The Rules of High School Football
The Football College Bowl Championship Series
Professional American Football Leagues besides the NFL

NCAA Football Teams

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body of college athletics, reports that more than 650 member colleges fielded football teams during the 2010 season. These colleges are divided into divisions based on enrollment, financial commitment, and the competitive level of the conference to which they belong. The NCAA doesn’t want big-time powers such as Nebraska and Penn State playing small schools such as Union College and Wabash. It wants a level playing field to make for more competitive games.

Consequently, the 650+ colleges are divided into four divisions:

  • Division I FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision)

  • Division I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision)

  • Division II

  • Division III

Within each division, teams are members of conferences. A conference is similar to a league in professional sports.

Division Breakdown for the 2010 Football Season
Division Number of Schools Number of Conferences
I FBS 120 11
I FCS 126 14
II 169 14
III 237 27

Hundreds of junior colleges (two-year programs) also have football teams, as do National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) schools, a group of smaller four-year colleges not associated with the NCAA. Unable to qualify academically to receive a four-year scholarship to a four-year college, many athletes attend junior colleges and hope to land a scholarship to a four-year school. Many of the NAIA teams are based in Kansas, North and South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nebraska, and Oregon.

Big-time schools

If you want to pick the national champion in any of the next five years, the winner will probably come from among the 25 schools listed in this table, which highlights the schools boasting the greatest number of college-players-turned-pro.

Where NFL Players Came From, 2010
College Number of Players
LSU 45
Miami (Florida) 45
Texas 43
Ohio State 41
USC 41
Georgia 40
Tennessee 38
Florida 36
California 33
Michigan 33
Oklahoma 32
Florida State 31
Iowa 30
Nebraska 30
Maryland 29
Penn State 29
Auburn 28
Notre Dame 28
Purdue 27
Alabama 25

The reputations of big-time schools help with recruiting because many of the best high school players want to play for a school where they have a chance to compete for a national championship, possibly prepare for the NFL, and also receive a good education.

Small college powers

Although small schools may not achieve national prominence, they certainly play tough football. Some of the winningest teams and coaches aren’t at giants such as Florida and Nebraska, but rather smaller colleges, such as the following:

  • Mount Union College: In the small Ohio town of Alliance, Mount Union College has the winningest college football program since 1990.

  • Grambling State University: Retired Grambling State University coach Eddie Robinson won more games (408) than any other college coach. Among predominantly black colleges, Grambling has been the best producer of NFL players, sending more than 100 to the pros.

Two of the greatest players of all time, Walter Payton and Jerry Rice, were small-college players. Payton starred at Jackson State in Mississippi, and Rice, another first-round draft choice, played at Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Bigger doesn’t always mean better!

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