted in Divisions I, II and III, with 44 championships administered for women and 42 for men. Three are coed.

Postseason Football

What’s the difference between the FBS and FCS?

FBS teams play in bowl games and are allowed 85 scholarship players. FCS schools play for an NCAA championship through a 24-team playoff format and are limited to 63 scholarship players.

The NCAA hosts three football championships: the Division I Football Championship for teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, the Division II Football Championship and the Division III Football Championship. The FCS has a 24-team bracket, while Division II has a 24-team bracket and Division III has a 32-team bracket.

The FCS bracket history dates back to 1978-80 when there were only four teams in the field. The bracket expanded to eight teams in 1981; 12 teams (1982-85); 16 teams (1986-2009); 20 teams 2010-2012; and 24 teams beginning in 2013).

The Division II bracket history dates back to 1973-87 when there were eight teams in the bracket. The field expanded to 16 teams (1988-2003) and 24 teams (2004-present).

The Division III bracket history dates back to 1974 when there were four teams in the field. It expanded to eight teams (1975-84), 16 teams (1985-98), 28 teams (1999-2004) and 32 teams (2005-present).

The Division I Football Bowl Subdivision national championship is determined by the Bowl Championship Series. The BCS system is administered by the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame. The first year of the BCS system was 1998.

Differences between championships

Football Championship Subdivision The Division I Football Championship features a 24-team playoff. The top teams in 11 conferences automatically qualify while the other 13 teams are selected at-large by the Division I Football Championship Committee. From 1997 through 2010, the championship game was played in Chattanooga, Tenn., before moving to Frisco, Texas, in 2011. Before that, the championship game has been played in the following sites since 1978: Wichita Falls, Texas (1978, 1981-82); Orlando, Fla. (1979); Sacramento, Calif. (1980); Charleston, S.C. (1983-84); Tacoma, Wash. (1985-86); Pocatello, Idaho (1987-88); Statesboro, Ga. (1989-91); and Huntington, W.Va. (1992-96).

Division II – The Division II Football Championship consists of a 24-team playoff field. All teams are selected by the Division II Football Committee. Since 1986, the game has been played annually at Braly Municipal Stadium near the campus of the University of North Alabama in Florence, Ala.

Division III – The Division III Football Championship features 23 conference automatic qualifiers and nine additional teams selected by the Division III Football Committee. The championship game has been played at Salem Stadium in Salem, Va., since 1993.

Football Bowl Subdivision – The Division I Football Bowl Subdivision decides its champion through the Bowl Championship Series. The BCS is managed by the 10 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and the University of Notre Dame. The conferences are American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Pac-12, Southeastern and Sun Belt.

The ACC, American Athletic, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC conference winners are granted automatic qualification into one of the following bowl games (Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl). The other conference winners can qualify for a BCS bowl game by ranking in the top 12 or top 16 in the final BCS standings.  The remaining teams that play in BCS games are chosen on an at-large basis.

The top two teams in the BCS standings play in the BCS National Championship Game. Those games are rotated among Glendale, Ariz.; Miami; New Orleans; and Pasadena, Calif.

The Harris Interactive College Football Poll, USA Today Coaches Poll and computer rankings each make up one-third of the BCS standings. Computer rankings used in this process are: Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolfe.  Each computer ranking provider accounts for schedule strength within its formula.

In June 2012, the commissioners and the Notre Dame director of athletics approved a four-team, three-game playoff system to decide the College Football Playoff will take place following the conclusion of the 2014 season.

The format calls for two of the major bowls to rotate as sites for national semifinal games on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day followed by a championship game the following week. However, the national championship game wouldn’t necessarily be played at a current major bowl site.

The College Football Playoff Committee was formed in 2013 to determine the playoff teams.

Currently, there are 35 other bowl games contractually tied to the FBS conferences. To become bowl eligible a team must have won a number of games against FBS opponents that is equal to or greater than the number of its overall losses (a 6-6 record or better). The NCAA allows one victory per season over a FCS team to count toward an FBS team's bowl eligibility, so long as the FCS team has supplied financial aid for football averaging out to at least at 90 percent of the 63 scholarships allowed over “a rolling two-year period.”

Last Updated: Nov 19, 2013