Just like in the NFL, college football is broken down into divisions and conferences. But that’s where the similarities end. College Football’s structure is completely different. And weird.
Okay. So, in college, the divisions are DI, DII, and DIII. Division I is the best so that is the one we are going to focus on. Within each division there are conferences. And then….within that structure, there are actually two subdivisions.
- Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS)
- Football Championship Subdivision (FCS)
The teams that make up the FBS are the games that everyone tunes into. In fact, when I started to tell my roommate (a huge Ohio State fanatic) about all I had learned about the FBS and the FCS, he looked at me like I grew seven heads and said “um yeah, no one cares about that. The FBS games are what we watch.”
So why aren’t all teams in the elite FBS? Because the NCAA divides the DI schools into division based on their attendance at games and their scholarships (in other words, do they have enough cash and financial backing for their program to be in the elite).
The Football Bowl Subdivision is comprised of
- Six “Powerhouse” Conferences. They are like the A-list celebrities that you want at your party.
- The “Mid-Majors” The high end B-listers.
- The Independents: The randoms celebs that everyone accepts as must-haves at the party, but have no idea why… like Paris Hilton….
In 2009, there are 120 schools that make up the FBS. More can join every year as long as they prove themselves worthy.
The Football Championship Conference is comprised of the other conferences. In other words, these are the people at the party that can provide good entertainment value but no one really cares if they don’t show up.
Oh and one more point, conferences with 12 or more schools are allowed to split into more divisions (i.e. east/west) and can have divisional championship games within their own conference.
The Powerhouse FBS Conferences:
Iowa State Oklahoma
Kansas Oklahoma State
Kansas State Texas
Missouri Texas A&M
Nebraska Texas Tech
I’m not going to spend time running through all the teams in these conferences.
- Conference USA:
- Mid-American (MAC):
- Mountain West:
- Sun Belt
- Western Athletic (WAC)
The FBS Independents
Somewhere in between the Powerhouses and the Mid-Majors come the Independents. They split from their conferences for various reasons but still participate in the high profile games.
- Notre Dame
The rest of Division I college football conferences make up the Football Championship Subdivision.
These conferences don’t partake in the whole Bowl Phenomenon that everyone else is so crazy about. Mostly because of financing. The schools in these conferences don’t pull in enough attendance and financial backing to support a bowl game. Instead, they have a 16 team elimination process/playoffs at the end of their season—like most other NCAA sports.
I’m not going to go too in depth with the FCS because, like I said earlier, all of the attention in college football is on the FBS but here is a quick rundown of the conferences:
Big Sky, Big South, Colonial Athletic, Great West, FCS Independents, Ivy League, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley, Northeastern, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Pioneer, Southern, Southland, Southwestern Athletic.
The FBS & The BCS
As if it wasn’t confusing enough, the college football bigwigs created the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) to really complicate it.
So remember those six powerhouse conferences of the FBS? Not only do they make up the core of the Football Bowl Subdivision, they are also the six BCS conferences.
Breaking it Down:
Let’s take the Florida Gators (Go Gators!) as the example.
Florida is in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) so: The Florida Gators are in a powerhouse conference in both the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Bowl Championship Series.
Memorize that. It will score major brownie points (although, not if the crew you are out with are FSU or Oklahoma fans!)
So what’s the deal with the BCS?
Way back in the beginning there was only one bowl: The Rose. By the 1940s it grew to 5 and in the ’70s swelled to 11. Currently there are 34 college football bowls, So over the course of time, and as more and more bowl games started to pop up in the post season, the elite wanted to separate themselves from the pack.
The BCS is made up of five key bowl games: The Rose, The Orange, The Sugar, The Fiesta, and the Bowl National Championship Game. Think of them as the Limoges of college football bowls.
Each bowl features a conference and the top ranked team of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC have an automatic place in their host’s bowl (i.e. the ACC hosts the Orange Bowl so the No. 1 team in the ACC automatically gets to play in the game). Oh, and Notre Dame automatically gets to go if they are ranked in the top 8 because their athletics director helps with BCS standings and decisions. (Sure, that seems fair and not at all like bribery).
In addition to competing to be No. 1 in their respective conferences, all the teams are battling to be the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked BCS teams in the country because those two head to the BCS National Championship Game. The winner of that game is declared the national champ and No. 1 team in the country for the season. To some people.
How it works:
The BCS uses a very complicated set of stats, polls and math to determine the top teams in the country. This is widely debated and topic of controversy every season. I would break it down, but I really have no idea. Even seasoned college football fans have a hard time understanding how the rankings come to be. Because shock of all shocks, they had to go and make it all complicated with all sorts of crazy rules. Think I’m kidding? Check out the BCS Football Selection Procedures if you don’t believe me.
Take last year for example. Oklahoma was the No. 1 team for the Big 12, meaning they had an automatic spot in the Fiesta Bowl. And Florida was the No. 1 team for the SEC, meaning they should play in the Sugar Bowl. But the BCS committee determined that Florida and Oklahoma were the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country and wanted them to be in the Championship. So they were. And Texas played in the Fiesta Bowl in Oklahoma’s spot and Alabama was selected to play in the Sugar Bowl. The newly selected teams do not have to be a part of the host’s original conference (Big 12, SEC in this case).
Yes, my head hurts too from all of this. But apparently it has really helped college football because it was all chaotic before they installed this system. Hmm.