The 1978 season significantly changed the landscape in Division I college football. 1978 marked the split of Division I into I-A and I-AA (later renamed FBS and FCS, respectively).
1978 FCS Over FBS Victories (23)
- Cal State Fullerton @ Boise State, 42-12
- Lamar @ Northwestern State, 21-7
- Tennessee Tech @ Western Carolina, 22-20
- Long Beach State @ Boise State, 19-13
- Western Carolina @ East Tennessee State, 21-14
- Nevada @ UNLV, 23-14
- Western Kentucky @ Illinois State, 28-6
- Central Michigan @ Alcorn State, 24-16
- Colgate @ Lehigh, 38-7
- McNeese @ Northwestern State, 10-7
- Rhode Island @ Brown, 17-3
- Boston University @ Dartmouth, 20-17
- San Jose State @ Boise State, 30-15
- Nevada @ Cal State Fullerton, 37-14
- Penn @ Lafayette, 20-19
- Lehigh @ VMI, 14-10
- East Tennessee State @ Appalachian State, 35-34
- Holy Cross @ Boston University, 15-7
- Colgate @ Bucknell, 7-0
- Massachusetts @ Holy Cross, 33-8
- Montana State @ Fresno State, 35-14
- Weber State @ Utah State, 44-25
- Boston College @ Massachusetts, 27-0
There was one tie between I-A and I-AA teams in 1978:
- Middle Tennessee @ Chattanooga, 14-14
Florida A&M Rattlers (12-1 Overall, 5-0 in the Division II SIAC) defeated Massachusetts (9-4 Overall, 5-0 Yankee Conference) 35-28 in the inaugural I-AA/FCS championship game.
Five conferences and independents comprised the 1978 I-AA season. They were the Big Sky Conference, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Ohio Valley Conference, Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), and the Yankee Conference.
One of the difficulties when researching the 1978 season was determining which teams were actually I-AA and which were Division II. For example, Florida A&M was technically I-AA but played their conferences games against Division II opponents. A quick look at Wikipedia for the season does not show the Rattlers anywhere.
Further research showed that Florida A&M played in the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), but were considered I-AA as the NCAA granted them Division I status.
The same is true for Davidson who was considered I-AA at the time but is nowhere to be found. Even a trip to the Davidson record book online does not explicitly state which conference or even division the Wildcats were part of. We concur with the NCAA that Davidson was I-AA in 1979.
Another issue is the MEAC. Several members in the 1978 season were not considered I-AA members by the NCAA’s handbook such as North Carolina Central and Maryland Eastern Shore. We use the NCAA’s handbook in these cases.
A final, but minor issue is that of Mississippi Valley State. They have been a member of the SWAC since 1968, but the NCAA lists them as arriving in the I-AA in 1980. They spent 1978 and 1979 at the Division II level, but it is unclear if these two seasons were part of a transition.
Outside the obvious changes and difficulties with the split of Division I, six teams moved to I-AA independent status. Northwestern State went from Division I-A to I-AA status. Five schools went from Division II Independent status to I-AA Independent status: Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh, Nevada, and Portland State.
Four teams were in the 1978 I-AA Playoffs and were separated into East, West, South, and at-large. Florida A&M was the at-large team, Jackson State out of the SWAC in the South, Massachusetts from the Yankee Conference in the East, and Nevada represented the West as an I-AA independent.
The National Championship was played at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls, Texas on December 16.
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