|NCAA||Division I FBS|
|Region||Eastern United States
(also Mountain States in 2011)
NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision independent schools are four-year institutions whose football programs are not part of an NCAA-affiliated conference. This means that FBS independents do not schedule each other for competition like conference schools do. There are many fewer independent schools than in years past; many independent schools join, or attempt to join, established conferences, usually in order to gain a share of television revenue and access to bowl games that agree to take teams from certain conferences.
All Division I FBS independents are eligible for a Bowl Championship Series bowl provided they meet eligibility requirements. Notre Dame receives an automatic bid by finishing in the top eight of the final BCS ranking. Notre Dame also has other bowl agreements as part of its affiliation with the Big East Conference, and Navy and Army have agreements with the EagleBank Bowl.
The ranks of football independents will increase by one for the 2011 season with the announcement that BYU would leave the Mountain West Conference to become a football independent starting with that season.
Liberty University is the fifth independent FBS team That is not shown in the table below. They became bowl eligible in the FBS in 2019. They have won the Cure Bowl in 2019 and 2020. They play at Williams Stadium in Lynchburg, VA. Liberty beat Georgia Southern in 2019 and Coastal Carolina in 2020.
|BYU||Lavell Edwards Stadium|
|Navy||Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium|
|Notre Dame||Notre Dame Stadium|
TheyloReasons for independence
In recent years, most independent FBS schools have joined a conference for two primary reasons: A guaranteed share of television and bowl revenues, and ease of scheduling. The five remaining independent FBS schools, have unique circumstances that circumvent their need for conference affiliation.
Notre Dame is one of the most prominent programs in the country. Due to its national popularity built over many years, Notre Dame is the only individual school to have its own national television contract, and is the only independent program to be part of the Bowl Championship Series coalition and its guaranteed payout. These factors help make Notre Dame the most financially valuable football program in the country, thus negating the need for Notre Dame to secure revenue by joining a conference.
Notre Dame easily fills its annual schedule without needing conference games to do so. It has longstanding rivalries with many different programs around the country, including annual rivalry games with USC, Michigan, Michigan State, Navy, and Purdue. All Notre Dame home games and most away games are on national television, so other teams have a large financial incentive to schedule the university. If Notre Dame were to join a conference, it would likely have to eliminate or reduce the frequency of several rivalries.
The other two current independent programs are two of the service academies, Army and Navy. The federal government fully funds the service academies, while television and bowl appearances are important sources of revenue and advertising for most other universities and their football programs.
Both service academies have annual games guaranteed with each other and with Air Force. Navy has an annual rivalry game with Notre Dame and Army has a semi-regular rivalry with Notre Dame. Television rights for the longstanding Army–Navy Game serve as a significant revenue source for the programs. The academies also use their football programs to recruit for their services; without a conference schedule, the service academies are able to more easily schedule games around the country.
In many ways, BYU is a western analog to Notre Dame; during the 2010 conference realignment that eventually saw the university choose football independence, some within the school saw it as a potential future "Notre Dame of the West". Both are highly prominent faith-based schools—Notre Dame is arguably the best-known Catholic university in the U.S., while BYU is the flagship university of the LDS Church. The 1984 team's national championship is the most recent by a university that is not a current member of the BCS coalition. BYU also has its own cable channel.
BYU had seriously considered football independence as early as 2007, but decided against it at that time. During the early phases of the 2010 conference shuffle, BYU was expecting to receive an invitation from either the then-Pac-10 or Big 12, but none was forthcoming, leading the school to reactivate its previous plans for independence. Ultimately, BYU decided on August 31, 2010 to leave the MWC in 2011 to become independent in football, with its non-football teams joining the West Coast Conference at that time.
- United States Military Academy, or Army Black Knights (left Conference USA after the 2004 season; member of Patriot League for all other sports sponsored by that league)
- United States Naval Academy, or Navy Midshipmen (member of Patriot League for all other sports sponsored by that league)
- University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish (member of Big East Conference for all other sports sponsored by that league)
- From 2011 — Brigham Young University, or the BYU Cougars (member of West Coast Conference for all other sports sponsored by that league, except men's soccer)
|BYU||LaVell Edwards Stadium||64,045|
|Navy||Navy – Marine Corps Memorial Stadium||34,000|
|Notre Dame||Notre Dame Stadium||80,975|
FBS Independent Teams
The following is a complete list of teams which have been Division I-A (FBS) Independents since the formation of Division I-A in 1978.
|Years||Team||Previous Conference||Conference Joined||Current Conference|
|1978-1979||Air Force||Division I Independent||Western Athletic Conference (1980-1998)||Mountain West Conference (1999-Present)|
|1987-1991||Akron||Ohio Valley Conference||Mid-American Conference (1992-Present)|
|1996-1998||Alabama-Birmingham||Division I-AA Independent||Conference USA (1999-Present)|
|1992||Arkansas State||Division I-AA Independent||Big West Conference (1993-1995)|
|1996-1998||Arkansas State||Big West Conference (1993-1995)||Big West Conference (1999-2000)||Sun Belt Conference (2001-Present)|
|1978-1997||Army||Division I Independent||Conference USA (1998-2004)|
|2005-Present||Army||Conference USA (1998-2004)|
|1978-1990||Boston College||Division I Independent||Big East Conference (1991-2004)||Atlantic Coast Conference (2005-Present)|
|2011-Present||BYU||Mountain West Conference (1999-2010)|
|1992||Cal State Fullerton||Big West Conference||Dropped football|
|1996-2001||Central Florida||Division I-AA Independent||Mid-American Conference (2002-2004)||Conference USA (2005-Present)|
|1978-1995||Cincinnati||Division I Independent||Conference USA (1996-2004)||Big East Conference (2005-Present)|
|1978-1981||Colgate||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982-1985)||Patriot League (1986-Present)|
|2000-2003||Connecticut||Atlantic 10 Conference[N 1]||Big East Conference (2004–present)[N 2]|
|1978-1996||East Carolina||Division I Independent||Conference USA (1997-Present)|
|1978-1991||Florida State||Division I Independent||Atlantic Coast Conference (1992-Present)|
|1978||Georgia Tech||Division I Independent||Atlantic Coast Conference (1979-Present)|
|1978||Hawaiʻi||Division I Independent||Western Athletic Conference (1979-2011)||Mountain West Conference (2012-Present)|
|1978-1981||Holy Cross||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982-1985)||Patriot League (1986-Present)|
|1978-1980||Illinois State||Division I Independent||Missouri Valley Conference (1981-1984)||Missouri Valley Football Conference (1985-Present)[N 3]|
|1978-1981||Indiana State||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982-1985)||Missouri Valley Football Conference (1986–present)[N 3]|
|1991||Long Beach State||Big West Conference||Dropped football|
|1989-1992||Louisiana Tech||Division I-AA Independent||Big West Conference (1993-1995)|
|1996-2000||Louisiana Tech||Big West Conference (1993-1995)||Western Athletic Conference (2001-Present)|
|1982-1992||Louisiana-Lafayette||Southland Conference||Big West Conference (1993-1995)|
|1996-2000||Louisiana-Lafayette||Big West Conference (1993-1995)||Sun Belt Conference (2001-Present)|
|1996-2000||Louisiana-Monroe||Southland Conference||Sun Belt Conference (2001-Present)|
|1978-1995||Louisville||Division I Independent||Conference USA (1996-2004)||Big East Conference (2005-Present)|
|1978-1995||Memphis||Division I Independent||Conference USA (1996-Present)|
|1978-1990||Miami (FL)||Division I Independent||Big East Conference (1991-2003)||Atlantic Coast Conference (2004-Present)|
|1999-2000||Middle Tennessee||Ohio Valley Conference||Sun Belt Conference (2001-Present)|
|1978-Present||Navy||Division I Independent|
|1978-1982||North Texas||Division I Independent||Southland Conference (1983-1994)|
|1995||North Texas||Southland Conference (1983-1994)||Big West Conference (1996-2000)||Sun Belt Conference (2001-Present)|
|1987-1992||Northern Illinois||Mid-American Conference||Big West Conference (1993-1995)|
|1996||Northern Illinois||Big West Conference (1993-1995)||Mid-American Conference (1997-Present)|
|1978-Present||Notre Dame||Division I Independent|
|1978-1992||Penn State||Division I Independent||Big Ten Conference (1993-Present)|
|1978-1990||Pittsburgh||Division I Independent||Big East Conference (1991-Present)|
|1978-1981||Richmond||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982-1983)||Colonial Athletic Association (1984–present)[N 4]|
|1978-1990||Rutgers||Division I Independent||Big East Conference (1991-Present)|
|1978-1991||South Carolina||Division I Independent||Southeastern Conference (1992-Present)|
|2001-2002||South Florida||Division I-AA Independent||Conference USA (2003-2004)||Big East Conference (2005-Present)|
|1978-1995||Southern Mississippi||Division I Independent||Conference USA (1996-Present)|
|1978-1990||Syracuse||Division I Independent||Big East Conference (1991-Present)|
|1978-1990||Temple||Division I Independent||Big East Conference (1991-2004)|
|2005-2006||Temple||Big East Conference (1991-2004)||Mid-American Conference (2007-2011)||Big East Conference (2012-Present)|
|1978-1980||Tennessee State||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1981-1987)||Ohio Valley Conference (1988-Present)|
|2002-2003||Troy||Division I-AA Independent||Sun Belt Conference (2004-Present)|
|1978-1995||Tulane||Division I Independent||Conference USA (1996-Present)|
|1986-1995||Tulsa||Missouri Valley Conference||Western Athletic Conference (1996-2004)||Conference USA (2005-Present)|
|1978-1981||UNLV||Division II Independent||Big West Conference (1982-1995)||Mountain West Conference (1999-Present)|
|2001-2002||Utah State||Big West Conference||Sun Belt Conference (2003-2004)||Western Athletic Conference (2005-Present)|
|1978-1980||Villanova||Division I Independent||Dropped Football||Colonial Athletic Association (1985–present)[N 4]|
|1978-1990||Virginia Tech||Division I Independent||Big East Conference (1991-2003)||Atlantic Coast Conference (2004-Present)|
|1978-1990||West Virginia||Division I Independent||Big East Conference (1991-2011)||Big 12 Conference (2012-Present)|
|1986||Wichita State||Missouri Valley Conference||Dropped Football|
|1978-1981||William & Mary||Division I Independent||Division I-AA Independent (1982-1992)||Colonial Athletic Association (1993-Present)[N 4]|
- ^ The A10 football conference did not morph into the Colonial Athletic Association football conference until 2007. UConn was an A10 member only in football.
- ^ UConn has been a member of the Big East Conference since its formation in 1979, but did not join for football until 2004.
- ^ a b The history of this conference is extremely convoluted. In 1985, the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference, a women's sports conference parallel to the Missouri Valley Conference, added football as its only men's sport by taking in the MVC's I-AA football teams. In 1992, the women's portion of the Gateway merged with the MVC; the football conference kept the Gateway charter, changing the conference name to Gateway Football Conference. The current name was adopted in 2008.
- ^ a b c The CAA football conference did not exist under that name until 2007, but has a continuous history dating back to 1938. It started with the formation of the New England Conference, which became the Yankee Conference in 1947. In 1997, it merged with the Atlantic 10 Conference. After the 2006 season, the A10 football conference disbanded, with all of its members joining a new CAA football conference. The automatic berth of the Yankee Conference in the I-AA/FCS playoffs passed in succession to the A10 and the CAA.