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NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) is the top tier of collegiate football in the United States. It was created in 1978 when Division I was split into Division I-A and Division I-AA for football and used to be known as Division I-A up until 2006 when the league became known as its current name. In college sports, there are three divisions: Division I, Division II, and Division III. For football, however, Division I is further split into two; this is not something seen with other major collegiate sports, including basketball, tennis, golf, and soccer.
FBS is currently comprised of ten separate conferences, which are colloquially divided into two groups called the “Power Five” and the “Group of Five”. The first group, the “Power Five”, includes the following conferences: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and Southeastern Conference (SEC).
This quintet is regarded as the more “elite” of the two conferences due to the presence of powerhouse schools like Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Texas, and Florida State. The second group, known as the “Group of Five” is made up of the following conferences: Sun Belt Conference (SBC), Mountain West Conference (MW), Mid-American Conference (MAC), Conference USA (C-USA), and the American Athletic Conference.
In addition to the abovementioned conferences, there are some schools that do not belong to a conference but still play under the FBS umbrella. These institutions are known as “independents”, and some prominent schools include Notre Dame, West Point (known as simply Army in football), and Brigham Young University (BYU).
FBS is the more profitable of the two divisions in terms of money generated due to the number of bowl games they host, and as such, there are stringent requirements for a team to remain in this group. For one, they have to be able to retain an average home attendance of at least 15,000 per match over the course of a two year period. In addition, FBS schools need to sponsor at least 16 top-tier sports, including eight for women only, and six for men (or co-ed).
FBS schools also have to ensure that they can guarantee at least 200 athletic scholarships per year (for all sports). A maximum of 85 of these are allotted to football teams each year, and teams can recruit no more than 25 players per season.
The FBS campaign usually starts in late August or early September and concludes in January with the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Each of the ten conferences in FBS has a conference championship game to determine the winner of each conference. Over the course of the regular season, most FBS teams play at least 12 games, with the vast majority (usually at least eight) being against teams in their respective conference.
However, depending on how a team fares, it could end up playing as many as 16, especially if they make it to the College Football Playoff National Championship game, feature in the conference championship, a semi-final of a bowl game, and have to play the University of Hawaii. Because of their distance, the University of Hawaii (nicknamed the Rainbow Warriors) and their opponents get the chance to play a 13th regular seasonal game. This is done to offset the travel costs that come about with having to travel all the way to Hawaii.