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NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) is the top level of collegiate football in the United States. It was created in 1978 when Division I was split into Division I-A and Division I-AA for football and used to be known as Division I-AA up until 2006 when the league became known as its current name.
FCS is presently broken into 13 conferences: the Big Sky Conference, the Big South Conference, the Colonial Athletic Association, the Ivy League, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Missouri Valley Athletic Conference, the Northeast Conference, the Ohio Valley Conference, the Patriot League, the Pioneer Football League, the Southern Conference, the Southland Conference, and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
There are over 120 teams spread out across these conferences, while there are a handful of teams who register as “independents”; that is, they do not belong to any specific conference. During the regular season, most teams play 11 games, which is one less than the average of 12 that FBS teams play.
The FCS regular season usually starts in August and ends in November, when the playoffs begin. Unlike FBS, which has a four-team College Football Playoffs, FCS hosts a 24-team tournament called the NCAA D-I Football Championship. Initially, this tournament only had four teams but has expanded over the years to its current size of 24.
This tournament, quite like that of NCAA D-I basketball and soccer, is a single-elimination bracket tournament. 10 teams gain entry by winning their respective conferences, and the other 14 sides are selected “at-large” by a committee. Not all conferences, however, feature in the post-season tournament, which starts in November, usually around Thanksgiving, and ends in December.
The most notable one to forgo participation is the Ivy League, who only plays ten games per season, and although they do get an automatic bid, Ivy League teams have not played in post-season matches since 1956. The last Ivy League team to play in a bowl game was Columbia, which featured in the 1934 Rose Bowl.
Meanwhile, the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SAWC) opts to host its own post-season championship game in mid-December between the winners of its East and West divisions, so they do not feature in the tournament leading up to the final NCAA D-I Football Championship game.
Unlike FBS, which can give a maximum of 85 full-ride football scholarships to athletes per team, FCS teams can only have 63 players on scholarship. Moreover, not all FCS schools give athletic scholarships – with the Ivy League and the Pioneer Football League being in that category. The Ivy League does not give any form of athletic scholarships whatsoever, while the Pioneer Football League does give sports scholarships, but not to football because of costs (football scholarships can cost a school in the millions to allot per annum).
North Dakota State is the most successful FCS member in terms of titles won and appearances in the final championship game at the end of each season. If one also includes when FCS was called Division I-AA (before 2006), then teams including Youngstown State and Montana would also be added to this list.
In the USA, both local and national TV broadcasters provide coverage of FCS member schools' matches throughout the regular and post-game season. Live-streaming and on-demand access are also readily available for fans on College websites, as are radio broadcasts. For fans based abroad, namely in Canada and in the UK, coverage varies, but live-streaming tends to be the most most popular option as TV coverage can be limited.