College football is full of acronyms, and if you are new to the world of collegiate athletics it can get a little confusing. You probably know the NCAA stands for the National Collegiate Athletic Association or that the SEC stands for the Southeastern Conference. Those are easy.
But do you know what the CFP stands for? How about the now-defunct BCS? You’ve likely heard of the ACC and know what it might stand for, but do you know what the AAC is? Even the different major networks (ESPN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) that carry NCAA games sound the same.
The one acronym not many people have mastered is FBS, which is just one of two ways the NCAA divides its Division I schools up. The other D-I classification is FCS.
Beyond Division I, the NCAA also has a Division II and Division III. Junior colleges play separately in the National Junior College Athletic Association. Across the NCAA’s three divisions, nearly 700 football programs suit up and take the field each year.
So what does FBS stand for? Keep reading, and head back to Google if you’re looking for whatever Fetal Bovine Serum is.
What Does FBS Stand for in College Football?
The NCAA’s Division I is further divided by the FBS and FCS. FBS stands for Football Bowl Subdivision and it gets its name for the numerous bowl games that teams play in at the end of each season that generate hundreds of millions of dollars.
In total, there are 10 conferences and 130 FBS teams. Five of the conferences make up what’s called the Power 5. That includes NCAA Division I teams from the SEC (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi State, South Carolina), Big 10 (Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, Iowa), Pac-12 (Oregon, USC, Stanford, Utah), Atlantic Coast Conference (Clemson, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina) and the Big 12 (Oklahoma, Texas, for example). Those last two will be moving to the SEC soon.
The five other conferences are the American Athletic Conference (AAC), Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt. Teams like Cincinnati and Houston are in the AAC, while Appalachian State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Troy and Coastal Carolina are in the Sun Belt.
Some programs are considered independent without conference but are still FBS schools (Notre Dame, Army and BYU, for example).
Many FBS football programs change conferences. Take Texas A&M, for example. The Aggies previously played in the Big 12 and Southwestern Conference before joining the SEC in 2012. Oklahoma and Texas are also set to join the SEC in the near future following a massive announcement in 2021.
The College Football Playoff is the annual postseason four-team tournament that was first played at the end of the 2014 season. Prior to that, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national championship game determined a lone winner. The CFP pits the top four ranked FBS programs (ranked by a CFP committee) against each other in a knockout-style tournament to determine the national champion.
FBS programs come in all shapes and sizes and can be found across the United States. There are currently nine states without an FBS program: Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and then a district — Washington, D.C.
What Does FCS Stand for in College Football?
The FCS is the other subdivision of NCAA’s Division I. It stands for Football Championship Subdivision and was known as Division I-AA from 1978-2005.
The main difference between FBS and FCS is how a final winner is determined. The FBS has the four-team College Football Playoff while the FCS hosts a 24-team playoff for the NCAA D-I Football Championship. North Dakota State, notable for producing NFL quarterback Carson Wentz, has won the most of these championships (8) of FCS programs.
FCS teams can only have 63 players on scholarship, while FBS football teams can have 85. These FCS schools usually play 11-game schedules while FBS programs play 12 each, though the coronavirus pandemic altered that during the 2020 season.
Teams like Florida Atlantic, FIU, Charlotte, UTSA, UMass, Texas State, South Alabama, Georgia State, Old Dominion, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and Liberty have all moved from the FCS to FBS.
So there you have it. Now the next time you’re watching an NCAA game you can show off your knowledge and explain to your friends the difference between FBS and FCS and what each of them mean.
This post was originally published on December 27, 2019, but we brought it back for the college football season to help you impress your friends.