What Does FBS Stand For?

There are plenty of differences between the FBS and FCS, beyond just the talent levels

Keeping up with college football means keeping up with a lot of abbreviations. Before the CFP (College Football Playoff) there was BCS (Bowl Championship Series), and each come under the umbrella of the NCAA. Then there's the array of conferences from the ACC to the AAC and the MAC to the MEAC.

 

But perhaps the most common distinction you'll see in college football is the FBS and the FCS.

 

The abbreviations are simple: Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision. And the slight difference in names tells a lot about the differences between them.

 

College football is somewhat rare in that the sport is split into multiple divisions. From 1978 to 2006, the FBS was known as Division I-A, but the new name reflects that the division is best known for its dozens of postseason bowls. During the 2019-20 season, the FBS held 40 bowls (including the CFP National Championship), while the FCS had just the Celebration Bowl, held between the champions of the MEAC and SWAC, two HBCU conferences.

 

The FCS was known as Division I-AA until 2006, and it is well known for having a 24-team postseason tournament. The champions of the Big Sky, Big South, CAA, MVFC, Northeast, OVC, Patriots, Pioneer, Southern, and Southland Conferences earn automatic playoff bids, and the top eight seeds receive first-round byes. With a championship tournament instead of bowls, that's the origin of the division's name.

 

There are several other key differences between FBS and FCS, mostly relating to size. Not only is FBS a higher level of competition, but FBS teams are apportioned 85 scholarships compared to 63 for its smaller brethren. FBS schools must also sponsor 16 sports, compared to just 14 for FCS schools.

 

Entering the 2020 season, the FBS is made up of 130 schools across 10 conferences and including independents. This number is somewhat due to the fact that plenty of FCS programs have joined the FBS in recent years. Just since the FCS got its new name, Florida Atlantic (2006), FIU (2006), Western Kentucky (2009), UTSA (2012), UMass (2012), Texas State (2012), South Alabama (2012), Georgia State (2013), Old Dominion (2014), Georgia Southern (2014), Appalachian State (2014), Charlotte (2015), Coastal Carolina (2017), and Liberty (2018) have moved up. Likewise, some schools have recently made the move from Division II to FCS, putting its membership at 127 schools across 13 conferences and including those with independent status.

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