1996 I-AA Season

There was another shift with a lot of movement between Division I-A, I-AA, and Division II with conferences coming and going. In addition, ties were no longer an outcome starting with the 1996 season. The NCAA adopted new overtime rules that allowed each team to get at least one possession to determine a winner.

1996 I-AA (FCS) Over I-A (FBS) Victories (7)

  1. Eastern Illinois @ Western Michigan, 28-20
  2. Montana @ Oregon State, 35-14
  3. Western Illinois @ Northern Illinois, 17-0
  4. Eastern Washington @ Boise State, 27-21
  5. Cal State Northridge @ New Mexico State, 33-0
  6. Northwestern State @ Boise State, 20-16
  7. Idaho @ Texas State, 27-21

Playoff Bracket, Notes, and National Champion

For the second straight season, the NCAA seeded all 16 teams in the I-AA playoffs and they also kept campus sites through the semifinals. The National Championship was played on December 21 at Marshall University Stadium in Huntington, West Virginia for the fifth consecutive season. This was the last I-AA/FCS title game held in Huntington to date.

The home team is listed on the bottom of each matchup in the bracket below while an asterisk (*) denotes the number of overtime periods played if a game went to overtime. Marshall (15-0 Overall, 8-0 Southern Conference) exacted revenge on Montana (14-1 Overall, 7-1 Big Sky Conference) after the teams met the previous season in the Championship game. The Thundering Herd won 49-29 for the second and final I-AA title.

Conference Changes

The American West Conference had a short-lived time in I-AA as they folded after the 1995-96 season. In addition, the Northeast Conference added football starting with the 1996 season.

Team Changes

The team-specific changes between divisions and conferences are listed below:

The American West dissolved with Cal State Northridge joining the Big Sky while Cal Poly, Sacramento State, and Southern Utah opted to become I-AA independents.

Boise State and Idaho both left the Big Sky Conference to join the Big West Conference at the I-A level. The NCAA has Idaho listed as I-AA for 1996 despite them having moved to I-A and the Big West Conference. We do not include Idaho in our list of I-AA teams, thus they are eligible to be considered for the I-AA/FCS upset over I-A/FBS teams. Also leaving the I-AA level were independents Central Florida and UAB who both became I-A independents.

Five I-AA independent teams – Central Connecticut State, Monmouth, Robert Morris, Saint Francis (PA), and Wagner – all joined the Northeast Conference. Two additional teams left independent status to join I-AA conferences. Jacksonville State joined the Southland Conference from I-AA independent status while Portland State returned to join the Big Sky Conference after being a Division II independent previously.

Morehead State left the Ohio Valley Conference to become an I-AA independent. Their spot was taken by Eastern Illinois who joined from the Gateway Conference (now called the Missouri Valley Football Conference). Troy moved to the Southland Conference from I-AA independent status. Finally, Fairfield started a new program and immediately joined the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

Arkansas-Pine Bluff began a transition from NAIA to join the SWAC in 1997. They became fully eligible in 1998. The NCAA does not have them listed as the Golden Lions played half their schedule against SWAC opponents.

TeamOld ConferenceNew Conference
Arkansas Pine-BluffNAIA IndependentSWAC (I-AA)
Boise StateBig Sky (I-AA)Big West (I-A)
Cal PolyAmerican West (I-AA)I-AA Independent
Cal State NorthridgeAmerican West (I-AA)Big Sky (I-AA)
Central Connecticut StateI-AA IndependentNortheast Conferece (I-AA)
Central FloridaI-AA IndependentI-A Independent
Eastern IllinoisGateway (I-AA)Ohio Valley (I-AA)
FairfieldNew ProgramMAAC (I-AA)
IdahoBig Sky (I-AA)Big West (I-A)
Jacksonville StateI-AA IndependentSouthland (I-AA)
MonmouthI-AA IndependentNortheast Conferece (I-AA)
Morehead StateOhio Valley (I-AA)I-AA Independent
Portland StateDivision II IndependentBig Sky (I-AA)
Robert MorrisI-AA IndependentNortheast Conferece (I-AA)
Sacramento StateAmerican West (I-AA)I-AA Independent
Saint Francis (PA)I-AA IndependentNortheast Conferece (I-AA)
Southern UtahAmerican West (I-AA)I-AA Independent
TroyI-AA IndependentSouthland (I-AA)
UABI-AA IndependentI-A Independent
WagnerI-AA IndependentNortheast Conferece (I-AA)

1995 Season ———————————————————————————————————————————————————- 1997 Season