How the American Football Season Is Set Up Today - dummies

How the American Football Season Is Set Up Today

By Howie Long, John Czarnecki

Football as an organized sport has come a long way since the early years. Teams at every level play during a standard season and are governed by various football leagues, such as the NFL and NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association).

The heart of the football season is during the fall months. However, training camps, practices, and preseason games often begin in the summer, and playoffs and bowl games are staged after Christmas and into February. Here’s how the season breaks down for each level of play:

  • High school football teams usually play between eight and ten games in a season, starting after Labor Day. If teams have successful league seasons, they advance to regional or state playoff tournaments. Some schools in Texas play as many as 15 games if they advance to the state championship game. Most high school teams play in a regional league, although some travel 50 to 100 miles to play opponents.

  • College football teams play between 10 and 13 games, the majority in a specific conference — Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, and so on. The top teams in the Division I FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision), which constitute the largest schools that offer the most money for athletic scholarships, advance via invitation to postseason bowl games or a four-team playoff for the national championship. Beginning with the 2014–2015 season, the top four teams play in two semifinal games, with the winners facing each other in the College Football Championship Game. This playoff system replaced the controversial BCS system, which had been in place from 1998 through the 2013–2014 season.

  • NFL teams play 16 regular-season games, preceded by a minimum of 4 preseason games that are played in August. The 32 NFL teams are divided into two conferences, the NFC (National Football Conference) and the AFC (American Football Conference), and the four division leaders and two wild card teams from each conference advance to the playoffs with hopes of reaching the Super Bowl, which is played in early February.

Football is pretty much a weekend sport, although a few games are played on Monday and Thursday, particularly in the NFL. In general, however, the football season, which begins in earnest right around Labor Day, follows this orderly pattern:

  • High school games are usually played on Friday nights.

  • College games are played on Saturdays, mostly during the day, although a few are held on Thursday and Friday nights.

  • The NFL plays on Sundays for the most part. For television purposes, games are played in the early and late afternoon (Eastern time).