Building the Bracket

Once the 10 automatic qualifiers and 14 at-large teams have been selected to the championship, the committee begins building the bracket by using the following procedures.

Step One: Seeding the Top Eight

  1. The committee will recommend selected teams to be considered in a “seed pool.” A team must receive 30 percent of the vote to be included in the seed pool.
  2. Resumes for teams elected into the seed pool will be reviewed and discussed by the full committee.
  3. The committee will, via secret ballot, conduct a preliminary rank vote of all the teams in the seed pool. The teams will be ranked preliminarily according to the vote totals they receive.
  4. The committee will then review this preliminary rank and discuss the results further.
  5. The committee will then have a final poll vote of the seed pool teams to determine the top eight seeds in rank order.

Step Two: Bracketing

  1. The teams awarded the top eight seeds shall receive a first-round bye and are placed in the appropriate positions in the bracket (Nos. 1, 8, 4 and 5 in the upper half; Nos. 2, 7, 3 and 6 in the lower half).  
  2. The remaining 16 teams will play first-round games and will be paired and bracketed according to geographic proximity. 

The NCAA mileage threshold for mandatory team ground travel is 400 miles. The committee is required to minimize the number of flights and must pair and bracket teams that are within 400 miles of each other whenever possible.

Teams from the same conference that played each other during the regular season will not be paired for first-round games.  If two teams from the same conference did not play each other during the regular season, they can play each other during the first round of the championship.

  1.  Once first-round games have been paired and bracketed, they will be placed into the bracket according to geographic proximity of the top eight seeds. The committee is again tasked with attempting to structure the bracket to create as many matchups of teams within 400 miles of each other as possible. 

Starting with the second round, teams from the same conference may play each other even if they played during the regular season.

Step Three: Determination of Host Sites

Once the 24 teams have been paired and bracketed, the committee will begin the process of determining the host sites for the first- and second-round games of the championship.

The following criteria are used in the evaluation of potential host sites during all preliminary rounds of the championship:

  • Quality and availability of the facility and other necessary accommodations.
  • Revenue potential.
  • Attendance history and potential.
  • Geographical location.
  • Championships operating costs.
  • Previous crowd-control measures and crowd behavior of the prospective host school (regardless of seed).

If the minimum guarantees are met, the committee will award playoff sites to the higher-seeded teams.

In matchups between two unseeded teams, the following criteria shall be used to determine the host site:

  • Quality of facility.
  • Revenue potential plus estimated net receipts.
  • Attendance history and potential.
  • Team’s performance (for example, conference place finish, head-to-head results and number of Division I opponents).
  • Student-athlete well-being (for example, minimizing travel and missed class time).

Step Four: Additional Bracketing Policies

  • If a conference has four or more teams in the championship, the Division I Football Championship Committee may allow an additional flight in the first or second round in order to avoid a conference having all its teams on the same side of the bracket.
  • If two teams from the same conference are paired/bracketed to play each other in the first round and one of the teams was the conference champion, the conference champion shall be selected as the host site for that first-round game. 
  • This is contingent upon that conference champion meeting the facility requirements to host and submitting an acceptable bid by the established deadline.
  • Attempts will be made to avoid repeat games from the regular season (both conference and nonconference) in first-round matchups, provided that it does not create an additional flight.
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2019 Division I Football Championship Timeline

Selection Sunday
12:30 p.m. Eastern time Nov. 24 on ESPNU

First Round (8 games)
Saturday, Nov. 30 — campus sites

Second Round (8 games)
Saturday, Dec. 7 — campus sites

Quarterfinal Round (4 games)
Friday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 14 — campus sites

Semifinal Round (2 games)
Saturday, Dec. 21 — campus sites

2020 FCS Championship Game (1 game)
Saturday, Jan. 11 — noon Eastern time, Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on ABC