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College Football: More Than Just the Top 25
posted on AmericanChronicle.com, Saturday, October 6, 2007
When Division I-AA Appalachian State shocked
the college football world by beating the #5 ranked Michigan Wolverines earlier
this season, it brought to light something that I have been saying for many
years; There is a lot more to college football than just the teams in the Top
But whenever you pick up a newspaper, or turn on the TV, you would think that
there are only 25 teams playing this time of year. But there is so much more to
college football. There are 120 football teams in Division I-A, and even more in
the lower divisions.
Even within Division I-A, media attention is grossly slanted towards a select
few conferences and schools. There are 11 Division I-A conferences but only six
of them are favored by the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) as well as one
Independent school, Notre Dame. The BCS conferences consist of the Big 10, Big
12, Big East, ACC, SEC and PAC 10. That accounts for just 66 teams out of the
120 Division I-A schools. That leaves the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), the
Mid-American Conference (MAC), the Sun Belt Conference, the Mountain West
Conference and Conference USA on the outside looking in within their own
The BCS controls the five big money bowl games, the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl,
the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl, as well as the BCS National Championship
game. It even has its own BCS Poll to determine the Top 10 teams that will
participate in its five bowl games. Eight of the 10 BCS bowl bids are reserved
for teams in the six BCS conferences while the other two spots are potentially
open to the 51 teams in the five non-BCS conferences and the three remaining
Division I-A Independent teams. That is, if they can manage to make it into the
Top 10 in the BCS Poll. One team that did it last year was Boise State from the
WAC. They went on to beat Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl.
There are a total of 786 college football teams in the United States. Below the
120 teams in Division I-A there are another 122 teams in Division I-AA. There
are also 148 teams in Division II and 238 teams in Division III. Another 90
teams make up the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA),
which is separate from the NCAA, and 68 teams are in the National Junior College
Athletic Association (NJCAA). All of these teams take to the field each fall,
many of them playing for little more than school pride and a chance to compete.
Who’s Who in the Other Divisions
In Division I-AA, the afore mentioned Appalachian State Mountaineers have won
the national championship the last two years in a row.
In Division II, the Grand Valley State Lakers from Allendale, Michigan are the
defending champions and have won four national titles in the last five years.
The powerhouse team in Division III is the Mount Union Purple Raiders from
Alliance, Ohio. Since 1993, Mount Union has won nine national titles, including
the last two years in a row.
The Carroll College Fighting Saints in Helena, Montana won the national title in
the NAIA four straight years from 2002-2005. The University of Sioux Falls
Cougars won the 2006 title.
Last year’s national champion in the NJCAA, which is determined by a Top 20
poll, was the 12-0 Blinn College Buccaneers from Brenham, Texas.
Oldest College Football Rivalries
Do you think that Division I-A has the market cornered on college football
history and tradition? Think again. Some of the oldest and greatest rivalries in
all of college football involve teams that might surprise you.
When you think of the greatest college football rivalry of all time, you have to
be talking about “The Game,” otherwise known as Harvard vs. Yale. Those two
schools belong to the Ivy League in Division I-AA and first met on the gridiron
in 1875. This year’s game will be their 124th meeting.
When you talk about the longest ongoing rivalry in all of college football,
you’re talking about Lehigh vs. Lafayette, two Division I-AA schools in
Pennsylvania who play in the Patriot League conference. That rivalry dates back
to 1884 and this year’s game will be the 143rd meeting between the two schools.
By contrast, this year’s game between Big 10 rivals Michigan and Ohio State will
be the 104th in that series, which began back in 1897.
Next month, all three of these historic games
will be played on the very same day, November 17.
Another historic game in college football is the Army-Navy game. That rivalry
began in 1890 and this year’s game, which will be played on December 1, will be
the 108th meeting for the two military service academies. Incidentally, the
first official college football game was played between Princeton and Rutgers.
That game took place on November 6, 1869.
What’s in a Name?
Now, before you start composing an e-mail to me to point out that Division I-A
and Division I-AA are not technically known by those names anymore, let me just
say that I am aware of the name change. I simply haven’t bought into them yet,
and neither has most of the general public. The NCAA decided last year to change
the names in an attempt to better explain the difference between the two
Division I subdivisions.
Division I-A is now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision because its teams
participate in bowl games at the end of the season like the Sun Bowl, Cotton
Bowl and the Gator Bowl.
Division I-AA is now known as the Football Championship Subdivision because its
teams have a playoff system to determine a national champion, as does Division
II and Division III and the NAIA.
How many small college football teams are there near you? Have you ever been to
one of their games? Chances are you might know someone whose kid goes to one of
those small schools, or you might remember some of the players from their years
playing high school football in your area.
Take the time to attend a small college football game some Saturday afternoon
and support the kids playing in your own backyard. You just might be impressed
with the level of talent you’ll see on the field. They may never make it to the
NFL, but you might see some of these players in the Arena Football League, the
Canadian Football League or even the new All American Football League that
begins play next April. There are also several other indoor football leagues
around the country, like the Continental Indoor Football League, that are
popular destinations for small college players who want to continue playing
football after college.
The Internet is a great way to get information on all the various college
football divisions, no matter where you live. Some schools even air radio
broadcasts of their games live over the Internet.
One place where you can actually see games from some of the lower division in
your own home is College Sports Television (CSTV) and they should be applauded
for it. Check your local cable or satellite listings to see if you get CSTV.
There are hundreds of teams playing in divisions other than I-A and the Top 25.
You only have to take the time to search them out. Who knows, you might just
find that a whole new world of college football will open up for you. This is
college football in its purest form, kids who, for the most part, are playing
without the benefit of an athletic scholarship. They are in school to get an
education first and also to play some football.
The best thing about attending a small college football game is the fact that
you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy the experience. Admission
prices are lower, parking fees are nominal, you won’t have to travel very far
and the popcorn and hot dogs at the stadium taste just as good.
All NCAA Divisions
www.i-aa.org - Division I-AA
www.naia.org - National
Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
www.njcaa.org - National
Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
www.cstv.com - College Sports
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