How Many College Football Teams Are There?

Embarking on the thrilling journey of college football in the United States is like diving into a sea of passion, tradition, and fierce competition. With a landscape as varied and rich as the teams it comprises, college football offers something for every fan and aspiring athlete. From the elite powerhouses of Division I to the spirited squads of Division III, the array of institutions that bring this sport to life ensures a kaleidoscope of opportunities for student-athletes and a smorgasbord of choices for fans to indulge in their love for the game.

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How Many College Football Teams Are There?

As of the 2024 season, there are approximately 553 college football teams across the United States. This includes 130 in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), 128 in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), 165 in Division II, 240 in Division III, 97 in the NAIA, and 121 in Junior College (JUCO) football.

At the heart of this vibrant ecosystem is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the main steward governing the vast array of college football teams, organizing them into divisions based on factors like size, resources, and the scope of athletic scholarships available.

But the adventure doesn’t stop with the NCAA. Organizations such as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and Junior College programs add their own unique flavors to the mix, each with distinctive rules and structures, further enriching the college football landscape.

The excitement of college football isn’t confined to any one area—it’s a nationwide phenomenon, with traditions and rivalries igniting the passions of players and fans from coast to coast. While the spotlight often shines brightest on the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), every tier of college football is vital to the sport’s enduring legacy and the communal spirit it fosters.

Key Takeaways:

  • The U.S. college football scene is a diverse tapestry of teams spanning multiple divisions and governing bodies.
  • The NCAA plays a pivotal role, categorizing teams into Division I, II, and III, each offering unique athletic experiences.
  • Additional avenues for college football glory are found within the NAIA and Junior College leagues, broadening the spectrum of student-athlete journeys.

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Delving Deeper into College Football

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At its core, college football in the United States transcends the boundaries of mere competition—it’s a cultural cornerstone that unites communities and ignites school spirit.

Divisions and Teams: The pinnacle of college football, the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), showcases the zenith of competitiveness, with 131 teams vying for the prestigious title of national champions.

  • FBS (Division I): 131 teams, each with 85 full scholarships, embody the pinnacle of college football talent and competition.

Below the FBS, the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Divisions II and III offer a spectrum of competitive experiences, often fostering a more intimate, campus-centric vibe.

  • FCS (Division I-AA): Approximately 125 teams, presenting another layer of high-stakes collegiate football.

Conferences like the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC are home to legendary rivalries and iconic teams, including the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Clemson Tigers, each contributing to the rich tapestry of college football lore.

Playoffs and Bowls: The season’s climax, featuring postseason play, bowl games, and the exhilarating College Football Playoff, captures the imagination of fans, culminating in matchups that are nothing short of legendary.

NCAA Division I Teams

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Step into the electrifying arena of NCAA Division I college football, where the spirit of competition ignites the hearts of players and fans alike. In this vibrant world, teams are divided into two distinct subdivisions: the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), each offering its own brand of thrilling gridiron action that spans the breadth of the nation.

FBS Teams: The Pinnacle of College Football

The FBS is where you’ll find the elite of college football, with 130 teams making up this premier league. These squads are not just football teams; they’re institutions with large budgets, high profiles, and the dreams of making it to the esteemed bowl games and the much-anticipated College Football Playoff. Here’s a snapshot of the FBS landscape:

  • Total Teams: 130
  • Conferences: 10, plus independent teams
  • Scholarship Limit: 85 full scholarships per team

These figures are a testament to the scale and fervor that define the FBS, where every game is a chance to witness future legends in the making.

FCS Teams: The Heart and Soul of the Game

Meanwhile, the FCS stands as a bastion of competitive spirit, boasting 128 teams dedicated to showing their prowess on the field. While the FCS may fly under the radar compared to its FBS counterpart, it compensates with heart-stopping moments and a unique knockout-style playoff tournament that keeps fans on the edge of their seats. Here’s what the FCS looks like by the numbers:

  • Total Teams: 128
  • Conferences: 14, plus independent teams
  • Scholarship Limit: 63 scholarships, with the flexibility of partial awards

Both the FBS and FCS subdivisions exemplify the dedication, talent, and passion of their student-athletes, contributing significantly to the rich tapestry of college football.

NCAA Division II Teams: The Unyielding Spirit of Competition

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Shifting the spotlight to NCAA Division II, this division is a celebration of the relentless pursuit of excellence, with 165 teams stepping onto the field in the 2024 season. This increase in numbers signifies the growing appeal and competitive spirit of Division II football, which, while less publicized, is no less passionate than its Division I counterparts.

These teams, spread across various conferences such as the CIAA, GLIAC, GNAC, and PSAC, demonstrate that great football isn’t confined to prime-time TV slots or massive stadiums. Instead, it thrives in the commitment and tenacity of Division II athletes, who play not for fame, but for the sheer love of the game and the chance to build their legacy on the field.

Division II football is a testament to the depth of talent in collegiate sports, with many alums going on to achieve greatness beyond their college years. Watching a Division II game is to witness the future stars of football honing their craft, proving that greatness can emerge from any stage.

For those looking to dive deeper into the world of NCAA Division II football, or to catch up on the latest shifts and newcomers in the league, a detailed exploration on platforms like Wikipedia can offer a wealth of up-to-date information and insights.

NCAA Division III Teams

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There’s something undeniably special about NCAA Division III football. It’s here, in this unique division, that the balance of academics, athletics, and the quintessential college experience is most prominently celebrated. For us enthusiasts and former athletes, Division III represents the epitome of student-athlete dedication, where the love of the game often shines brightest.

As of the 2024 season, a remarkable total of 240 teams compete in Division III, spread across various conferences known for their community spirit and competitive play, such as:

  • ASC (American Southwest Conference)
  • CCIW (College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin)
  • Centennial Conference
  • MIAA (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association)
  • NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference)

For those who seek a deeper understanding or wish to follow the comprehensive journey of these teams, a full list of NCAA Division III football programs is readily available. These programs underscore the unique opportunity for student-athletes to engage in competitive football while prioritizing their academic pursuits—truly playing for the love and honor of the sport.

Stay updated with the latest season highlights and team news by visiting the NCAA’s official site, a testament to our unwavering support for the players who demonstrate exceptional sportsmanship and dedication both on and off the field.

NAIA Teams: The Spirit of Small College Athletics

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In the realm of small college athletics, NAIA football holds a revered place, with approximately 97 programs stepping onto the field in 2024. Each team represents not just a number, but a collective of committed athletes striving for greatness every single week.

The NAIA landscape is composed of dynamic conferences such as:

  • Frontier Conference
  • Great Plains Athletic
  • Heart of America Athletic
  • Kansas Collegiate Athletic
  • Mid-South
  • Mid-States Football Association
  • North Star Athletic Association
  • Sooner Athletic

These conferences embody the diverse and vibrant spirit of NAIA football, though specific team numbers within each may vary. This fluid landscape of small college football reflects the evolving nature of the sport, with teams transitioning between conferences or stepping up to different divisions, showcasing the ever-changing dynamics of collegiate football.

The dedication extends beyond the players to the NAIA football coaches, who instill passion, strategy, and integrity into their teams. Together, we cherish every play, celebrating the journey of NAIA football as a testament to the undying spirit of the game.

Junior College Teams: A Vital Stepping Stone in College Football

Junior college (JUCO) football is an integral part of the college football ecosystem, providing athletes with valuable opportunities to hone their skills and advance their careers. With 121 junior colleges across the United States fielding football teams, the landscape offers a plethora of options for young athletes post-high school.

The JUCO system is characterized by diverse conferences, each contributing to the rich tapestry of junior college football:

  • Independent
  • Iowa Community College Athletic Conference
  • Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference
  • Minnesota Athletic Conference
  • Mississippi Association of Community Colleges
  • Northeast Football Conference
  • Southwest Junior College Football Conference
  • Western States Football League

These conferences, though varying in size and competitive intensity, all play crucial roles in nurturing talent and offering players a platform to grow and potentially transition to larger programs.

Understanding JUCO football is to recognize the breadth and depth of opportunities it provides. Whether serving as a launchpad to Division I dreams or as a fulfilling end in itself, JUCO football is a testament to the diversity and richness of the college football landscape, celebrated by fans and athletes alike.

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