Conference realignment was still going strong with a few ripple effects at the FCS level in 2011.
2011 FCS Over FBS Victories (6)
- Richmond @ Duke, 23-21
- Sacramento State @ Oregon State, 29-28 (1 OT)
- Indiana State @ Western Kentucky, 44-16
- North Dakota State @ Minnesota, 37-24
- Sam Houston State @ New Mexico, 48-45 (1 OT)
- Southern Utah @ UNLV, 41-16
Playoff Bracket, Notes, and National Champion
The FCS playoff remained the same in 2011 with 12 teams receiving a first-round bye as well as the top 5 teams being seeded. Campus sites were still used through the semifinal round as previously done. The FCS National Championship was held in Frisco, Texas for the second straight season on January 7, 2012.
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. North Dakota State (14-1 Overall, 7-1 Missouri Valley Football Conference) began their dominance of the FCS level by winning their first FCS National Championship in the 2011 season. The Bison stifled the high-powered Sam Houston State (14-1 Overall, 7-0 Southland Conference) offense in a 17-6 win.
There were no conference changes in effect for the 2011 season.
Old Dominion went from FCS independent to the Colonial Athletic Association. Lamar re-joined the Southland Conference for the first time in twenty-five years.
UT-San Antonio started a new program and was classified as an FCS independent for the season. Texas State started its transition from FCS (Southland) to FBS with the 2011 season as they were considered an FCS independent as well. Massachusetts also started its transition to the FBS but was still part of the Colonial Athletic Association. Their CAA games did not count nor were they eligible for the CAA title or FCS Playoffs.
The NCAA Handbook does not list UTSA or Texas State as FCS for the 2011 season as they had decided to move up to the FBS starting in 2012. Typically, we would consider UTSA as an FBS team due to the transition, but 2011 was their first season and their schedule was set before they even accepted an invitation to the Western Athletic Conference. We consider UTSA as FCS for the 2011 season.
Texas State presents a slightly different issue. They joined the WAC at the same time as UTSA in November 2010. The Bobcats were considered an FCS independent, but their 2011 season was basically a typical Southland Conference schedule. A release from the school made it seem as if they might have changed the schedule to include more FBS teams if possible.
Massachusetts had the same circumstances as Texas State except they were considered part of the CAA. The Minutemen played a typical CAA schedule but the games did not count towards the conference standings. Normally, the 2011 season was to be the start of a transition year for Texas State and UMass and we would consider them both to be FBS teams. The schedules for 2011 sing a different tune, largely because there was little time to change them to reflect the new circumstances.
There is a precedent for teams to jump from FCS to FBS without a typical mixed schedule. In October 1997, UConn voted to move up to I-A. They made the I-AA playoffs in 1998 and then played their final season in 1999 as a member of the Atlantic 10 with a full conference schedule.
We chose to keep Texas State and UMass as FCS for the 2011 season largely due to the schedules. While this may seem to fly in the face of other transitions (such as those from Division II into the FCS), we believe the short time frame between the decision and the time they left is sufficient to leave them as FCS. Furthermore, later transitions from FCS to FBS usually have the team considered an FCS independent, which is consistent with the decision above.
The NCAA did not list Bryant (2012), North Dakota (2012), or South Dakota (2012) as eligible FCS teams in 2011. We count those programs as FCS teams for the 2010 season keeping a consistent standard of including teams that were transitioning into the subdivision.