The 2001 season saw a host of changes with nearly a half dozen teams moving away from I-AA independent status and into conferences.
2001 FCS Over FBS Victories (8)
- Sam Houston State @ Louisiana-Monroe, 20-9
- Eastern Washington @ Connecticut, 35-17
- Indiana State @ Eastern Michigan, 21-14
- Jacksonville State @ Arkansas State, 31-28
- Northern Iowa @ Ball State, 42-39
- Northwestern State @ TCU, 27-24
- Nicholls @ Arkansas State, 28-22
- Idaho @ Montana, 33-27
Montana (15-1 Overall, 7-0 Big Sky Conference) played in their second straight I-AA title game but won this time with a 13-6 victory over Furman (12-3 Overall, 7-1 Southern Conference). It was the Grizzlies’ second I-AA title while it was Furman’s third title appearance (they lost in 1985 and won in 1988).
The influx of teams into the Pioneer Football League saw the conference institute two divisions. The North held five teams and the South had four teams.
Four teams left from I-AA independent status to join the Pioneer Football League. They were: Austin Peay, Davidson, Jacksonville, and Morehead State.
Georgetown left I-AA independent status to join the Patriot League. Troy left the Southland Conference to become an I-AA independent in preparation for their jump to I-A.
Western Kentucky moved from the Ohio Valley Conference into the Gateway Conference (now known as the Missouri Valley Football Conference). Florida Atlantic started a new program and played as an I-AA independent before moving up to I-A.
Savannah State officially made their move up from Division II independent status to the same at the I-AA level. Also officially making the move from Division II to I-AA independent was Morris Brown. The Wolverines were members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).
Troy began their transition from I-AA to I-A. starting with the 2000 season. The NCAA included them as I-AA, however, over half their schedule consisted of I-A opponents and the other part was I-AA. We considered them I-A as part of their first year of transition. None of the I-AA teams that played Troy pulled the upset.
The final issue was that of UConn, which had a similar story to Troy. The NCAA Handbook has them as I-AA in 2001, but they were firmly entrenched in I-A with a full complement of I-A teams on their schedule.
The NCAA reverted the I-AA playoff format used from 1981 through 1994 of only seeding the top four teams. They had previously seeded all 16 teams in the field. Campus sites were still used through the semifinal round. The National Championship was played on December 21 at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the fifth consecutive season.