|Pioneer Football League|
|Headquarters||St. Louis, Missouri|
|Commissioner||Patty Viverito (since 1994)|
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.
Most of the PFL's members are private schools. Morehead State University is currently the only public school in the conference.
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.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.
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.
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.In February 2008, Marist College announced that it would join the PFL for the 2009 season, after the MAAC stopped sponsoring football. 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.
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.In addition, as of 2013, the league has an automatic bid into the FCS division I playoffs. Soon after its PFL membership was announced, Mercer accepted an invitation to join the Southern Conference (scholarship-granting) effective July 1, 2014. 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.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. 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.
2019: Jacksonville drops football
On December 3, 2019 Jacksonville University announced that they discontinued their football program immediately.
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.
|Butler University||Indianapolis, Indiana||1855||1991||Private||3,897||Bulldogs||Horizon||Big East|
|Davidson College||Davidson, North Carolina||1837||2001||1,950||Wildcats||SoCon||Atlantic 10|
|University of Dayton||Dayton, Ohio||1850||1991||8,353||Flyers||Horizon|
|Drake University||Des Moines, Iowa||1881||3,164||Bulldogs||Missouri Valley|
|Marist College||Poughkeepsie, New York||1929||2009||6,200||Red Foxes||MAAC|
|Morehead State University||Morehead, Kentucky||1922||2001||Public||11,358||Eagles||OVC|
|Presbyterian College||Clinton, South Carolina||1880||2021||Private||1,172||Blue Hose||Big South|
|University of St. Thomas||St. Paul, Minnesota||1885||2021||9,878||Tommies||Summit|
|University of San Diego||San Diego, California||1949||1992||4,904||Toreros||WCC|
|Stetson University||DeLand, Florida||1883||2013||4,330||Hatters||ASUN|
|Valparaiso University||Valparaiso, Indiana||1859||1991||2,917||TBA||Summit||Missouri Valley|
|Austin Peay State University||Clarksville, Tennessee||1927||2001||2006||Public||Governors||OVC|
|Campbell University||Buies Creek, North Carolina||1887||2008||2018||Private||Fighting Camels||ASUN||Big South|
|University of Evansville||Evansville, Indiana||1854||1991||1998||Purple Aces||Missouri Valley|
|Jacksonville University||Jacksonville, Florida||1934||2001||2020||Dolphins||ASUN|
|Mercer University||Macon, Georgia||1833||2013||2014||Bears||ASUN||SoCon|
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.
|2005||San Diego||Championship Game|
|Dayton||1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001*, 2002*, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015|
|San Diego||2005*, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019|
|Drake||1995, 1998, 2000, 2004*, 2011, 2012|
|Butler||1994, 2009, 2012, 2013|
* – Won in PFL Championship Game
× – played in spring 2021
Italics – Co-champions
|Season||North Division||Score||South Division||Location|
|2002||Dayton||28–0||Morehead State||Morehead, Kentucky|
|2003||Valparaiso||54–42||Morehead State||Valparaiso, Indiana|
|2004||Drake||20–17||Morehead State||Morehead, Kentucky|
|2005||San Diego||47–40||Morehead State||San Diego, California|
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.
Below are postseason accomplishments by past and current members prior to the formation of the Pioneer Football League.
|1945||Drake||13||Fresno State||12||Raisin Bowl|
|1946||Evansville||19||Northern Illinois||7||Turkey Bowl|
|1947||Evansville||20||Northern Illinois||0||Hoosier Bowl|
|1948||Evansville||13||Missouri Valley||7||Refrigerator Bowl|
|1950||Wisconsin-La Crosse||47||Valparaiso||14||Cigar Bowl|
|1969||Arkansas State||29||Drake||21||Pecan Bowl|
|1972||Tennessee State||29||Drake||7||Pioneer Bowl|
|1973||Wittenberg||21||San Diego||14||Division III Playoffs|
|1974||Central (IA)||31||Evansville||14||Division III Playoffs|
|1983||Cal Davis||25||Butler||3||Division II Playoffs|
|1988||Tennessee-Martin||23||Butler||3||Division II Playoffs|
|1989||Dayton||17||Union (NY)||7||Stagg Bowl|
|1991||Pittsburg State||26||Butler||16||Division II Playoffs|
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.
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.
|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|
| Cal Poly |
North Dakota State
|2017||San Diego||First Round|
| Northern Arizona |
North Dakota State
|2018||San Diego||First Round||Nicholls||L, 30–49|
|2019||San Diego||First Round||Northern Iowa||L, 3–17|
Future members Presbyterian and St. Thomas in gray.
|Butler||Bud and Jackie Sellick Bowl||7,500|
|Morehead State||Jayne Stadium||10,000|
|Presbyterian||Bailey Memorial Stadium||6,500|
|St. Thomas||O'Shaughnessy Stadium||5,025|
|San Diego||Torero Stadium||6,000|
|Stetson||Spec Martin Memorial Stadium||6,000|
The Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) is a collegiate athletic conference which operates in the Midwestern and Southeastern United States. It participates in Division I of the NCAA; the conference's football programs compete in the Football Championship Subdivision, the lower of two levels of Division I football competition. The OVC has 10 members, 7 of which compete in football in the conference.
NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision independent schools are four-year institutions in the United States whose football programs are not part of a football conference. This means that FCS independents are not required to schedule each other for competition as conference schools do.
The Big South Conference is a collegiate athletic conference affiliated with the NCAA's Division I. Originally a non-football conference, the Big South began sponsoring football in 2002 as part of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The Big South, founded in 1983, is firmly rooted in the South Atlantic region of the United States, with full member institutions located in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Associate members are located in Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
NCAA Division I (D-I) is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States, which accepts players globally. D-I schools include the major collegiate athletic powers, with larger budgets, more elaborate facilities and more athletic scholarships than Divisions II and III as well as many smaller schools committed to the highest level of intercollegiate competition.
The ASUN Conference, formerly the Atlantic Sun Conference, is a collegiate athletic conference operating mostly in the Southeastern United States. The league participates at the NCAA Division I level, and will begin sponsoring football at the Division I FCS level in 2022. Originally established as the Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC) in 1978, it was renamed as the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2001, and then rebranded as the ASUN Conference in 2016. The conference headquarters are located in Atlanta.
The Marist Red Foxes football program is the intercollegiate American football team for Marist College located in the U.S. state of New York. The team competes in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and are members of the Pioneer Football League. Marist's first football team was fielded in 1978. The team plays its home games at the 5,000 seat Tenney Stadium at Leonidoff Field in Poughkeepsie, New York. The Red Foxes are coached by Jim Parady.
The 2013 NCAA Division I FCS football season, part of college football in the United States, was organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. The season began on August 29, 2013, and concluded with the 2014 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game on January 4, 2014, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The 2013 Butler Bulldogs football team represented Butler University in the 2013 NCAA Division I FCS football season. They were led by eighth-year head coach Jeff Voris and played their home games at the Butler Bowl. They were a member of the Pioneer Football League, a conference allowed to compete in the FCS playoffs for the first time in 2013. They finished the season 9–4, 7–1 in PFL play to share the league title with Marist. Butler and Marist did not play each other in the regular season, so the PFL used the College Sporting News' Gridiron Power Index to determine who would receive the league's automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs. Bulter was selected and lost in the first round to Tennessee State.
The 2013 Marist Red Foxes football team represented Marist College in the 2013 NCAA Division I FCS football season. They were led by 22nd year head coach Jim Parady and played their home games at Tenney Stadium at Leonidoff Field. They were a member of the Pioneer Football League. They finished the season 8–3, 7–1 in PFL play to finish in a tie for the league title with Butler. Marist lost a tie-breaker to Butler and did not receive the league's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs and did not receive and at-large bid.
The 1993 NCAA Division III football season, part of the college football season organized by the NCAA at the Division III level in the United States, began in August 1993, and concluded with the NCAA Division III Football Championship, also known as the Stagg Bowl, in December 1993 at Salem Football Stadium in Salem, Virginia. The Mount Union Purple Raiders won their first Division III championship by defeating the Rowan Profs, 34−24. The first Gagliardi Trophy was awarded to Mount Union's quarterback Jim Ballard.
The 2014 San Diego Toreros football team represented the University of San Diego during the 2014 NCAA Division I FCS football season. They were led by second-year head coach Dale Lindsey and played their home games at Torero Stadium. They were a member of the Pioneer Football League. They finished the season 9–3, 7–1 in PFL play to be crowned PFL champions. Due to Jacksonville's forfeit of the league season after disclosing financial irregularities, they were designated the league's sole champion and earned the PFL's automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs, where they lost in the first round to Montana.
The Gridiron Classic was an annual post-season college football game played from 2006 through 2009. It featured the conference champions from the Pioneer Football League (PFL) and Northeast Conference (NEC), conferences within NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA. The game did not have a set location; it was hosted at the home stadium of one of the participants, alternating between NEC and PFL each playing.
The 2017 San Diego Toreros football team represented the University of San Diego during the 2017 NCAA Division I FCS football season. They were led by fifth-year head coach Dale Lindsey and played their home games at Torero Stadium. They were a member of the Pioneer Football League. They finished the season 10–3, 8–0 in PFL play to be crowned Pioneer Football League champions. They received the PFL's automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs where they defeated Northern Arizona in the first round before losing the North Dakota State in the second round for the second consecutive year.
The 2018 Valparaiso Crusaders football team represented Valparaiso University in the 2018 NCAA Division I FCS football season. They were led by fifth-year head coach Dave Cecchini and played their home games at Brown Field. They competed in the Pioneer Football League. They finished the season 2–9, 2–6 in PFL play to finish in a three-way tie for seventh place.
The 2019 NCAA Division I FCS football season, part of college football in the United States, was organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. The FCS Championship Game was played on January 11, 2020, in Frisco, Texas. North Dakota State entered the season as the defending champion, and after completing the regular season undefeated, successfully defended their title and secured their eighth championship in nine seasons.
The 2019 Presbyterian Blue Hose football team represented Presbyterian College in the 2019 NCAA Division I FCS football season. They were led by third-year head coach Tommy Spangler, in his second stint as PC head coach, as he coached the Blue Hose from 2001–06. The Blue Hose played their home games at Bailey Memorial Stadium in their 13th and final season as members of the Big South Conference. They finished the season 2–10, 1–5 in Big South play to finish in a three-way tie for fifth place.
The 2019 San Diego Toreros football team represents the University of San Diego during the 2019 NCAA Division I FCS football season. They are led by seventh-year head coach Dale Lindsey and play their home games at Torero Stadium. They are a member of the Pioneer Football League (PFL).
The 2020–21 NCAA Division I FCS football season, part of college football in the United States, is organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level.