FCS Playoff History

The FCS has settled the debate over a national champion on the field since the Division I split in 1978 by holding a playoff tournament. There have been many iterations of the FCS playoffs ranging from 4 teams at the start to the current 24-team playoff (as of 2024). The table below shows the different playoff formats used by the NCAA since 1978. Additional information for conference records can be found here, team records are here, and overtime games are here.

Season(s)Bracket SizeSeeded TeamsByesPlayoff Games Played Per Season
1978 – 19804003
19818407
1982 – 1985124411
1986 – 1994164015
1995 – 20001616015
2001 – 2009164015
2010 – 20122051219
2013 – 2019248823
2020164015
2021 – Present248823

National Championship Games and Locations

Since 1978, there have been 46 national games played across various locations. The early part of the FCS (then called I-AA) saw the location move around frequently but that changed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The NCAA awarded Statesboro, Georgia (home to Georgia Southern) the championship game from 1989 through 1991. The NCAA then set the title game location to Huntington, West Virginia (home to Marshall) from 1992 through 1996.

Since 1997, the NCAA has had only two national championship locations: Chattanooga, Tennessee (1997 through 2009) and Frisco, Texas (2010 through the present). The table below shows the national champion, winning conference, final score, runner-up, losing conference, and location of each I-AA/FCS national championship game. On the left is a hyperlink to another part of this website that shows the bracket for that year.

YearChampionWinning ConferenceScoreRunner-UpLosing ConferenceLocation
1978Florida A&MSIAC (DII)35-28MassachusettsYankee ConferenceWichita Falls, TX
1979Eastern KentuckyOhio Valley30-7LehighI-AA IndependentOrlando, FL
1980Boise StateBig Sky31-29Eastern KentuckyOhio ValleySacramento, CA
1981Idaho StateBig Sky34-23Eastern KentuckyOhio ValleyWichita Falls, TX
1982Eastern Kentucky (2)Ohio Valley17-14DelawareI-AA IndependentWichita Falls, TX
1983Southern IllinoisMissouri Valley Conference43-7Western CarolinaSouthernCharleston, SC
1984Montana StateBig Sky19-6Louisiana TechSouthlandCharleston, SC
1985Georgia SouthernI-AA Independent44-42FurmanSouthernTacoma, WA
1986Georgia Southern (2)I-AA Independent48-21Arkansas StateSouthlandTacoma, WA
1987Louisiana-Monroe
(Northeast Louisiana)
Southland43-42MarshallSouthernPocatello, ID
1988FurmanSouthern17-12Georgia SouthernI-AA IndependentPocatello, ID
1989Georgia Southern (3)I-AA Independent37-34Stephen F. AustinSouthlandStatesboro, GA
1990Georgia Southern (4)I-AA Independent36-13NevadaBig SkyStatesboro, GA
1991Youngstown StateI-AA Independent25-17MarshallSouthernStatesboro, GA
1992MarshallSouthern31-28Youngstown StateI-AA IndependentHuntington, WV
1993Youngstown State (2)I-AA Independent17-5MarshallSouthernHuntington, WV
1994Youngstown State (3)
I-AA Independent28-14Boise StateBig SkyHuntington, WV
1995MontanaBig Sky22-20MarshallSouthernHuntington, WV
1996Marshall (2)Southern49-29MontanaBig SkyHuntington, WV
1997Youngstown State (4)
Gateway10-9McNeeseSouthlandChattanooga, TN
1998MassachusettsAtlantic 1055-43Georgia SouthernSouthernChattanooga, TN
1999Georgia Southern (5)Southern59-24Youngstown StateGatewayChattanooga, TN
2000Georgia Southern (6)Southern27-25MontanaBig SkyChattanooga, TN
2001Montana (2)Big Sky13-6FurmanSouthernChattanooga, TN
2002Western KentuckyGateway34-14McNeeseSouthlandChattanooga, TN
2003DelawareAtlantic 1040-0ColgatePatriot LeagueChattanooga, TN
2004James MadisonAtlantic 1031-21MontanaBig SkyChattanooga, TN
2005Appalachian StateSouthern21-16Northern IowaGatewayChattanooga, TN
2006Appalachian State (2)Southern28-17MassachusettsAtlantic 10Chattanooga, TN
2007Appalachian State (3)Southern49-21DelawareCAAChattanooga, TN
2008RichmondCAA24-7MontanaBig SkyChattanooga, TN
2009VillanovaCAA23-21MontanaBig SkyChattanooga, TN
2010Eastern WashingtonBig Sky20-19DelawareCAAFrisco, TX
2011North Dakota StateMissouri Valley Football17-6Sam Houston StateSouthlandFrisco, TX
2012North Dakota State (2)Missouri Valley Football39-13Sam Houston StateSouthlandFrisco, TX
2013North Dakota State (3)Missouri Valley Football35-7TowsonCAAFrisco, TX
2014North Dakota State (4)Missouri Valley Football29-27Illinois StateMissouri Valley FootballFrisco, TX
2015North Dakota State (5)Missouri Valley Football37-10Jacksonville StateOhio ValleyFrisco, TX
2016James Madison (2)CAA28-14Youngstown StateMissouri Valley FootballFrisco, TX
2017North Dakota State (6)Missouri Valley Football17-13James MadisonCAAFrisco, TX
2018North Dakota State (7)Missouri Valley Football38-24Eastern WashingtonBig SkyFrisco, TX
2019North Dakota State (8)Missouri Valley Football28-20James MadisonCAAFrisco, TX
2020Sam Houston StateSouthland23-21South Dakota StateMissouri Valley FootballFrisco, TX
2021North Dakota State (9)Missouri Valley Football38-10Montana StateBig SkyFrisco, TX
2022South Dakota StateMissouri Valley Football45-21North Dakota StateMissouri Valley FootballFrisco, TX
2023South Dakota State (2)Missouri Valley Football23-3MontanaBig SkyFrisco, TX