2020–21 NCAA Division I FCS football season

The 2020–21 NCAA Division I FCS football season, part of college football in the United States, was organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level.

2020 NCAA Division I FCS season
NCAA logo.svg
Regular season
Number of teams127[1]
DurationFall 2020 / Spring 2021
Payton AwardCole Kelley, QB, Southeastern Louisiana
Buchanan AwardJordan Lewis, DL, Southern
Playoff
DurationApril–May 2021
Championship dateMay 16, 2021
Championship siteToyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
ChampionSam Houston State
NCAA Division I FCS football seasons

The regular season and postseason were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Multiple FCS conferences moved their scheduled games from the fall of 2020 to the spring of 2021, and in August 2020, the NCAA announced that the FCS postseason would also be delayed.[2]

While the NCAA at one point announced a cancellation of the FCS playoff,[3] in late September 2020 a revised playoff schedule was announced, with the FCS Championship Game played on May 16, 2021.[4][5] The championship was won by the Sam Houston State Bearkats.

Conference changes and new programsEdit

Membership changesEdit

School Former conference New conference
Dixie State Trailblazers RMAC (Division II) FCS independent
North Dakota Fighting Hawks FCS independent MVFC
Tarleton State Texans LSC (Division II) FCS independent
Presbyterian Blue Hose Big South FCS independent
Jacksonville Dolphins Pioneer Football League Disbanded program
Robert Morris Colonials Northeast Conference Big South

Presbyterian played the 2020–21 season as an FCS independent, but in a scheduling agreement with the non-scholarship FCS Pioneer Football League, which it fully joined in July 2021. Under the agreement, Presbyterian was not eligible for the PFL title, but was eligible for the league's individual awards and honors.[6][7] Presbyterian remains a full but non-football Big South member. Robert Morris, which moved from the football-sponsoring Northeast Conference to the non-football Horizon League in July 2020, was originally intended to join Big South football in 2021, but after the conference moved its football season from fall 2020 to spring 2021, Robert Morris was added several months ahead of schedule.[8]

The 2020–21 season was the last for Bethune–Cookman, Florida A&M, and North Carolina A&T in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. On July 1, 2021, Bethune–Cookman and Florida A&M moved to the Southwestern Athletic Conference[9][10] and North Carolina A&T moved to the Big South Conference.[11]

On January 14, 2021, the Western Athletic Conference, which had last played football in the 2012 season as an FBS league, announced that it would reinstate football in the fall 2021 season as an FCS league. This coincided with the arrival of four new members from the Southland Conference, all located in Texas and fielding FCS football programs—Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State, and Stephen F. Austin. Original plans were for the four Southland members, as well as Big Sky Conference member Southern Utah, to join in 2022, at which time the football league would restart. However, the entry of the Texas schools and the restart of football were moved forward to July 2021 when the Southland chose to expel its departing members.[12] These schools joined Dixie State and Tarleton State, which had joined the all-sports WAC in July 2020, in the revived WAC football league. Southern Utah's entry remains on the original July 2022 schedule.[13] On the same day, UTRGV, currently a full but non-football WAC member, announced that it planned to launch an FCS football program no later than 2024. While it did not mention a conference affiliation, its existing WAC membership makes it all but certain that the school will join WAC football.[14]

On January 29, 2021, the ASUN Conference announced that it too would begin sponsoring FCS football in 2022, with its first five members being full members Kennesaw State and North Alabama (at the time football-only members of the Big South Conference), Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State from the Ohio Valley Conference, and Central Arkansas from the Southland Conference. EKU, JSU, and UCA will play football in the WAC for the 2021 season before moving to the ASUN for 2022. (These moves were necessary for the WAC to meet the 6-member minimum for 2021, since Dixie State and Tarleton State did not count toward the minimum as transitional members.)

Rule changesEdit

The following playing rule changes were approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel for 2020:[15]

  • Players ejected for targeting will now be permitted to remain in the bench area. Previously, players ejected for targeting had to return to the locker room.
  • Restricting the number of players on a team wearing the same uniform number to two; such players still cannot be on the field at the same time and must play different positions.
  • Including the number "0" as a legal uniform number.
  • Extending the official's jurisdiction prior to kickoff from 60 to 90 minutes, requiring a coach from each team be on the field during warm-ups, and identifying each player by number.
  • Defensive teams are allowed to briefly have twelve players on the field to anticipate the offensive formation, however having twelve (or more) players on the field at the snap is a live-ball five-yard penalty for illegal substitution. Previously this foul was a dead-ball foul, called if the defense had twelve (or more) players on the field and the "snap is imminent".
  • Adopting as a guideline a maximum of 2 minutes for instant replay reviews. Exceptions will be allowed in "exceptionally complicated" or end-of-game situations.
  • On personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties committed by the defense during a play that results in a touchdown or after a touchdown but before the try, the offense has the option to enforce the penalty on the try, the ensuing kickoff, or on the succeeding spot (if in overtime).
  • If the game clock expires at the end of a half, replay determines that time was remaining, and the game situation calls for the clock to start on the referee's signal, the half ends unless the replay determines that the clock should have stopped with 3 or more seconds left.

Other headlinesEdit

"Week Zero"Edit

The regular season began on Saturday, August 29 with a game involving two FCS teams.[32]

FCS team wins over FBS teamsEdit

There were two FCS victories over FBS teams in 2020–21.

Non-DI team wins over FCS teamsEdit

Two FCS teams lost to D-II teams in 2020–21.

Conference standingsEdit

All teams played spring schedules, except where noted. The Ivy League did not play in either the fall or spring.

2020 Big Sky Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 9 Weber State $^   5 0     5 1  
No. 10 Eastern Washington ^   5 1     5 2  
No. 14 UC Davis   3 2     3 2  
Northern Arizona   3 2     3 2  
Idaho   2 4     2 4  
Idaho State   2 4     2 4  
Southern Utah   1 5     1 5  
Cal Poly   0 3     0 3  
Montana       2 0  
Portland State       0 1  
  • $ – Conference champion
  • ^ – FCS playoff participant
  • Notes: Due to COVID-19, the Big Sky suspended the fall 2020 football season.
    Montana State, Northern Colorado, and Sacramento State opted out of the spring season.
    † – Montana and Portland State opted out of the conference season, but scheduled non-conference games.
    ‡ – Cal Poly opted out of the remainder of the spring season on March 29, 2021.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Big South Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 10 Monmouth $^   3 0     3 1  
No. 17 Kennesaw State   2 1     4 1  
Charleston Southern   2 2     2 2  
Gardner–Webb   0 2     2 2  
Robert Morris   0 2     0 3  
  • $ – Conference champion
  • ^ – FCS playoff participant
  • Notes: Due to COVID-19, the Big South suspended the fall 2020 football season.
    Hampton opted out of the spring schedule. Campbell and North Alabama played only in the fall.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Colonial Athletic Association football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
North Division
No. 4 Delaware x$^   4 0     7 1  
No. 18 Rhode Island   2 1     2 1  
No. 16 Villanova   2 2     2 2  
Maine   2 2     2 2  
Albany   1 3     1 3  
Stony Brook   1 3     1 3  
New Hampshire   0 1     0 1  
South Division
No. 3 James Madison x^   3 0     7 1  
No. 15 Richmond   3 1     3 1  
William & Mary   1 2     1 2  
Elon   0 4     1 5  
  • $ – Conference champion
  • x – Division champion/co-champions
  • ^ – FCS playoff participant
  • Notes: Due to COVID-19, the CAA suspended the fall 2020 football season.
    Towson opted out of the spring football season.
    † – Albany, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island opted out of the remainder of the spring season on March 31, April 6, and April 7 respectively.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
North Division
Delaware State   2 2     2 3  
Howard*   0 2     0 2  
South Division
South Carolina State   2 0     3 1  
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Missouri Valley Football Conference standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 2 South Dakota State +^   5 1     8 2  
No. 12 Missouri State +^   5 1     5 5  
No. 7 North Dakota ^   4 1     5 2  
No. 6 North Dakota State ^   5 2     7 3  
No. 14 Southern Illinois ^   3 3     6 4  
Northern Iowa   3 4     3 4  
South Dakota   1 3     1 3  
Illinois State   1 3     1 3  
Western Illinois   1 5     1 5  
Youngstown State   1 6     1 6  
  • + – Conference co-champions
  • ^ – FCS playoff participant
  • Note: Indiana State opted out of the spring season.
    † – Illinois State and Western Illinois opted out of the remainder of the spring season on March 21 and April 5, 2021, respectively.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Northeast Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
Duquesne y   4 0     4 1  
Sacred Heart y$^   2 1     3 2  
Bryant   2 2     2 2  
LIU   2 2     2 2  
Wagner   0 2     0 2  
Merrimack*   0 3     0 3  
Championship: Sacred Heart 34, Duquesne 27 (OT)
  • $ – Conference champion
  • y – Championship game participant
  • ^ – FCS playoff participant
  • Note: Due to COVID-19, the Northeast suspended the 2020 football season.
    * – Merrimack ineligible for NEC title and FCS postseason play due to transition to NCAA Division I
    Central Connecticut and Saint Francis (PA) opted out of the spring season.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Ohio Valley Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 8 Jacksonville State $^   6 1     10 3  
No. 19 Murray State   5 2     5 2  
No. 21 Austin Peay   4 2     4 5  
Southeast Missouri State   4 3     4 4  
UT Martin   3 4     3 4  
Tennessee Tech   2 5     2 5  
Tennessee State   2 5     2 5  
Eastern Illinois   1 5     1 5  
  • $ – Conference champion
  • ^ – FCS playoff participant
  • Note: Eastern Kentucky played only in the fall and opted out of the spring season.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Patriot League football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
North Division
Holy Cross $^   2 0     3 1  
Fordham   2 1     2 1  
Colgate   0 2     0 2  
South Division
Bucknell   2 1     2 2  
Lafayette   2 1     2 1  
Lehigh   0 3     0 3  
Championship: Holy Cross 33, Bucknell 10
  • $ – Conference champion
  • ^ – FCS playoff participant
  • Notes: Due to COVID-19, the Patriot League suspended the fall 2020 football season.
    Georgetown opted out of the spring football season.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Pioneer Football League standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
Davidson $^   4 1     4 2  
Valparaiso   4 2     4 2  
San Diego   4 2     4 2  
Morehead State   4 2     4 3  
Drake   2 3     2 3  
Stetson   0 4     0 4  
Butler   0 6     0 6  
Presbyterian   0 0     4 3  
  • $ – Conference champion
  • ^ – FCS playoff participant
  • Notes: Due to COVID-19, the Pioneer Football League suspended the fall 2020 football season.
    Dayton and Marist opted out of the spring season.
    Presbyterian played a full PFL schedule, but was ineligible for the conference title, and its games were not counted in PFL standings.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Southern Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 11 VMI $^   6 1     6 2  
No. 22 East Tennessee State   4 1     4 1  
Chattanooga   3 1     3 2  
Mercer   5 3     5 6  
Samford   4 3     4 3  
Furman   3 4     3 4  
Wofford   1 4     1 4  
The Citadel   2 6     2 10  
Western Carolina   1 5     1 8  
  • $ – Conference champion
  • ^ – FCS playoff participant
  • † – Chattanooga and Wofford opted out of the remainder of the spring season on March 29 and April 5, 2021, respectively.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Southland Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
No. 4 Sam Houston State $^   6 0     10 0  
No. 20 Southeastern Louisiana ^   4 2     4 3  
Incarnate Word   3 3     3 3  
No. 23 Nicholls   3 3     4 3  
McNeese State*   2 4     3 4  
Lamar   2 4     2 4  
Northwestern State   1 5     1 5  
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 Southwestern Athletic Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
East Division
No. 24 Alabama A&M x$   3 0     5 0  
Alabama State   3 2     3 3  
Jackson State   3 2     4 3  
Mississippi Valley State   1 3     1 3  
West Division
Arkansas–Pine Bluff x   4 0     4 1  
Southern   4 1     5 1  
Prairie View A&M*   2 1     2 1  
Texas Southern   1 2     1 2  
Grambling State   0 4     0 4  
Championship: Alabama A&M 40, Arkansas–Pine Bluff 33
  • $ – Conference champion
  • x – Division champion/co-champions
  • Note: The SWAC played a spring conference-only schedule (February–May 2021) due to COVID-19 pandemic. Alcorn State opted out of the spring season; all of their scheduled games were counted as forfeit wins for their opponents.
    * – Ineligible for FCS postseason play due to NCAA sanctions.
Rankings from STATS Poll
2020 NCAA Division I FCS independents football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
Stephen F. Austin       6 4  
Tarleton State       5 3  
Central Arkansas       5 4  
Presbyterian       4 3  
Eastern Kentucky       3 6  
Dixie State       2 3  
Houston Baptist       1 3  
Abilene Christian       1 5  
Campbell       0 4  
North Alabama       0 4  
  • Note: † – Dixie State, Presbyterian, and Tarleton State played only in the spring. All other teams listed played only in the fall. Presbyterian was in a scheduling agreement with the Pioneer Football League, which it fully joins in July 2021.
2020 Ivy League football standings
Conf Overall
Team   W   L     W   L  
Brown        
Columbia        
Cornell        
Dartmouth        
Harvard        
Penn        
Princeton        
Yale        
  • Note: Due to COVID-19, the Ivy League suspended the 2020 football season.
Rankings from STATS Poll

Playoff qualifiersEdit

Automatic berths for conference championsEdit

Conference Team Appearance Last bid Result of last appearance
Big Sky Conference Weber State 8th 2019 Semifinals (L – James Madison)
Big South Conference Monmouth 3rd 2019 Second Round (L – James Madison)
Colonial Athletic Association Delaware 17th 2018 First Round (L – James Madison)
Missouri Valley Football Conference South Dakota State 10th 2019 Second Round (L – Northern Iowa)
Northeast Conference Sacred Heart 3rd 2014 First Round (L – Fordham)
Ohio Valley Conference Jacksonville State 10th 2018 Second Round (L – Maine)
Patriot League Holy Cross 4th 2019 First Round (L – Monmouth)
Pioneer Football League Davidson 1st
Southern Conference VMI 1st
Southland Conference Sam Houston State 12th 2017 Semifinals (L – North Dakota State)

At large qualifiersEdit

Conference Team Appearance Last bid Result of last appearance
Big Sky Conference Eastern Washington 14th 2018 Championship Game (L – North Dakota State)
Colonial Athletic Association James Madison 17th 2019 Championship Game (L – North Dakota State)
Missouri Valley Football Conference Missouri State 3rd 1990 First Round (L – Idaho)
North Dakota 3rd 2019 First Round (L – Nicholls)
North Dakota State 11th 2019 National Champions (W – James Madison)
Southern Illinois 9th 2009 Quarterfinals (L – William & Mary)

AbstentionsEdit

PostseasonEdit

Due to the MEAC cancelling all fall sports for the 2020 season, the MEAC/SWAC Celebration Bowl (the one FCS bowl game) was canceled.[25]

In late September 2020, the NCAA announced that the FCS postseason would take place in April and May 2021.[4] Also announced was a reduction of participating teams from 24 to 16, with 10 automatic qualifiers. The first round of the playoffs was scheduled for April 24, with the Championship Game in mid-May,[4] later set for May 16.

NCAA Division I playoff bracketEdit

First Round
April 24
Campus sites
Quarterfinals
May 2
Campus sites
Semifinals
May 8
Campus sites
National Championship Game
May 16
Toyota Stadium
Frisco, Texas
            
1 South Dakota State* 31
Holy Cross 3
1 South Dakota State* 31
Southern Illinois 26
Southern Illinois 34
Weber State* 31
1 South Dakota State* 33
  Delaware 3
Delaware* 19
Sacred Heart 10
Delaware 20
4 Jacksonville State* 14
Davidson 14
4 Jacksonville State* 49
1 South Dakota State 21
2 Sam Houston State 23
3 James Madison* 31
VMI 24
3 James Madison 34
North Dakota 21
Missouri State 10
North Dakota* 44
3 James Madison 35
2 Sam Houston State* 38
North Dakota State* 42
Eastern Washington 20
North Dakota State 20
2 Sam Houston State* 24
Monmouth 15
2 Sam Houston State* 21

* Host institution

SWAC Championship GameEdit

Date Location Venue West Div. Champion East Div. Champion Result
May 1 Jackson, Mississippi Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium Arkansas–Pine Bluff Alabama A&M Alabama A&M 40 – Arkansas–Pine Bluff 33[33]

Patriot League Championship GameEdit

Date Location Venue North Div. Champion South Div. Champion Result
April 17 Lewisburg, Pennsylvania Christy Mathewson–Memorial Stadium Holy Cross Bucknell Holy Cross 33 – Bucknell 10 [34]

Coaching changesEdit

Preseason and in-seasonEdit

This is restricted to coaching changes that took place on or after May 1, 2020. For coaching changes that occurred earlier in 2020, see 2019 NCAA Division I FCS end-of-season coaching changes.

School Outgoing coach Date Reason Replacement
Austin Peay Mark Hudspeth July 3 Resigned Marquase Lovings (interim)
Jackson State John Hendrick August 31 Fired Deion Sanders
Austin Peay Marquase Lovings (interim) October 27 Permanent replacement Scotty Walden
Montana State Jeff Choate January 22 Hired as Texas defensive coordinator Brent Vigen

End of seasonEdit

School Outgoing coach Date Reason Replacement
Norfolk State Latrell Scott March 3 Hired as East Carolina tight ends coach Dawson Odums
Western Carolina Mark Speir April 9 Fired Kerwin Bell
Tennessee State Rod Reed April 11 Retired Eddie George
Southern Dawson Odums April 20 Hired by Norfolk State Jason Rollins (interim)
Presbyterian Tommy Spangler April 21 Fired Kevin Kelley

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Road to the Championship". ncaa.com. 2020. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  2. ^ Martin, Jill (August 8, 2020). "The NCAA's FCS playoffs will not happen this fall after two more conferences postpone football". CNN. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  3. ^ Sutherland, James (August 10, 2020). "NCAA FCS Football Playoffs Officially Cancelled". swimswam.com. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Kelley, Kevin (September 22, 2020). "FCS Playoff Schedule format for Spring 2021 football season set". fbschedules.com. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  5. ^ Chiusano, Anthony (November 12, 2020). "How the 2020-21 FCS Football Season Will Work". NCAA.com. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  6. ^ "PFL Announces Updated Spring Schedule" (Press release). Pioneer Football League. February 2, 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  7. ^ "Valparaiso's Washington, San Diego's Glajchen Highlight 2020-21 PFL Major Award Recipients" (Press release). Pioneer Football League. April 26, 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  8. ^ "Big South Announces Football 2021 Spring Schedule" (Press release). Big South Conference. November 9, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  9. ^ a b "SWAC Announces Addition of Florida A&M as Full Member" (Press release). Southwestern Athletic Conference. June 4, 2020. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Bethune-Cookman University is fourth school to leave MEAC since 2018". WTKR. June 25, 2020. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  11. ^ "Big South Adds North Carolina A&T University as Full Member" (Press release). Big South Conference. February 7, 2020. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  12. ^ Blum, Sam (January 14, 2021). "As WAC announces addition of 5 schools, Frisco-based Southland Conference left in no man's land". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  13. ^ "WAC Announces Expansion, Plans to Reinstate Football" (Press release). Western Athletic Conference. January 14, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  14. ^ Jeyarajah, Shehan (January 14, 2021). "UTRGV commits to add FCS football by 2024". Dave Campbell's Texas Football. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  15. ^ "Football players flagged for targeting will be able to remain in bench area" (Press release). NCAA. April 21, 2020. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  16. ^ Bonagura, Kyle (May 12, 2020). "California State University system to stay online, leaving fall sports up in air". ESPN.com. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  17. ^ Borzello, Jeff (May 19, 2020). "NCAA: 15 Division I programs face postseason bans over APR results". ESPN.com. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  18. ^ "Robert Morris leaves NEC for Horizon League; football moves to Big South". wtae.com. June 15, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  19. ^ "Robert Morris football to join Big South Conference in 2021". fbschedules.com. June 15, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  20. ^ "Robert Morris joins Horizon League, football heads to Big South". timesonline.com. June 15, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  21. ^ West, Jenna. "Ivy League to Postpone Fall Athletics, No Date Set for Return". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  22. ^ "Patriot League cancels fall sports due to virus". ESPN.com. July 13, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  23. ^ "MEAC suspends all fall sports for indefinite period". ESPN.com. July 16, 2020. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  24. ^ Singelais, Mark (July 16, 2020). "Reports: CAA football won't play this fall". Times Union. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  25. ^ a b "MEAC-SWAC 2020 football matchups in Atlanta canceled". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  26. ^ Wilmer, Brian (July 21, 2020). "SWAC postpones 2020 football season to spring 2021". FBSchedules.com. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  27. ^ Kelley, Kevin (July 27, 2020). "Pioneer Football League to play conference-only football schedule in 2020". FBSchedules.com. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  28. ^ Kelley, Kevin (July 30, 2020). "Northeast Conference postpones 2020 football season due to COVID-19". FBSchedules.com. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  29. ^ Kelley, Kevin (7 August 2020). "Pioneer Football League postpones fall 2020 football schedule". FBSchedules.com. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  30. ^ "Big Sky Postpones Football Conference Competition Until Spring". bigskyconf.com. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  31. ^ Kelley, Kevin (10 August 2020). "Missouri Valley Football Conference postpones season to Spring 2021". FBSchedules.com. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  32. ^ "Austin Peay Football to Open 2020 at Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff" (Press release). Ohio Valley Conference. January 29, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  33. ^ Hollis, Charles (May 1, 2021). "Alabama A&M mounts second half comeback to claim first SWAC title since 2006". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  34. ^ "Holy Cross -Vs- Bucknell". patriotleague.org. Retrieved 2021-05-04.