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FCS Football: 5 Teams Changing Affiliations in 2019

FCS Football: 5 Teams Changing Affiliations in 2019

FCS Football: 5 Teams Changing Affiliations in 2019

If there wasn’t a conference change — or two or three or... — it wouldn’t be a college football season.


Conference realignment remains a living, breathing animal.

Five more changes will swirl across the FCS in 2019. Here's a quick look at the schools involved:

Hampton Pirates

2018 Affiliation: FCS Independent

2019 Affiliation: Big South Conference

The HBCU program spent last season as an independent following a messy divorce from the MEAC. The Pirates, who went 7-3, are eligible for the conference title and an FCS playoff bid this year. They played five sub-Division I teams last season and have three more on this year's non-conference schedule.

North Alabama Lions

2018 Affiliation: FCS independent

2019 Affiliation: Big South Conference

In its second season since moving up from Division II, UNA hopes to build off a 7-3 FCS debut, which included a win at 2017 Big Sky co-champ Southern Utah. The Lions will play a full Big South schedule but aren't eligible for the title. A difficult non-conference schedule includes Western Illinois, Montana, and Jacksonville State.

Long Island University

2018 Affiliation: Division II

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2019 Affiliation: Northeast Conference

Following an athletics merger of LIU's Brooklyn and Post campuses beginning this fall, the school will move up to the FCS under 22-year head coach Bryan Collins. LIU, unbeaten in the regular season before falling in the Division II playoffs last season, is eligible for the NEC title, although a young squad figures to struggle with the transition.

Merrimack Warriors

2018 Affiliation: Division II

2019 Affiliation: Northeast Conference

The Warriors won four of their final five games to finish 5-5 last season. Eighth-year head coach Dan Curran has an experienced squad for their first FCS season, but it won't be eligible for the NEC title or the FCS playoffs. Merrimack is attempting to fill a full conference schedule for 2020.

Savannah State Tigers

2018 Affiliation: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

2019 Affiliation: Division II

After nearly two full decades of futility on the FCS level, Savannah State will drop back down to Division II. The move means the MEAC will have nine teams in 2019.

Coming in 2020...

The FCS changes will continue in 2020. North Dakota will join the Missouri Valley Football Conference after two seasons as an independent, yet playing a Big Sky schedule. Presbyterian will leave the Big South for one season as an independent before joining the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League in 2021. Also, Dixie State will move from Division II to I as a Western Athletic Conference member, but its football program will compete as an FCS independent.

— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

(Photo courtesy of Mark Sutton/Hampton Athletics)