College football has been made up of four divisions. Division I, II and III, yes that’s three but the total divisions are four, so how does one plus one plus one equal four? Well, Division I has two divisions if that makes sense. Division I-A and I-AA or the Bowl (BCS) and Championship divisions are the two divisions that make up Division I!
Before going into the difference between I-A and I-AA, let us touch very briefly on II and III. Those latter two divisions are for smaller schools with less students enrolled and smaller stadiums that have less attendance potential.
Division I-A and I-AA
These two divisions only exist with the NCAA college football. In all other sports the only division I is I-A. However, football has that distinction due to some school football programs wanting to invest more in the program than other schools for a stadium revenue standpoint and an athletic scholarship point.
The College Football program costs schools far more money than any other NCAA sports program. It is that way due to the number of players on the team and the equipment needed to outfit each player. Therefore, it makes it difficult for some schools to stay in the black when it comes to their football programs. Because of that, it essentially comes down to money as to where the separation begins between teams in I-A and those in I-AA.
Conditions exist that help determine if a school falls in Division I-A or I-AA.
I-A (Bowl Division)
To fall into I-A the school must have at the minimum 16 varsity sports programs and 60% of the schedule of I-A schools must be against other I-A schools. Besides matters involving administration, the I-A schools have two additional requirements dealing with attendance and scholarships.
The attendance requirement is 15,000 fans for your home games. Over a two-year period, the average fan attendance must be 15,000. The other requirement is related to scholarships. The school must be an aid and athletic grant school. The school must provide aid that is related to athletic participation. In simpler terms, it must offer athletic scholarships.
Included in that scholarship rule is that 90% of the maximum permissible for football much be used in football and I-A schools must have 200 grants spread across its athletic programs.
I-AA (Championship Division)
The rules for this division differ from those of I-A in a number of different ways. I-AA schools only are required to have 14 varsity sports and just 50%of their schedule has to be against either other I-AA or I-A schools.
I-AA schools do not have requirements for attendance or scholarships either. For example, all schools in the Ivy League are I-AA because of the scholarship requirements in the other division.