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)

  1. Cal State Fullerton @ Boise State, 42-12
  2. Lamar @ Northwestern State, 21-7
  3. Tennessee Tech @ Western Carolina, 22-20
  4. Long Beach State @ Boise State, 19-13
  5. Western Carolina @ East Tennessee State, 21-14
  6. Nevada @ UNLV, 23-14
  7. Western Kentucky @ Illinois State, 28-6
  8. Central Michigan @ Alcorn State, 24-16
  9. Colgate @ Lehigh, 38-7
  10. McNeese @ Northwestern State, 10-7
  11. Rhode Island @ Brown, 17-3
  12. Boston University @ Dartmouth, 20-17
  13. San Jose State @ Boise State, 30-15
  14. Nevada @ Cal State Fullerton, 37-14
  15. Penn @ Lafayette, 20-19
  16. Lehigh @ VMI, 14-10
  17. East Tennessee State @ Appalachian State, 35-34
  18. Holy Cross @ Boston University, 15-7
  19. Colgate @ Bucknell, 7-0
  20. Massachusetts @ Holy Cross, 33-8
  21. Montana State @ Fresno State, 35-14
  22. Weber State @ Utah State, 44-25
  23. Boston College @ Massachusetts, 27-0

There was one tie between I-A and I-AA teams in 1978:

  1. Middle Tennessee @ Chattanooga, 14-14

National Champion

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.

Conference Changes

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.

Team Changes

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.

Playoffs Notes

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.

—————————————————————————————————————————————– 1979 Season