INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA Football Championship Subdivision postseason field will expand from 20 to 24 teams beginning in 2013, a development that will assist the Chattanooga football program's quest for its first playoff appearance since 1984.
“(The expansion is) good for somebody like a Chattanooga that has gone 7-4 and played a decent schedule,” said Geoff Cabe, associate commissioner of the Southern Conference. “The unspoken cut line used to be 8-3. Now we’re seeing 7-4. There’s less emphasis on just getting eight wins and more emphasis on playing a good schedule.”
Three more at-large bids will be added to the field, increasing the total number to 13, while the Pioneer Football League, which consists of institutions that do not award athletic scholarships to football players, will become the 11th FCS conference to receive an automatic qualifier.
“The NCAA rule is that 50 percent of the field has to be at-large in any sport,” Cabe said. “They were keeping it at the big eight conferences. It was an evolution of other leagues coming into the picture like the Pioneer League, the Northeast and the Big South. They get automatic bids, so that means more at-large bids to go along with them.”
The last FCS playoff expansion occurred in 2010 when the field increased from 16 to 20 teams.
Under the new format, The top eight teams will be seeded, receive first-round byes and host second-round games. The remaining 16 teams would bid to host first-round games. Geography and travel costs will both factor in to the committee’s decision on first-round pairings for the bracket.
The champions of 10 conferences — the Big Sky Conference, the Big South Conference, the Colonial Athletic Association, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Missouri Valley Conference, the Northeast Conference, the Ohio Valley Conference, the Patriot League, the Southern Conference and the Southland Conference — currently receive automatic bids to the postseason.
The champions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference and Ivy League do not advance to the playoffs.