It was more of the same with teams moving in and out along with conference changes occurring in time for the 1997 season.
1997 FCS Over FBS Victories (5)
- Cal State Northridge @ Boise State, 63-23
- Kent State @ Youngstown State, 44-23
- Southern Utah @ Arkansas State, 34-24
- Cal Poly @ New Mexico State, 38-35
- Idaho @ Eastern Washington, 24-21
Youngstown State (13-2 Overall, 4-2 Gateway Conference) reclaimed their I-AA crown for the fourth time in seven seasons. They won a defensive game 10-9 against McNeese (13-2 Overall, 6-1 Southland Conference).
The Yankee Conference became the Atlantic 10 Conference with all members moving with it.
One team left I-AA for I-A: Marshall went from the Southern Conference with the MAC. Norfolk State was the only team to move up from Division II. The Spartans were previously in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and became I-AA independent. Arkansas-Pine Bluff moved up from NAIA to join the SWAC.
South Florida started a new program and immediately became an I-AA independent. La Salle restarted their football team and also was an I-AA independent. Austin Peay also became I-AA independent after leaving the Ohio Valley Conference.
Three teams left I-AA independent status to join conferences: Towson joined the Patriot League, Wofford joined the Southern Conference, and Youngstown State joined the Gateway Conference (now known as the Missouri Valley Football Conference).
Elon left the Division II South Atlantic Conference (SAC) to start a transition to I-AA. They are not considered I-AA by the NCAA until 1999, but they did play half their schedule against I-AA competition. Including Elon in the list of I-AA teams has no effect as they did not play any I-A teams during their transition.
The NCAA does not have Arkansas-Pine Bluff listed as a Division I-AA member, nor does the school itself. However, they did play a full SWAC schedule in 1997 in what was effectively a transition year. As with most transition teams, this has no bearing on the number of I-A/I-AA games as the Golden Lions did not play any in 1997.
For the third consecutive 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 20 at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the first time.