Best Division II Football Schools

Divisions
Best Division II Football Schools

Ranking Methodology:

The following rankings break down the best Division II football schools in the United States. This list is intended to create awareness of accomplished Division 2 football programs based on several criteria:

  • Historical success in football
  • Recent success in football
  • Campus life, facilities, coaches
  • Academic ranking
  • Reputation and perks

Below, you can find the ranking for each institution, along with a description of what makes that school (and football program) so special. This should present quality depth to gain an accurate picture of what each college is about.

Best D2 Football Schools 2022-23:

Northwest Missouri State University

Location: Maryville, MO

Description: Northwest Missouri State University makes a strong case as one of the best football schools in Division II. The Bearcats have made the Division II football playoffs every season since 2004, which is an impressive feat that displays the strength of this program.

NWMSU has appeared in eight championship games since then, winning four of them (2009, 2013, 2015, 2016). Altogether, the Bearcats have six National Titles and 30 Conference Championships. Since 1999, Northwest Missouri State has had 13 players go on to play professional football. The most noteworthy of that group was tackle Seth Wand, who was taken in the third round of the 2003 draft by the Houston Texans.

As for academics, NWMSU ranks sixth (of 41 schools) in terms of educational value in the state of Missouri. That ranks top 10% in the nation, meaning NWMSU offers quality education for a reasonable rate compared to the rest of the nation. 

Average Cost Before Aid: $21,000

Average Cost After Aid: $12,000

Enrollment: 7,900

Home Page: https://www.nwmissouri.edu/

Grand Valley State University

Location: Allendale, MI

Description: Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is a fairly large public school for those seeking a bachelor’s degree. That especially holds true when considering its estimated enrollment of 21,000 is larger than all the other D2 football schools on this list.

Grand Valley State has won four National Championships, which is tied for third-most of all D2 football schools. The GVSU Lakers have racked up 17 Conference Championships, and 30 former members of GVSU’s football team have made it to the NFL.

As for academics, Grand Valley State is ranked eighth of 67 colleges in Michigan, holding a suburban-style campus near the east bank of Lake Michigan.

Average Cost Before Aid: $26,000

Average Cost After Aid: $18,000

Enrollment: 21,000

Home Page: https://www.gvsu.edu/

Valdosta State University

Location: Valdosta, GA

Description: Valdosta State University (VSU) ranks third in our list of best NCAA Division II football schools. To many, it’s the best school for D2 football in the south region.

Valdosta State has an impressive resume in that regard, making the Championship Game in two of the past three seasons. The VSU Blazers took home the Championship in 2018 as well as in 2004, 2007, and 2012. That ties for the third-most Division 2 titles at the moment.

Valdosta State is a medium-sized public school with an estimated enrollment of 8,300 students.

Speaking financially, VSU is one of the more affordable options on this list of D2 football schools.

Average Cost Before Aid: $21,000

Average Cost After Aid: $14,000

Enrollment: 8,300

Home Page: https://www.valdosta.edu/

Pittsburg State University

Location: Pittsburg, KS

Description: Pittsburg State, otherwise known as Pitt State, is a public four-year college located in southeast Kansas.

Pitt State is the proud owner of two D2 Championships (1991, 2011) and five Championship Game appearances, which is fifth-most in NCAA Division II history. The Pittsburg State Gorillas have claimed 31 Conference Championships while producing NFL talent along the way. Its most notable alum is wide receiver John Brown, who has been regarded as a legitimate talent in the league with 31 career touchdowns.

For academics, Pittsburg State has a generous acceptance rate (91%) while ranking 11th among 51 colleges in Kansas.

Average Cost Before Aid: $21,000

Average Cost After Aid: $14,000

Enrollment: 7,400

Home Page: https://www.pittstate.edu/

Ferris State University

Location: Big Rapids, MI

Description: Ferris State checks in at fifth on our list of the best D2 football schools, but it has had some of the most recent success of any NCAA Division 2 team.

The Bulldogs won the National Championship in 2021 while finishing runner-up in 2018. They will look to defend last year’s ranking and 14-0 record while setting up for another Division II playoff run.

For academics, Ferris State carries a high 82% acceptance rate while trending as a great value for qualified bachelor’s degree students.

FSU ranks in the top 30% of colleges in the country for the best overall quality, which makes for respectable value given the relatively low financial obligation to attend this university.

Average Cost Before Aid: $25,000

Average Cost After Aid: $13,000

Enrollment: 10,400

Home Page: https://www.ferris.edu/

University of Minnesota-Duluth

Location: Duluth, MN

Description: The University of Minnesota-Duluth is known for another varsity sport while having incredible hockey teams, but it ranks high among D2 football schools as well.

Minnesota-Duluth has participated in two National Championships, winning both of them (2008, 2010). The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs are routinely challenging for a title, making the NCAA Division 2 Football Playoffs 12 times since 2002.

Outside of sports, the University of Minnesota-Duluth ranks in the top 15% of colleges nationwide with an open 79% acceptance rate.

Average Cost Before Aid: $26,000

Average Cost After Aid: $17,000

Enrollment: 8,800

Home Page: https://www.d.umn.edu/

Carson-Newman University

Location: Jefferson City, TN

Description: Carson-Newman University is a private four-year non-profit college. It’s a very small school with an estimated enrollment of only around 1,800 students.

Carson-Newman’s football team hasn’t won a National Championship, but the school has made it to the Title Game three times. Despite that, the Carson-Newman Eagles are regularly in the discussion for best D2 football schools while making the NCAA Division II Playoffs 16 total times. That’s tied for sixth-most.

Carson-Newman is a more expensive college on the financial side, but it still represents fair value for potential students. Its highly-rated Sports Management major and athletics pedigree attracts numerous student-athletes from all across the country.

Average Cost Before Aid: $43,000

Average Cost After Aid: $17,000

Enrollment: 1,800

Home Page: https://www.cn.edu/

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Location: Indiana, PA

Description: At first glance, you may think this University is located in Indiana. Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) is located in western Pennsylvania. It is about 55 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, PA.

IUP has appeared in two NCAA Division 2 National Championships, but it has failed to claim a title. Despite that, IUP has made the Division II Football Playoffs 18 times, which is tied for third-most.

Speaking financially, this is one of the most expensive Division 2 schools on the list.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania currently holds a 93% acceptance rate as a medium-sized public school.

Average Cost Before Aid: $29,000

Average Cost After Aid: $22,000

Enrollment: 8,200

Home Page: https://www.iup.edu/

University of West Florida

Location: Pensacola, FL

Description: West Florida has seen plenty of recent success in Division II football, making three of the last four playoffs and winning the National Championship in 2019.

While the West Florida Argonauts don’t have a track record prior to that, it is ready to develop itself into a football school among the NCAA Division 2 powerhouses.

On the financial side, West Florida is one of the most affordable institutions on this list, giving student-athletes satisfactory value. Because of that, the acceptance rate (53%) is lower than other Universities on this list.

Average Cost Before Aid: $22,000

Average Cost After Aid: $7,000

Enrollment: 9,200

Home Page: https://uwf.edu/

Albany State University

Location: Albany, GA

Description: Albany State checks in at 10th in our complete list of best D2 football schools. Albany State is rated as one of the top Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the United States, and the top HBCU institution in Georgia.

While this school doesn’t have a National Title or Championship Game appearance, the Albany State Golden Rams are a routinely competitive football team.

The Golden Rams have participated in 14 playoffs, which is tied for eighth-most. They’ve also had 19 football players end up in the NFL.

Average Cost Before Aid: $21,000

Average Cost After Aid: $13,000

Enrollment: 5,400

Home Page: https://www.asurams.edu/

West Chester University

Location: West Chester, PA

Description: West Chester is the second NCAA Division II football team from Pennsylvania on this list. The Golden Rams are tied for eighth overall with 14 playoff appearances.

The Golden Rams have not won a National Championship in football, and they have not appeared in the Title Game either.

Outside of sports, this University ranks in the top 15% of colleges nationwide with an on-time graduation rate of 50% This is above the national average data of 33%.

Also, West Chester is conveniently located about 35 miles east of Philadelphia.

Average Cost Before Aid: $28,000

Average Cost After Aid: $18,000

Enrollment: 15,000

Home Page: https://www.wcupa.edu/

Shepherd University

Location: Shepherdstown, WV

Description: Shepherd University is located in eastern West Virginia, and it’s about a one-hour drive to Washington D.C..

The Shepard Rams have not won any national championship but have one champ title appearance in 2015. The Rams have made 13 Division II playoff appearances, ranking tenth on the all-time list. The football team has not won a National Championship, but it played in the NCAA Division 2 Title Game once in 2015.

The Rams have been solid in recent seasons, ranking sixth in the final 2021 poll. Shepherd University is an affordable school for student-athletes while also holding a 98% acceptance rate.

Average Cost Before Aid: $22,000

Average Cost After Aid: $11,000

Enrollment: 3,200

Home Page: https://www.shepherd.edu/

Colorado State University-Pueblo

Location: Pueblo, CO

Description: Colorado State University-Pueblo is about 43 miles south of Colorado Springs, CO, which is 113 miles south of Denver, CO.

CSU-Pueblo won the Division II Football Championship in 2014, its only Title Game appearance. The CSU-Pueblo ThunderWolves made the playoffs eight times between 2011 and 2019.

This school has a 94% acceptance rate, and qualified bachelor’s degree students gravitate towards the high-ranking civil engineering department. Check the website below for more details.

Average Cost Before Aid: $27,000

Average Cost After Aid: $15,000

Enrollment: 3,400

Home Page: https://www.csupueblo.edu/

Minnesota State University-Mankato

Location: Mankato, MN

Description: Minnesota State-Mankato has appeared in 12 Division II football playoffs while making Championship games in 2014 and 2019. The Mavericks lost both of those contests, so they are still searching for their first Division 2 football crown.

Outside of sports, Minnesota State University-Mankato is a quality college for the money, ranking in the top 15% for academics.

Average Cost Before Aid: $22,000

Average Cost After Aid: $16,000

Enrollment: 11,500

Home Page: https://mankato.mnsu.edu/

University of West Georgia

Location: Carrollton, GA

Description: The University of West Georgia, along with four other schools, make up a handful of top NCAA Division II football teams from the south region.

The campus is located in Carrollton, GA – and is relatively close (about 50 miles west) to Atlanta, GA.

The West Georgia Wolves have made the Division 2 playoffs eight times but have not played in the Championship Game.

Average Cost Before Aid: $25,000

Average Cost After Aid: $16,000

Enrollment: 9,700

Home Page: https://www.westga.edu/

Delta State University

Location: Cleveland, MS

Description: Delta State University is a small school located in Cleveland, MS – which is about 114 miles south of Memphis, TN.

Nicknamed the Statesmen, Delta State has qualified for nine Division II football playoffs, winning one Championship in 2000.

Academically speaking, Delta State has a relatively low financial burden with a near 100% acceptance rate.

Average Cost Before Aid: $21,000

Average Cost After Aid: $13,000

Enrollment: 2,200

Home Page: https://www.deltastate.edu/

Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Location: Kingsville, TX

Description: Texas A&M University-Kingsville is a medium-sized public school located in southeast Texas near the Gulf of Mexico.

The football team has been to 15 Division 2 football playoffs, ranking seventh all-time. Despite that, the Javelinas have not competed for a Division II Championship in football.

The data shows an 88% acceptance rate with a respectable value for money.

Average Cost Before Aid: $24,000

Average Cost After Aid: $14,000

Enrollment: 5,300

Home Page: https://www.tamuk.edu/

Winston-Salem State University

Location: Winston-Salem, NC

Description: Winston-Salem ranks as one of the top Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the United States.

The football team made it to nine Division 2 playoffs while appearing in one Division II Championship Game (without winning) in 2012.

Notable alum includes ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, rapper Common, and former NFL star Yancy Thigpen.

Average Cost Before Aid: $21,000

Average Cost After Aid: $12,000

Enrollment: 4,500

Home Page: https://www.wssu.edu/

Colorado School of Mines

Location: Golden, CO

Description: Colorado School of Mines checks in 19th on our list of best D2 football schools.

The Orediggers have made it to seven NCAA Division II football playoffs but have not competed for a Championship.

This school is located in Golden, CO – which is a suburb of Denver, CO.

On top of having a quality football team, Colorado School of the Mines is also a top destination for those seeking an institution with a great Engineering program.

Average Cost Before Aid: $37,000

Average Cost After Aid: $27,000

Enrollment: 5,000

Home Page: https://www.mines.edu/

Slippery Rock University

Location: Slippery Rock, PA

Description: Slippery Rock University is located in eastern Pennsylvania, about 50 miles north of Pittsburg, PA.

The football team has competed in nine NCAA Division II playoffs. Outside of sports, the data suggests Slippery Rock ranks in the top 16% of institutions nationwide with an 83% freshmen retention rate and an on-time graduation rate of 50%.

Average Cost Before Aid: $25,000

Average Cost After Aid: $20,000

Enrollment: 7,400

Home Page: https://www.sru.edu/

University of New Haven

Location: West Haven, CT

Description: The University of New Haven is a top Division II football school in the New England region.

The football team, nicknamed the Chargers, appeared in the Division 2 Championship in 1997 but failed to win.

The Chargers made seven Division II playoff appearances overall while holding a regular-season record of 8-1 in 2021.

This University recently expanded its facilities for athletes on campus while hoping to develop into a Division I college in the near future.

Average Cost Before Aid: $61,000

Average Cost After Aid: $33,000

Enrollment: 4,900

Home Page: https://www.newhaven.edu/

Bentley University

Location: Waltham, MA

Description: Bentley University is another top NCAA Division 2 football school in the New England region.

Bentley has only competed in three Division II playoffs, but the Falcons went 8-1 in 2021 while trending up among D2 football schools.

This is a private college in the greater Boston, MA area, ranking top five nationwide for students seeking an education in business.

Average Cost Before Aid: $74,000

Average Cost After Aid: $39,000

Enrollment: 4,200

Home Page: https://www.bentley.edu/

Chadron State College

Location: Chadron, NE

Description: Chadron State College is a small, remote NCAA Division 2 school located in northwest Nebraska near the South Dakota border.

The Eagles have made the NCAA Division 2 playoffs eight times but failed to win it all in each instance.

Notable former athletes include Super Bowl Champions Danny Woodhead and Don Beebe, so the Eagles have been able to develop football talent over the years.

Chadron State College has a near 100% admission rate with relatively low out-of-state tuition compared to similar colleges.

Average Cost Before Aid: $23,000

Average Cost After Aid: $14,000

Enrollment: 1,700

Home Page: https://www.csc.edu/

Lenoir-Rhyne University

Location: Hickory, NC

Description: Lenoir-Rhyne University is a small private college located in Hickory, NC – which is about 55 miles northwest of Charlotte, NC.

The football team has competed in six NCAA Division 2 playoffs between 2012 and 2021, losing the Championship Game in 2013. v

While this is one of the more expensive colleges on this list, this institution has numerous financial aid outlets. If you have an interest in Lenoir-Rhyne, visit the college site home page below for more details.

Average Cost Before Aid: $57,000

Average Cost After Aid: $19,000

Enrollment: 1,700

Home Page: https://www.lr.edu/

University of Nebraska-Kearney

Location: Kearney, NE

Description: The University of Nebraska-Kearney is one of the medium-sized colleges on this list.

The campus is located in central Nebraska, with a relatively high freshman retention rate of 79%. The football team, nicknamed the Lopers, has competed in five NCAA Divison 2 playoffs while failing to reach the Championship Game in each attempt.

Some criticize UNK’s football conference (Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association), stating that the MIAA lacks true contenders to NW Missouri State and Pittsburg State. However, the University of Nebraska-Kearney is challenging that notion, and going 10-3 in 2021 helps.

Average Cost Before Aid: $24,000

Average Cost After Aid: $16,000

Enrollment: 4,300

Home Page: https://www.unk.edu/

Honorable Mention

There are countless other colleges vying to be a part of this list. There are 169 football teams in Division 2, so the task of widdling that down to 25 can create some friction.

Based on college search activity and the criteria listed above, here are several other colleges that were in contention for the best D2 football schools:

  • Wayne State (Michigan)
  • Central Missouri
  • Michigan Tech
  • Benedict College (South Carolina)
  • Colorado Mesa

This complete list should have served as an introduction to finding the best D2 football school. Ideally, you now have a better picture to identify which colleges are the right fit from an athletic, academic, financial, and social point of view.