The game was also known as the Pioneer Bowl, a name that had been used starting in 1971 for various NCAA playoff games held in Wichita Falls. The Colonels, making their fourth consecutive appearance in the I-AA championship game, became the first program to capture two I-AA titles, having previously won in 1979.
Eastern Kentucky finished their regular season with an undefeated 10–0 record (7–0 in conference). Ranked first in the final NCAA I-AA in-house poll and seeded first in the tournament, the Colonels received a first-round bye then defeated Idaho and fourth-seed Tennessee State to reach the final. This was the fourth appearance for Eastern Kentucky in a Division I-AA championship game, having won in 1979 and having lost in 1980 and 1981.
Delaware finished their regular season with a 10–1 record; their only loss was an away game at Temple. Ranked third in the final NCAA I-AA in-house poll and seeded third in the tournament, the Fightin' Blue Hens received a first-round bye then defeated Colgate and second-seed Louisiana Tech to reach the final. This was the first appearance for Delaware in a Division I-AA championship game.
Delaware's attempt to kick the extra point was blocked, but Eastern Kentucky was ruled offside on the play. Delaware then attempted a two-point conversion, with the ball being snapped 11⁄2 yards from the end zone.