D2 Football

Divisions Blog

What does D2 stand for (NCAA Division II)

There are no subdivisions in Division II football, so this is simply those NCAA D2 football schools that sponsor football.

Table of Contents

    D2 college football history

    The first college football game dates back to the 19th century with Princeton and Rutgers both honored as the first official champions in 1869 by the National Championship Foundation. However, most would consider the 1936 Associated Press national champion, Minnesota, as the first modern-era Division I championship because the 1937 AP poll was the first poll to officially name a champion. It wasn’t until 1956 that the NCAA broke up its schools between the bigger schools, the University Division, and the smaller ones, the College Division. Then in 1973, there was a split in the College Division between those who were still willing to offer athletic scholarships, Division II, and those who did not, Division III.

    Between 1956 and 1973, the Associated Press and United Press International each named a Division II national champion through its polls. The playoff format for Division II schools began in 1973 with Louisiana Tech defeating Western Kentucky in the national championship game. Those are two of the 18 current FBS members who were at one point in Division II, and there are dozens of other former Division II schools that are now FCS programs. Northern Michigan’s title in 1975 was the first won by a current Division II team, and Northwest Missouri State is the most successful Division II team with six national championships in 10 appearances.

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    D2 Football

    D2 college football teams

    There is a lot of realignment occurring at the Division II level with schools moving to FCS football and transitioning from Division III over the next few years. The following list contains the schools that were in each conference for the 2021 football season, regardless of future memberships.

    CIAA

    The Division II Historically Black Colleges and Universities mostly reside in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Despite the deep history and legacy of the CIAA, national success has not been there for these programs. None of the schools have a winning record in the Division II playoffs and none won more than seven games, which Winston-Salem State has done in nine trips. Bowie State’s win in the 2021 playoffs was the first for the conference since 2014.

    • Bowie State Bulldogs
    • Chowan Hawks
    • Elizabeth City State Vikings
    • Fayetteville State Broncos
    • Johnson C. Smith Golden Bulls
    • Lincoln (Pa.) Lions
    • Livingston Blue Bears
    • Saint Augustine’s Falcons
    • Shaw Bears
    • Virginia State Trojans
    • Virginia Union Panthers
    • Winston-Salem State Rams

    Great American

    The Great American Conference is really a two-team league when it comes to football. Harding or Ouachita Baptist have won the last six conference titles, and both have had long runs in the NCAA Division II playoffs. The league is still searching for its first national championship game appearance despite both the Bisons and Tigers making runs to the semifinals in recent years.

    • Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys
    • Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils
    • East Central Tigers
    • Harding Bisons
    • Henderson State Reddies
    • Northwestern Oklahoma State Rangers
    • Oklahoma Baptist Bison
    • Ouachita Baptist Tigers
    • Southeastern Oklahoma State Savage Storm
    • Southern Arkansas Muleriders
    • Southern Nazarene Crimson Storm
    • Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldogs

    Great Lakes

    The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is home to the 2021 national champions, Ferris State. The league itself has a rich history in football with eight title appearances since 2001, which includes five championships during that span. Grand Valley State was a dynasty between 2001 and 2006, winning four titles and appearing in five of the six national championship games. Ferris State won the 2021 title after losing out in the Division II national championship game in 2018.

    • Davenport Panthers
    • Ferris State Bulldogs
    • Grand Valley State Lakers
    • Michigan Tech Huskies
    • Northern Michigan Wildcats
    • Northwood Timberwolves
    • Saginaw Valley State Cardinals
    • Wayne State Warriors

    Great Lakes Valley

    The Great Lakes Valley Conference does possess a lot of depth with five different schools winning a conference title since 2012. However, playoff success has not followed the league in such a difficult region of the country. Indianapolis has won two playoff games in its history, and Lindenwood pulled off an upset in 2019 for its only postseason victory. Yet that is the extent of the national success the conference has had in its short lifetime.

    • Indianapolis Greyhounds
    • Lindenwood Lions
    • McKendree Bearcats
    • Missouri S&T Miners
    • Quincy Hawks
    • Southwest Baptist Bearcats
    • Truman State Bulldogs
    • William Jewel Cardinals

    Great Midwest

    The Great Midwest Athletic Conference is another historically significant Division II conference that lacks national success. Half of the teams in the league have never participated in the playoffs, and those that have earned postseason berths normally don’t last long in the bracket. Findlay was the 2021 champion and Hilldale’s win in 2018 was the last time a conference member won a playoff game.

    • Ashland Eagles
    • Findlay Oilers
    • Hillsdale Chargers
    • Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers
    • Lake Erie Storm
    • Ohio Dominican Panthers
    • Tiffin Dragons
    • Walsh Cavaliers

    Gulf South

    The Gulf South Conference is one of the most dominant conferences in Division II football, especially when it comes to recent success. Five different programs can claim a national title, led by four from Valdosta State. The Blazers have appeared in six national title games, including the 2021 contest, but Delta State won the title in 2000 and played for another championship in 2010. Those two programs are two of the few that have won 15 Division II playoff games nationwide. West Florida lost the 2017 national championship game, but earned some revenge in 2019 with the program’s first national title and now holds the record for winning percentage with a 9-2 record in the playoffs.

    • Delta State Statesmen
    • Mississippi College Choctaws
    • North Greenville Crusaders
    • Shorter Hawks
    • Valdosta State Blazers
    • West Alabama Tigers
    • West Florida Argonauts
    • West Georgia Wolves

    Independents

    This is an interesting group of independents. There are three programs — Barton, Bluefield State, and Erskine — that were resurrected for the 2021 season and had no conference home. Barton and Erskine will join the South Atlantic for the 2022 season, but Bluefield State remains independent in most sports, including football. Then there are the three programs from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference — Central Washington, Simon Fraser, and Western Oregon. They are lumped into the group of independents because the conference champion is not guaranteed a spot in the Division II playoffs, though most of the time the champion is given a bid.

    • Barton Bulldogs
    • Bluefield State Big Blues
    • Central Washington Wildcats
    • Erskine Flying Fleet
    • Simon Fraser (the school has not yet announced its new nickname)
    • Western Oregon Wolves

    Lone Star

    The Lone Star Conference has a rich football history with many future NFL players stopping through the league in college. Texas A&M-Commerce was the most recent national champion back in 2017, and the first current member to actually win the title. Texas A&M-Kingsville played for the title in 1994 and has the most successful alumni with Darrell Green and Gene Upshaw among those who played for the school. Angelo State has also made some deep runs in recent years, most recently getting to the quarterfinals in 2021.

    • Angelo State Rams
    • Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds
    • Midwestern State Mustangs
    • Texas A&M-Commerce Lions
    • Texas A&M-Kingsville Javelinas
    • Texas-Permian Basin Falcons
    • West Texas A&M Buffaloes
    • Western New Mexico Mustangs

    Mid-America

    The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Conference is the home of the most successful Division II football program of all time. Northwest Missouri State made 10 appearances in the Division II title game between 1998 and 2016, winning six times in that span. Pittsburg State also has a pair of titles in 1991 and 2011, but since 2006, Northwest Missouri State has won a share of the conference title in all but three years. The Bearcats also hold the record with 52 postseason wins in 25 appearances, again proving their dominance of the sport over the past quarter-century.

    • Central Missouri Mules
    • Central Oklahoma Bronchos
    • Emporia State Hornets
    • Fort Hays State Tigers
    • Lincoln (Mo.) Blue Tigers
    • Missouri Southern State Lions
    • Missouri Western State Griffons
    • Nebraska-Kearney Lopers
    • Northeastern State RiverHawks
    • Northwest Missouri State Bearcats
    • Pittsburg State Gorillas
    • Washburn Ichabods

    Mountain East

    Notre Dame has dominated the Mountain East Conference since Shepherd left, leaving a vacuum atop the league. The Falcons have done their part to win the league, but national success has not yet arrived for the program. Notre Dame has advanced to the quarterfinals a handful of times, but it is still searching for the breakthrough victory in the postseason.

    • Alderson Broaddus Battlers
    • Charleston Golden Eagles
    • Concord Mountain Lions
    • Fairmont State Falcons
    • Frostburg State Bobcats
    • Glenville State Pioneers
    • UNC-Pembroke Braves
    • Notre Dame (Ohio) Falcons
    • West Liberty Hilltoppers
    • West Virginia State Yellow Jackets
    • West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats
    • Wheeling Cardinals

    Northeast-10

    The Northeast-10 Conference is not a football conference, though New Haven is at least respectable on the national scene. The Chargers played for the national title in 1997 and have won 10 playoff games in seven appearances. No other program has more than three postseason wins in their history despite there being parity within the league over the past two decades.

    • American International Yellow Jackets
    • Assumption Greyhounds
    • Bentley Falcons
    • Franklin Pierce Ravens
    • New Haven Chargers
    • Pace Setters
    • Saint Anselm Hawks
    • Southern Connecticut State Fighting Owls
    • Stonehill Skyhawks

    Northern Sun

    The Minnesota schools have by far been the best teams in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Minnesota-Duluth won national titles in 2008 and 2010 and are tied with Minnesota State for the most playoff wins among league members with 14. The Mavericks haven’t won a national title, but they did appear in the national championship game in both 2014 and 2019.

    • Augustana Vikings
    • Bemidji State Beavers
    • Concordia St. Paul Golden Bears
    • Mary Marauders
    • Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
    • Minnesota State Mavericks
    • Minot State Beavers
    • Northern State Wolves
    • Sioux Falls Cougars
    • Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs
    • Upper Iowa Peacocks
    • Wayne State Wildcats
    • Winona State Warriors

    Pennsylvania State

    The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference has historically been very good at football despite the fact none of its teams have a national title. Shepherd at least played for a championship in 2015, but otherwise, there have been a lot of good teams that haven’t advanced to the big game. Indiana also advanced to the title game in both 1990 and 1993 and is one of seven teams that has won at least 20 playoff games with its last victory coming in 2012.

    • Bloomsburg Huskies
    • California (Pa.) Vulcans
    • Clarion Golden Eagles
    • East Stroudsburg Warriors
    • Edinboro Fighting Scots
    • Gannon Golden Knights
    • Indiana (Pa.) Crimson Hawks
    • Kutztown Golden Bears
    • Lock Haven Bald Eagles
    • Mercyhurst Lakers
    • Millersville Marauders
    • Seton Hill Griffins
    • Shepherd Rams
    • Shippensburg Red Raiders
    • Slippery Rock The Rock
    • West Chester Golden Rams

    Rocky Mountain

    The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference does not have the same parity as some of the other Division II conferences. Colorado State-Pueblo won the 2014 national championship and is one of five teams that have actually made it to the postseason. The other league participants have had some mild success in the playoffs, but none of them come close to reaching the pinnacle that the ThuderWolves have reached in the past decade-plus.

    • Adams State Grizzlies
    • Black Hills State Yellow Jackets
    • Chadron State Eagles
    • Colorado Mesa Mavericks
    • Colorado School of Mines Orediggers
    • Colorado State-Pueblo ThunderWolves
    • Fort Lewis Skyhawks
    • New Mexico Highlands Cowboys
    • South Dakota School of Mines Hardrockers
    • Western Colorado Mountaineers

    South Atlantic

    The South Atlantic Conference has one of the best historic Division II programs, Carson-Newman, which played in three national championship games between 1996-99. The Eagles didn’t win any of those matchups, and Lenoir-Rhyne lost in its 2013 run to the national title game as well. That elusive national championship is the only thing missing for this conference that has its fair share of historically successful Division II programs.

    • Carson-Newman Eagles
    • Catawba Indians
    • Lenoir-Rhyne Bears
    • Limestone Saints
    • Mars Hill Lions
    • Newberry Wolves
    • Tusculum Pioneers
    • Virginia-Wise Cavaliers
    • Wingate Bulldogs

    SIAC

    The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference historically has been comprised of HBCUs, but it has recently added non-HBCUs to the conference membership. Albany State has won just three playoff games in 14 appearances, by far the most appearances in the Division II postseason. However, most of these schools are more famous for their academic achievements than athletic ones, even if some of these schools aren’t that bad at football.

    • Albany State Golden Rams
    • Allen Yellow Jackets
    • Benedict Tigers
    • Central State Marauders
    • Clark Atlanta Panthers
    • Edward Waters Tigers
    • Fort Valley State Wildcats
    • Kentucky State Thorobreds
    • Lane Dragons
    • Miles Golden Bears
    • Morehouse Maroon Tigers
    • Savannah State Tigers
    • Tuskegee Golden Tigers

    NCAA D2 CFB schedule

    The Division II schedule works very differently than the FBS or FCS calendar. Games may not begin until the Thursday preceding Sept. 6 and they may play a maximum of 11 games prior to the start of the Division II playoffs in late November. The playoffs feature 28 teams broken up into four seven-team regionals with every regional seeded Nos. 1-4. The top seed in each region receives a bye into the round of 16 and the winner of the four regionals is reseeded for the national semifinals before the neutral-site national championship game in mid-December.

    D2 college football stadiums

    What makes Division II stadiums unique is that there is a wide variety of sizes ranging from a capacity that exceeds 20,000 to those that seat a little more than 1,200 fans. Most people wouldn’t know any of the Division II stadiums by name unless they lived in an area with a D-II school. However, there are two stadiums that should definitely stand out to sports fans, one for its football history and the other for its history in NASCAR.

    Walsh University plays at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, the site of the yearly Hall of Fame game that kicks off the NFL preseason. Winston-Salem State hosts its games at Bowman Gray Stadium, which is known less for its football field than the quarter-mile asphalt track that surrounds it. From 1958-71, NASCAR held an annual race at the track with Richard Petty owning four wins at the track, two fewer than record-holder Rex White.

    D2 college grants & scholarship

    College football recruiting for Division II bears very little resemblance to what we see at the FBS and FCS levels. There are only 36 scholarships allowed on the roster, but oftentimes those are split between several players, so it is rare for a player to earn a full-ride scholarship. Almost all scholarships offered by coaches are partial scholarships, so there another merit-based financial aid is not uncommon for Division II football players. There are far fewer transfers from Division I programs to Division II, so the emphasis is on development more than anything.

    Actually getting recruited to play college football is a completely different process. There aren’t as many national recruiters at the Division II level, so most coaches look for regional talent that might be overlooked. This might be where an undersized player could get a better offer than Division I coaches who might want to change your position to fit with their needs. Still for a majority of players, offers won’t roll in until a player’s junior year or later because there is so much room to grow that Division II teams rarely look too far ahead in recruiting.

    The recruiting calendar is broken up into four different types of periods, each with its own set of rules for the contact between a player and coach. The easiest one to explain is the dead period because that is when all recruiting activities must cease between a recruit and college coach. There is no contact permitted either on or off-campus and student-athletes are not allowed to be on an official or unofficial visit. This does not prohibit a prospective recruit from visiting college campuses for his own tour, but there won’t be any help or meeting with the coaching staff at the school.

    A quiet period is the next step from the dead period because recruiting contact is allowed on campus. This opens up the door for on-campus visits, but it limits college coaches from holding recruiting events off-campus. These are the weeks when official and unofficial visits take place for prospective student-athletes. Then you have the evaluation periods when college coaches are on the road and watching recruits on their home territory off-campus. There cannot be any contact between the recruit and the player during these periods, but coaches will watch recruits practice and play games, and they have a chance to talk to coaches and school administrators about potential recruits.

    Finally, there is the free-for-all that most people think about when they hear the word “recruiting,” the contact period. This is when anything allowed by the NCAA manual is permissible on and off-campus, and these periods typically occur after the regular-season ends through the signing periods in December and February. It’s the last-ditch effort for many coaches to close the deal with recruits who haven’t made a verbal commitment and try to persuade them to sign their national letters of intent.

    The National Letter of Intent is the contract a recruit signs to officially accept the scholarship and athletic aid package from the school. It is only after the school receives and verifies the NLI that coaches can publicly talk about a recruit. These letters are less critical for Division II programs because it is rare for an FBS or FCS program to reach out at the last minute to a recruit.

    D2 college football awards

    The Harlon Hill Trophy is the Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy and is given annually to the best player in the country. The 2021 winner, Shepherd’s Tyson Bagent, is the seventh straight quarterback to win the award, though the most famous recipients have been running backs. Many football fans would recognize Danny Woodhead’s name, and the running back was the 2006 and 2007 Harlon Hill winner. In 2008, Bernard Scott took home the award, and Joique Bell won the award in 2009.

    Division 2 football alumni

    There have not been many players from the current Division II members who have ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, there are three notable ones that many modern NFL fans would probably recognize. Before starring for the Bills on their Super Bowl run, Andre Reed impressed at Kutztown, meanwhile, Texas A&M Kingsville can claim Darrell Green and John Randle, who made life difficult for offenses in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    However, the NFL of the past decade is littered with Division II talent that no longer falls through the cracks with advanced scouting techniques. That includes past running backs like Joique Bell and Danny Woodhead, who both were named the Division II player of the year, and kickers like Greg Zuerlein, who has had a long successful career. Also on that list of current Division II stars in the NFL is Austin Ekeler out of Western Colorado while West Alabama has a pair of NFL stars in Malcolm Butler and Tyreek Hill. Adam Thielen didn’t stray too far from college-going from Minnesota State to starring for the Vikings. Meanwhile, Matthew Judon has excelled this season in New England after a strong career at Grand Valley State.