Pioneer Football League

Last updated
Pioneer Football League
Pioneer Football League logo.svg
Established1991
Association NCAA
Division Division I
Subdivision FCS
Members11
Sports fielded
  • 1 (football)
    • men's: 1
    • women's: 0
Region Nationwide
Headquarters St. Louis, Missouri
CommissionerPatty Viverito (since 1994)
Website www.pioneer-football.org
Locations
Pioneer Football League map.png

The Pioneer Football League (PFL) is a collegiate athletic conference which operates in the United States. The conference participates in the NCAA's Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) as a football-only conference. It has member schools that range from New York, North Carolina, and Florida in the east to California in the west. It is headquartered in St. Louis, in the same complex that also contains the offices of the Missouri Valley Conference and Missouri Valley Football Conference. Unlike most other Division I FCS conferences, the Pioneer League consists of institutions that choose not to award athletic scholarships ("grants-in-aid") to football players.

Contents

Most of the PFL's members are private schools. Morehead State University is currently the only public school in the conference.

History

Foundation

Following an NCAA rule change passed in January 1991, which required Division I schools to conduct all sports at the Division I level by 1993, the conference was formed by charter members Butler University, the University of Dayton, Drake University, the University of Evansville, and Valparaiso University. [1] The University of San Diego joined in 1992, and the league played its first season in 1993. The six original schools which played in the 1993 season had previously sponsored football at the Division I, Division II and Division III levels.

Membership changes

Original contraction

In 1997, the league reduced to five members when the University of Evansville downgraded football from Division I to club status; Evansville explored upgrading football back to Division I in 2007, but decided against it.

2001 expansion

In 2001, the conference nearly doubled in size and was reorganized with the five pre-2001 members forming the North Division, and newcomers Austin Peay State University, Davidson College, Jacksonville University and Morehead State University forming the South Division. The reorganization spawned a new championship system in which the best record holders from each division would play in a title game for the conference championship.

2005–2008 membership changes

On April 8, 2005, Austin Peay announced its departure from the league effective after the 2005 season; Austin Peay returned to scholarship-granting competition in 2007 as a member of the Ohio Valley Conference in which it competes in other sports. As a result, the conference reverted to round-robin play; the divisions and championship game were abolished. On April 7, 2006, Campbell University announced the reinstatement of football effective in 2008, and on December 5, 2007, accepted an invitation to the PFL. [2] In February 2008, Marist College announced that it would join the PFL for the 2009 season, after the MAAC stopped sponsoring football. [3] Although Campbell moved in 2011 from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the Big South Conference, which sponsors football, it did not join the Big South in football and remained in the PFL through the 2017 season. [4]

2013 membership changes & automatic playoff berth

On June 13, 2011, Mercer University and Stetson University were announced as league members (effective 2013) bringing membership to 12 schools. [5] In addition, as of 2013, the league has an automatic bid into the FCS division I playoffs. [6] Soon after its PFL membership was announced, Mercer accepted an invitation to join the Southern Conference (scholarship-granting) effective July 1, 2014. [7] During its one season in the league, Mercer set a Division I win-loss record for start-up programs; Mercer finished the 2013 season with an overall record of 10–2 including an undefeated 8–0 record at home, also a Division I record held jointly with Auburn University, which likewise went undefeated at home in 2013.

On July 1, 2014, Mercer University joined the Southern Conference for all sports, including football.

The next change in conference membership was announced on November 14, 2016, when Campbell announced it would transition to scholarship football and add that sport to its existing Big South membership effective with the 2018 season, temporarily reducing the PFL membership to 10. [8] Barring any further changes to conference membership, the PFL would have returned to 11 members in 2021, following the November 20, 2017 announcement of Presbyterian College that it would join the conference starting with the 2021 season. Presbyterian will remain in the Big South Conference for all other sports. [9] While Presbyterian will not become a full conference member until July 2021, it began PFL play in the spring 2021 season, rescheduled from fall 2020 due to COVID-19. After two PFL members chose not to play in the 2020–21 school year, the conference entered into a scheduling agreement with Presbyterian that included it in the spring 2021 schedule. While PC was not eligible for the PFL title in that season, it was eligible for the league's individual awards and honors. [10] [11]

2019: Jacksonville drops football

On December 3, 2019 Jacksonville University announced that they discontinued their football program immediately. [12]

2021: Further expansion

Presbyterian will be joined as a new PFL member in 2021 by the University of St. Thomas, a Twin Cities school that had been expelled from its longtime Division III home of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) effective in 2021–22. Shortly after the MIAC announced St. Thomas' expulsion, the Summit League, a non-football Division I conference, offered the Tommies membership. The NCAA announced on July 15, 2020 that it had granted a waiver to allow St. Thomas to make the jump to D-I on a five-year schedule, not the same as four years normally used for moves from Division II. The Tommies will not be eligible for the FCS playoffs until the transition is completed in 2026. [13]

Member schools

Current members

InstitutionLocationFoundedJoinedTypeEnrollmentNicknameColorsPrimary
Conference
when
joining
PFL
Current
Primary
Conference
Butler University Indianapolis, Indiana 18551991Private3,897 Bulldogs           Horizon Big East
Davidson College Davidson, North Carolina 183720011,950 Wildcats           SoCon Atlantic 10
University of Dayton Dayton, Ohio 185019918,353 Flyers           Horizon
Drake University Des Moines, Iowa 18813,164 Bulldogs           Missouri Valley
Marist College Poughkeepsie, New York 192920096,200 Red Foxes           MAAC
Morehead State University Morehead, Kentucky 19222001Public11,358 Eagles           OVC
Presbyterian College Clinton, South Carolina 18802021Private1,172 Blue Hose           Big South
University of St. Thomas St. Paul, Minnesota 188520219,878 Tommies           Summit
University of San Diego San Diego, California 194919924,904 Toreros                WCC
Stetson University DeLand, Florida 188320134,330 Hatters           ASUN
Valparaiso University Valparaiso, Indiana 185919912,917TBA [lower-alpha 1]           Summit Missouri Valley
Notes
  1. Valparaiso dropped their Crusaders nickname on February 11, 2021, citing its ties to violence and hate groups. The university has yet to announce a new nickname.

Former members

InstitutionLocationFoundedJoinedLeftTypeNicknameColorsPrimary
Conference
when
joining
PFL
Current
Primary
Conference
Austin Peay State University Clarksville, Tennessee 192720012006Public Governors           OVC
Campbell University Buies Creek, North Carolina 188720082018Private Fighting Camels           ASUN Big South
University of Evansville Evansville, Indiana 185419911998 [lower-alpha 1] Purple Aces                Missouri Valley
Jacksonville University Jacksonville, Florida 193420012020 [lower-alpha 2] Dolphins           ASUN
Mercer University Macon, Georgia 183320132014 Bears           ASUN SoCon
Notes
  1. Evansville dropped football following the 1997–98 season.
  2. Jacksonville dropped football following the 2019–20 season.

Membership timeline

University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)Presbyterian CollegeStetson UniversityMercer UniversityMarist CollegeCampbell UniversityMorehead State UniversityJacksonville UniversityDavidson CollegeAustin Peay State UniversityUniversity of San DiegoValparaiso UniversityUniversity of EvansvilleDrake UniversityUniversity of DaytonButler UniversityPioneer Football League

Rivalries

One in-state rivalry currently exists in the PFL. A second had existed before Jacksonville discontinued its football program.

Butler and Valparaiso first played in 1927, and had nine meetings prior to 1951. That year, the two teams began playing every year, and in 2006 began playing for the Hoosier Helmet Trophy. Butler currently leads 47–24. The two schools had an all-sports rivalry as well when both were in the Horizon League together from 2007–2012.

Jacksonville and Stetson had a football rivalry that ran from 2013, when Stetson began PFL play, to 2019, after which Jacksonville dropped football. The schools have been conference rivals in other sports since 1998, when Jacksonville joined the ASUN Conference, home to Stetson since 1985.

Butler and Dayton also have a rivalry based on proximity to each other. The teams have met every year since 1977 with the exception of 1991 and 1992. Dayton leads 26–11–1.

Conference championships

Usa edcp relief location map.png
Blue pog.svg
Butler
Blue pog.svg
Davidson
Blue pog.svg
Dayton
Blue pog.svg
Drake
Blue pog.svg
Marist
Blue pog.svg
Morehead State
Green pog.svg
Presbyterian
Green pog.svg
St. Thomas
Blue pog.svg
San Diego
Blue pog.svg
Stetson
Blue pog.svg
Valparaiso
Locations of Pioneer Football League schools; Green=Future Member

PFL champions

SeasonChampionRecord
1993Dayton5–0–0
1994Butler4–1–0
Dayton4–1–0
1995Drake5–0–0
1996Dayton5–0–0
1997Dayton5–0–0
1998Drake4–0
1999Dayton4–0
2000Dayton3–1
Drake3–1
Valparaiso3–1
2001DaytonChampionship Game
2002DaytonChampionship Game
2003ValparaisoChampionship Game
2004DrakeChampionship Game
2005San DiegoChampionship Game
2006San Diego7–0
2007Dayton6–1
San Diego6–1
2008Jacksonville7–1
2009Butler7–1
Dayton7–1
2010Jacksonville8–0
Dayton8–0
2011San Diego7–1
Drake7–1
2012Butler7–1
Drake7–1
San Diego7–1
2013Butler7–1
Marist7–1
2014San Diego7–1 [14]
2015Dayton7–1
San Diego7–1
2016San Diego8–0
2017San Diego8–0
2018San Diego8–0
2019San Diego8–0

League titles by school

SchoolChampionshipsChampionship Years
Dayton
12
1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001*, 2002*, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015
San Diego
11
2005*, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
Drake
6
1995, 1998, 2000, 2004*, 2011, 2012
Butler
4
1994, 2009, 2012, 2013
Jacksonville
2
2008, 2010
Valparaiso
2
2000, 2003*
Marist
1
2013
Campbell
0
Davidson
1
2020×
Morehead State
0
Evansville
0
Austin Peay
0
Stetson
0

* – Won in PFL Championship Game
× – played in spring 2021
Italics – Co-champions

PFL Championship Game

SeasonNorth DivisionScoreSouth DivisionLocation
2001Dayton46–14JacksonvilleDayton, Ohio
2002Dayton28–0Morehead StateMorehead, Kentucky
2003Valparaiso54–42Morehead StateValparaiso, Indiana
2004Drake20–17Morehead StateMorehead, Kentucky
2005San Diego47–40Morehead StateSan Diego, California

Postseason games

The Pioneer Football League has had alliances with the Gridiron Classic and the Sports Network Cup. In addition, league members are allowed to accept at-large invitations to other college bowl games and teams are eligible to compete in the FCS playoffs.

Through the 2012 season, the NCAA did not offer the league an automatic invite to the FCS playoffs and never offered an at-large bid to any of its teams, effectively barring the league from the tournament. Starting in 2013, the Pioneer League received an automatic bid to compete in the Division I Football Championship as the playoffs expanded from 20 teams to 24. The PFL won its first playoff game in 2016, as San Diego advanced past the first round of the playoffs.

The PFL was a participant in the NCAA Division I FCS Consensus Mid-Major Football National Championship, along with the Northeast Conference and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, two other conferences without automatic playoff bids. The Consensus championship has since been discontinued; the NEC first earned an automatic postseason bid in 2010, while the MAAC no longer sponsors football.

Members pre-PFL postseason results

Below are postseason accomplishments by past and current members prior to the formation of the Pioneer Football League.

SeasonChampionRunner-upBowl
1945Drake13 Fresno State 12 Raisin Bowl
1946Evansville19 Northern Illinois 7Turkey Bowl
1947Evansville20 Northern Illinois 0Hoosier Bowl
1948Drake14 Arizona 13 Salad Bowl
1948Evansville13 Missouri Valley 7 Refrigerator Bowl
1949Evansville22 Hillsdale 7 Refrigerator Bowl
1950 Wisconsin-La Crosse 47Valparaiso14 Cigar Bowl
1951 Houston 26Dayton21 Salad Bowl
1957 Louisville 34Drake20 Sun Bowl
1969 Arkansas State 29Drake21 Pecan Bowl
1969 Toledo 56Davidson33 Tangerine Bowl
1972 Tennessee State 29Drake7 Pioneer Bowl
1973 Wittenberg 21San Diego14Division III Playoffs
1974 Central (IA) 31Evansville14Division III Playoffs
1980Dayton63 Ithaca 0 Stagg Bowl
1981 Widener 17Dayton10 Stagg Bowl
1983 Cal Davis 25Butler3Division II Playoffs
1987 Wagner 19Dayton3 Stagg Bowl
1988 Tennessee-Martin 23Butler3Division II Playoffs
1989Dayton17 Union (NY) 7 Stagg Bowl
1991 Ithaca 34Dayton20 Stagg Bowl
1991 Pittsburg State 26Butler16Division II Playoffs

PFL Sports Network Cup results

PFL Gridiron Classic results

From 2006 through 2009, the PFL and Northeast Conference (NEC) staged the Gridiron Classic, an exempted postseason football game that matched the champions of the two conferences which were technically members of Division I FCS, but which were not the recipients of automatic invitations to the football championship playoff at the time.

SeasonChampionRunner-up
2006San Diego27 Monmouth 7
2007Dayton42 Albany 21
2008 Albany 28Jacksonville0
2009Butler28 Central Connecticut 23

NCAA Division I Football Championship results

Since 2013, the PFL champion has received an invite to the FCS playoffs; previously, PFL teams had to receive an at-large bid, which no team ever received.

SeasonPFL ChampionRoundOpponent(s)Result(s)
2013 Butler First Round Tennessee State L, 0–31
2014 San Diego First Round Montana L, 14–52
2015 Dayton First Round Western Illinois L, 7–24
2016 San Diego First Round
Second Round
Cal Poly
North Dakota State
W, 35–21
L, 7–45
2017 San Diego First Round
Second Round
Northern Arizona
North Dakota State
W, 41–10
L, 3–38
2018 San Diego First Round Nicholls L, 30–49
2019 San Diego First Round Northern Iowa L, 3–17

Historical standings

Conference facilities

Future members Presbyterian and St. Thomas in gray.

SchoolFootball StadiumCapacity
Butler Bud and Jackie Sellick Bowl 7,500
Davidson Richardson Stadium 6,000
Dayton Welcome Stadium 11,000
Drake Drake Stadium 14,557 [15]
Marist Leonidoff Field 5,000 [16]
Morehead State Jayne Stadium 10,000
Presbyterian Bailey Memorial Stadium 6,500
St. Thomas O'Shaughnessy Stadium5,025
San Diego Torero Stadium 6,000
Stetson Spec Martin Memorial Stadium 6,000
Valparaiso Brown Field 5,000

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2017 San Diego Toreros football team American college football season

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2019 Presbyterian Blue Hose football team American college football season

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References

  1. "Drake joins new league". The Telegraph-Herald. Des Moines, Iowa. November 22, 1991. pp. Page 1B. Retrieved July 1, 2012.
  2. "Campbell University Accepts Invitation to Join Pioneer Football League". GoCamels.com. December 5, 2007. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved December 6, 2007.
  3. "Marist gets a National Stage and Travel Schedule". nytimes.com. September 11, 2009.
  4. "Campbell University To Re-Join Big South Conference" (Press release). Big South Conference. May 14, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  5. "Mercer University, Stetson University to join Pioneer Football League in 2013". June 13, 2011. Archived from the original on August 25, 2011. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  6. Birch, Tommy (August 23, 2012). "Pioneer Football League officially announces automatic bid". Des Moines Register. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  7. "VMI, ETSU, Mercer to join SoCon". College Football. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  8. "Fighting Camels football to join Big South in 2018" (Press release). Campbell University. November 14, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  9. "Presbyterian College Unveils New Strategic Plan" (Press release). Presbyterian College. November 19, 2017. Retrieved November 20, 2017.
  10. "PFL Announces Updated Spring Schedule" (Press release). Pioneer Football League. February 2, 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  11. "Valparaiso's Washington, San Diego's Glajchen Highlight 2020-21 PFL Major Award Recipients" (Press release). Pioneer Football League. April 26, 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  12. Moretti III, Matt. "Jacksonville University Discontinues Football". judolphins.com. Jacksonville Athletics . Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  13. "St. Thomas receives NCAA waiver to join The Summit League in 2021–22". The Summit League. Sioux Falls, South Dakota. July 15, 2020. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  14. "Football Program Compliance Update". Jacksonville University. November 14, 2014. Archived from the original on November 19, 2014. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  15. "Drake Stadium History". Drake Athletics. Retrieved December 31, 2008.
  16. "Tenney Stadium at Leonidoff Field". Marist Athletics. Archived from the original on December 8, 2014. Retrieved December 5, 2014.