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FBS vs. FCS — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Fiza Rafique — Published on March 5, 2024
FBS is the top level of college football in the NCAA, featuring larger schools and bowl games, while FCS schools compete in a playoff for the championship, typically with smaller athletic budgets and scholarships.
FBS vs. FCS — What's the Difference?

Difference Between FBS and FCS


Key Differences

FBS, or Football Bowl Subdivision, represents the pinnacle of NCAA Division I football, comprising larger universities with significant athletic budgets. These schools compete in high-profile bowl games and are allowed to offer up to 85 full athletic scholarships to players. The FBS is known for its competitive landscape, large fan bases, and substantial revenue generation from television and sponsorships.
FCS, or Football Championship Subdivision, also part of NCAA Division I, features smaller schools and emphasizes a more balanced approach between athletics and academics. FCS teams compete in a playoff tournament to win their national championship, with the ability to offer a maximum of 63 scholarships, which can be divided among more players. This subdivision allows for a greater number of institutions to be competitive.
The distinction between FBS and FCS lies not only in the playoff system versus bowl games but also in the scale of their operations. FBS schools often have larger stadiums, more extensive support facilities, and higher coaching salaries, reflecting the larger role football plays in their athletic departments and campus life. FCS schools, while still competitive, usually operate with smaller budgets, which influences their recruiting, facilities, and overall exposure.
Fan engagement and media coverage also differ significantly between the two. FBS games are more likely to be broadcast on national television, attracting larger audiences and more media attention. FCS coverage is growing, especially for playoff games, but it generally does not reach the same level as FBS.
Despite these differences, both FBS and FCS provide valuable opportunities for student-athletes. FBS offers a bigger stage and more resources, while FCS can offer more playing time and a greater emphasis on academic achievement alongside athletic competition.

Comparison Chart

Scholarship Limit

Up to 85 full scholarships
Maximum of 63 scholarships, can be divided

Playoff/Bowl System

Bowl games
Playoff system for championship

School Size

Generally larger universities
Smaller universities and colleges

Athletic Budget

Larger budgets
Smaller budgets

Fan Base

Larger fan bases and stadiums
Smaller fan bases and stadiums

Media Coverage

Widespread, national coverage
Less media coverage, regional focus


Higher-profile recruiting
More emphasis on academic balance

Coaching Salaries

Generally higher
Generally lower


Full scholarships only
Allows partial scholarships

Competition Level

Considered higher
Competitive, with a focus on balance

Compare with Definitions


Offers up to 85 full athletic scholarships.
Ohio State University provides full scholarships to its football players.


Offers a maximum of 63 scholarships, which can be divided.
James Madison University allocates its scholarships across multiple players.


Features larger universities with significant athletic budgets.
The University of Texas at Austin boasts substantial resources for its football program.


Includes smaller schools with a focus on academic balance.
The Ivy League competes at the FCS level, emphasizing student-athlete academics.


Attracts national television coverage and large fan bases.
Notre Dame football games are televised nationally, reflecting its FBS status.


Division I football with a playoff system for the championship.
North Dakota State University is a powerhouse in the FCS.


The highest division of college football with major bowl games.
The University of Alabama competes in the FBS.


Crowns its champion through a playoff tournament.
The FCS National Championship game determines the top team each year.


Engages in high-profile bowl competitions.
The Rose Bowl is a prestigious FBS postseason game.


Has growing media coverage, especially for playoffs.
FCS playoff games are increasingly broadcast on national platforms.


A cooperative nationwide system of banks and associations providing credit to farmers and related businesses; originally capitalized by the federal government but now owned by its members and borrowers

Common Curiosities

What is the main difference between FBS and FCS?

The main difference lies in their postseason formats, scholarship limits, and the scale of their athletic programs, with FBS featuring bowl games and more scholarships.

Do FBS and FCS schools recruit the same athletes?

While there is some overlap, FBS schools typically recruit higher-profile athletes due to their resources and exposure, but talented athletes can and do choose FCS schools for various reasons, including playing time and academic considerations.

Can FCS teams compete against FBS teams?

Yes, FCS teams often play against FBS teams, especially in non-conference games, which can provide financial boosts and exposure for the FCS programs.

How does the playoff system in FCS work?

The FCS playoff system involves a bracket of teams selected by a committee, which compete in a knockout format culminating in the national championship game. This allows for a definitive on-field determination of the national champion.

Do FBS and FCS champions ever play each other?

FBS and FCS champions do not compete against each other in an official capacity, as they are crowned in separate divisions with distinct postseason formats. However, FCS teams may play FBS teams during the regular season.

How are national champions determined in FBS and FCS?

FBS champions are determined through the College Football Playoff system, while FCS champions are decided by a playoff tournament.

Is the competition level the same in FBS and FCS?

The competition level is generally considered higher in FBS due to its larger schools and resources, but FCS also showcases high-quality football with competitive teams and games.

How does the scholarship division work in FCS?

In FCS, the 63 scholarships can be divided among more players in the form of partial scholarships, allowing teams to distribute their financial aid to a larger number of student-athletes, which can help balance team depth and academic support.

What is the financial difference between FBS and FCS programs?

FBS programs typically generate and spend more money on their football operations compared to FCS programs, due to larger stadiums, more extensive broadcasting deals, and greater overall visibility.

What is the role of television contracts in FBS and FCS?

Television contracts play a significant role in FBS, providing substantial revenue and exposure. FCS also benefits from TV exposure, especially during playoffs, but the scale and financial impact are typically smaller compared to FBS.

What impact does moving from FCS to FBS have on a school?

Moving from FCS to FBS can significantly impact a school, including increased revenue potential from larger audiences and media contracts, higher athletic expenses, and the need for improved facilities and scholarships to meet FBS requirements.

Why do some schools choose to compete in FCS instead of moving to FBS?

Schools may choose to compete in FCS due to factors like budgetary constraints, academic priorities, and a desire for a more level competitive field, where they can realistically compete for championships.

What are bowl games, and why don't FCS teams participate in them?

Bowl games are postseason matchups traditionally involving FBS teams, based on their performance in the regular season. FCS teams do not participate in bowl games because they have their own playoff system to determine their national champion.

How do the academic standards differ between FBS and FCS?

While all NCAA student-athletes must meet certain academic standards, FCS schools often emphasize a more balanced approach to athletics and academics, sometimes attracting student-athletes who prioritize educational opportunities alongside sports.

Can FBS and FCS teams play in the same conference?

While FBS and FCS teams can play against each other in non-conference games, they do not compete in the same conference as conferences are aligned based on the subdivision level.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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