In college football, the term Power Five conferences refers to five athletic conferences whose members are part of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA Division I, the highest level of collegiate football in the United States. The conferences are the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC). The term "Power Five" is not defined by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the origin of the term is unknown. It has been used in its current meaning since at least 2006.The term is also occasionally used in other college sports, although in many non-football sports, most notably basketball, anywhere from six to eight conferences may be considered "high-major".
College Football is gridiron football consisting of American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by American universities, colleges, and military academies, or Canadian football played by teams of student athletes fielded by Canadian universities. It was through college football play that American football rules first gained popularity in the United States.
An athletic conference is a collection of sports teams, playing competitively against each other at the professional, collegiate, or high school level. In many cases conferences are subdivided into smaller divisions, with the best teams competing at successively higher levels. Conferences often, but not always, include teams from a common geographic region.
The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the top level of college football in the United States. The FBS is the most competitive subdivision of NCAA Division I, which itself consists of the largest and most competitive schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). As of 2018, there are 10 conferences and 130 schools in FBS.
The Power Five conferences make up five of the ten conferences in FBS; the other FBS conferences are informally known as the Group of Five.The FBS consists of the Power Five, the Group of Five, and a small number of independent schools. Prior to the establishment of the College Football Playoff in 2014, the Power Five conferences, as well as the old Big East Conference, were called Automatic Qualifying (AQ) conferences, because the champion of each conference received an automatic berth in one of the five Bowl Championship Series (BCS) bowl games. The final college football season for which the BCS was in effect was the 2013 season. With the split of the old Big East, there are now five power conferences.
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Football Bowl Subdivision independent schools are four-year institutions whose football programs are not part of an NCAA-affiliated conference. This means that FBS independents are not required to schedule each other for competition like conference schools do.
The College Football Playoff (CFP) is an annual postseason knockout invitational tournament to determine a national champion for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the highest level of college football competition in the United States. Four teams play in two semifinal games, and the winner of each semifinal advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship game.
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was a selection system that created five bowl game match-ups involving ten of the top ranked teams in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of American college football, including an opportunity for the top two teams to compete in the BCS National Championship Game. The system was in place for the 1998 through 2013 seasons and in 2014 was replaced by the College Football Playoff.
The conferences that comprise the Power Five are designated by the NCAA, individually by name, as "autonomy conferences". Section 220.127.116.11 of the NCAA Constitution grants such conferences autonomy "to permit the use of resources to advance the legitimate educational or athletics-related needs of student-athletes and for legislative changes that will otherwise enhance student-athlete well-being". Eleven areas of autonomy are listed, including promotional activities unrelated to athletics participation, pre-enrollment expenses and support, and financial aid.
The ten current FBS conferences are listed below. For the Power Five, the member universities of each conference are also listed.
* Notre Dame football, an independent, plays four to six games a year against ACC opponents. The Fighting Irish are members of the ACC for all other sports, except ice hockey, which plays in the Big Ten Conference.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team is the intercollegiate football team representing the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana. The team is currently coached by Brian Kelly and plays its home games at the campus's Notre Dame Stadium, which has a capacity of 77,622. Notre Dame is one of six schools that competes as an Independent at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Football Bowl Subdivision level; however, they play five games a year against opponents from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which Notre Dame is a member of in all other sports except ice hockey.
Map of teams
With the establishment of the College Football Playoff in 2014, the term "automatic qualifying conference" is no longer in use, as the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) has been discontinued. However, five of the six former AQ conferences are now known as the "Power Five conferences": the Big Ten Conference, the Big 12 Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Pac-12 Conference, and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The sixth AQ conference, the Big East, was split up during the 2010–2014 NCAA conference realignment, with five members joining P5 conferences, Notre Dame establishing a relationship with the ACC, the remaining non-football members forming the new Big East Conference, and the remaining members forming the American Athletic Conference. It is unknown where the term "Power Five Conference" originated from; it is not officially documented anywhere by the NCAA.
The Big Ten Conference is the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in the United States. It is based in suburban Chicago, Illinois. For decades the conference consisted of 10 universities but the present conference has 14 member institutions. They compete in the NCAA Division I; its football teams compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, the highest level of NCAA competition in that sport. The conference includes the flagship public university in each of 11 states stretching from New Jersey to Nebraska, as well as two additional public land-grant schools and a private university.
The Big 12 Conference is a collegiate athletic conference headquartered in Irving, Texas. The conference consists of ten full-member universities. It is a member of Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for all sports. Its football teams compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the higher of two levels of NCAA Division I football competition. Its ten members, located in Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia, include eight public and two private, Christian schools. Additionally, the Big 12 has 11 affiliate members—eight for the sport of wrestling, one of which is also a member in women's equestrianism; one for women's gymnastics; and two for women's rowing. The Big 12 Conference is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in Delaware.
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is a collegiate athletic conference located in the Southern United States. Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, the conference consists of fifteen member universities, each of whom compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)'s Division I, with its football teams competing in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the highest levels for athletic competition in US-based collegiate sports. The ACC sponsors competition in twenty-five sports with many of its member institutions' athletic programs held in high regard nationally. Current members of the conference are Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Florida State University, North Carolina State University, Syracuse University, the University of Louisville, the University of Miami, the University of North Carolina, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Wake Forest University.
The American and the other four conferences in the FBS are known as the "Group of Five" (sometimes called the G5). Besides the American, the other four members of the Group of Five are Conference USA (C-USA), the Mid-American Conference (MAC), the Mountain West Conference (MW), and the Sun Belt Conference.
Conference USA is an intercollegiate athletic conference whose current member institutions are located within the Southern United States. The conference participates in the NCAA's Division I in all sports. C-USA's offices are located in Dallas, Texas.
The Mid-American Conference (MAC) is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I collegiate athletic conference with a membership base in the Great Lakes region that stretches from Western New York to Illinois. Nine of the twelve full member schools are in Ohio and Michigan, with single members located in Illinois, Indiana, and New York. For football, the MAC participates in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Mountain West Conference (MW) is one of the collegiate athletic conferences affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The MW officially began operations in July 1999. Geographically, the MW covers a broad expanse of the Western United States, with member schools located in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Craig Thompson has served as Commissioner of the MW since its founding in 1999.
The FBS also has six independent schools as of the 2018 season: Notre Dame, Army, BYU, Liberty, New Mexico State, and UMass. Notre Dame is currently considered equal to the Power Five schools, being a full (with the exception of football) member of the ACC with an annual five-game football scheduling agreement with that conference; Notre Dame also has its own national television contract and its own arrangement for access to the CFP-affiliated bowl games should it meet stated competitive criteria. All Power Five leagues that require their members to schedule at least one Power Five team in nonconference play (currently the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12) consider Notre Dame to be a Power Five opponent for such purposes. The ACC, Big Ten, and SEC also count BYU as a Power Five opponent for scheduling purposes, and the Big Ten and SEC count Army as well.
Teams from the Power Five and the Group of Five play each other during the season, and sometimes also play against FCS teams. However, many coaches of Power Five schools have argued that Power Five schools should only be allowed to schedule games against other Power Five schools.In 2014, the NCAA gave the Power Five conferences greater autonomy in regard to issues such as stipends and recruiting rules. Some Power Five conferences, including the Big Ten and SEC, require their teams to play at least one non-conference P5 opponent each season.
The College Football Playoff rotates among six bowl games, with two bowl games used as each year as the national semi-finals, and four other bowls matching the remaining top teams in the country. These six bowl games are collectively known as the "New Year's Six" bowl games. Conference champions from the Power Five are not guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, and at least one will always be left out of the playoffs. Group of Five teams, while not ineligible by any rule, have not yet been ranked higher than #8 (UCF in 2018), with selectors claiming these teams have weaker schedules. Each conference champion from the Power Five and the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion is guaranteed a spot in either the playoff or one of the four other most prestigious bowl games.Every year, a non-Power Five team is guaranteed one bid to the New Year's Six bowls; however, so far no additional bids beyond that one have been granted. Nonetheless, they have notched an overall record of 3-2 in this time.
|Total Revenues |
|March Madness||CBS, Turner||$8.8bn ($1.1bn)|
|College Football Playoff||ESPN||$5.6bn ($470m)|
|Pac-12 Conference (Pac-12)||Fox, ESPN||$3.0bn ($250m)|
|Big Ten Conference (Big Ten)||Fox, ESPN||$2.6bn ($440m)|
|Big 12 Conference (Big 12)||Fox, ESPN||$2.6bn ($200m)|
|Southeastern Conference (SEC)||CBS||$0.8bn ($55m)|
|Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)|
The FBS has undergone several waves of realignment since the 1990s, when the Bowl Coalition was established. The first realignment occurred in the 1990s, and resulted in the demise of the Southwest Conference, which was a member of the Bowl Coalition and at times considered equal to some of the Power Five conferences; as well as many schools giving up independent status to join conferences. In the early 1990s, Arkansas left the Southwest Conference for the SEC; the original Big East Conference began sponsoring football, with eight former football independents joining either for all sports or football only; and other major independents such as Florida State (to the ACC), Penn State (to the Big Ten), and South Carolina (to the SEC) joined major conferences. In the 1996 NCAA conference realignment, the SWC dissolved, and four Texas teams from that conference joined with the Big 8 schools to form the Big 12 Conference.
During another phase of realignment in 2005, three schools (Boston College, Miami-FL and Virginia Tech) jumped from the Big East to the ACC, and Temple also left the conference (before eventually returning in 2013). The Big East responded by adding former basketball-only member Connecticut and three schools from C-USA.
College football underwent another major conference realignment from 2010 to 2014, as the Big Ten and Pac-10 sought to become large enough to stage championship games. Members of the original Big East left the conference to join the Big 12, Big Ten, and ACC. The Big 12 lost members to the SEC, the Pac-12, and the Big Ten, while the Big Ten also gained one former ACC member. The remaining members of the Big East split into two conferences: the American Athletic Conference (the American) and a new Big East Conference that does not sponsor football (only three of its 10 members sponsor football, all at the second-tier Division I FCS level). The American, the football successor to the Big East, is no longer considered a power conference. Despite the major conference realignment from 2010 to 2014, relatively few schools dropped out of or joined the ranks of the power conferences. Two of the three non-AQ schools that had appeared in multiple BCS bowls left the Mountain West Conference and joined a power conference, as Utah joined the Pac-12 and TCU joined the Big 12. Former Big East members UConn, Temple, Cincinnati, and South Florida are all now part of The American; of those, only Temple was a founding member of the Big East in football.
At present, six of the nine former members of the Southwest Conference are in Power Five conferences: Arkansas and Texas A&M are members of the SEC, while TCU, Baylor, Texas, and Texas Tech are members of the Big 12. Houston and SMU are members of the American, while Rice is a member of Conference USA.
From 1998 to 2013, the top teams in Division I FBS played in the BCS. It consisted of four or five bowl games, with a national championship game either rotating among the bowl sites (prior to the 2006 season) or played as a separate game. The BCS succeeded two other systems that were put in place after the 1991 season in order to ensure that one national champion could be crowned at the end of the season. The original Bowl Coalition consisted of the SEC, the Big Eight Conference (later succeeded by the Big 12), the Southwest Conference (SWC), the ACC, the Big East, and Notre Dame. The BCS added the Pac-10 (now known as the Pac-12) and the Big Ten, while the SWC dissolved in 1996. In 2013, the Big East split into two conferences, and its successor, the American Athletic Conference (The American), took the Big East's place for the 2013 season.
In addition to creating a national championship game, the BCS also created a set format for other major bowls. After the two top teams in the BCS rankings were matched up in the BCS National Championship Game, the other three or (after the 2005 season) four bowls selected other top teams. The term "BCS conference" was used by many fans to refer to one of the six conferences whose champions received an automatic berth in one of the five BCS bowl games, although the BCS itself used the term "automatic qualifying conference" (AQ conference).While the number of AQ conferences was technically variable, the BCS always had six AQ conferences since its inception in 1998. The Mountain West Conference (MW) was perhaps the closest of the other conferences to getting AQ status, but its request for AQ status was denied in 2012. Each of the bowls had a historic link with one or more of the six BCS conferences with the exception of the former Big East, and the bowl games selected a team from each of these conferences if it was eligible for a BCS bowl and not playing in the national title game. The conferences included in this group, with their traditional bowl links, were:
Notre Dame is an independent in football, but was a founding memberof the BCS. Because of the "Notre Dame rule", it had guaranteed access to the BCS bowls when it met certain defined performance criteria.
The other five conferences (listed below) were non-AQ conferences because they did not receive an annual automatic bid to a BCS bowl game. The highest ranked champion of any non-AQ conference received an AQ bid if they ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS poll or ranked in the top 16 and higher than a champion of an AQ conference.
The conferences in this group were:
Ten "non-AQ" teams appeared in the nine following BCS games, with an overall record of 5-3:
Of these appearances, all were via automatic qualifying bids, except Boise State's participation in the highly controversial 2010 Fiesta Bowl in which the Broncos were selected via at-large bid and played fellow BCS Buster TCU.
The following table lists the number of times that a member of each conference appeared in a CFP bowl game or a BCS bowl game. From 1999 to 2006 there were four such games, from 2007 to 2014 there were five such games, and starting in 2015 there are six CFP bowl games (not including the national championship game). A * indicates a team from that conference won the national championship, while a ^ indicates a team from that conference was the runner-up in the national championship game.
Statistics reflect conference membership at the time of the game. Note that the American filled the Big East's automatic bid in 2014.
|Year||ACC||Big 12||Big Ten||Pac-12||SEC||ND||Big East||Others|
The Power Five conferences sponsor other sports in addition to football.
|Sport||ACC||Big 12||Big Ten||Pac-12||SEC||Total|
|Football||14 (1)||10||14||12||14||64 (65)|
|Soccer||12||1||9||5 1||2||26 (30)|
|Lacrosse||5||—||5 1||1||—||10 (12)|
|Ice hockey||2||—||6*||1||—||7 (10)|
|Wrestling||6||4 8||14||3 3||1||27 (39)|
|Water polo||—||—||—||4||—||0 (4)|
|Sport||ACC||Big 12||Big Ten||Pac-12||SEC||Total|
|Beach volleyball||1||1||1||9||2||9 (14)|
|Field hockey||7||—||9||2||—||16 (18)|
|Lacrosse||8||—||6 1||6||2||20 (23)|
|Water polo||—||—||2||5||—||0 (7)|
Numbers in italics denote special exceptions:
Men's Ice Hockey:
Men's Volleyball: Only 23 Division I members sponsor varsity men's volleyball, with a large majority being mid-major programs. In fact, D-I men's volleyball schools are outnumbered by Division II schools; members of both divisions compete under identical scholarship limits for a single national championship. Before 2012, this championship was also open to Division III schools, but explosive growth in the sport at that level in the 21st century has seen the creation of a separate D-III championship. The only D-I all-sports league to sponsor the sport is the mid-major Big West Conference. With that in mind, the five Power Five schools with men's volleyball programs are aligned as follows:
Men's Water Polo: Only 25 Division I members sponsor varsity men's water polo. As with men's volleyball, a large majority of the D-I schools that sponsor the sport are mid-major programs. The NCAA conducts a single national championship open to all member schools, regardless of division.
Beach Volleyball: A women-only sport at the NCAA level, beach volleyball is sponsored by only one Power Five conference, namely the Pac-12. Nine of that conference's schools sponsor the sport (with the exceptions being Colorado, Oregon State, and Washington State). Other Power Five schools that sponsor the sport are aligned as follows:
Women's Field Hockey:
Women's Ice Hockey:
Women's Water Polo: Only 33 Division I members sponsor varsity women's water polo. As with men's water polo, a large majority of the D-I schools that sponsor the sport are mid-major programs. The NCAA conducts a single national championship open to all member schools, regardless of division.
The Big East Conference was a collegiate athletics conference that consisted of as many as 16 universities in the eastern half of the United States from 1979 to 2013. The conference's members participated in 24 NCAA sports. The conference had a history of success at the national level in basketball throughout its history, while its shorter football program, created by inviting one college and four other "associate members" into the conference, resulted in two national championships.
The Pac-12 Conference is a collegiate athletic conference that operates in the Western United States, participating in 24 sports at the NCAA Division I level. Its football teams compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the higher of two tiers of NCAA Division I football competition.
The teams that participate in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I Football Bowl Subdivision earn the right to compete in a series of post-season games called bowl games. As of 2017, there are 40 bowl games, and all are contractually obligated to offer bids to specific conferences, a situation known as a "tie-in". The "top" six bowl games in the nation select their teams as part of the College Football Playoff (CFP), which was put into place for a minimum of 12 years, beginning with the 2014 season. Prior to 2014, the top five games in the country were chosen under the system known as the Bowl Championship Series. The bowls outside of the CFP, have individual contracts with the conferences to offer preferential bids to teams from those conferences. As long as teams are bowl eligible, they may be selected by these bowls to meet these contracts.
The 2002 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with a double overtime national championship game. Ohio State and Miami both came into the Fiesta Bowl undefeated. The underdog Buckeyes defeated the defending-champion Hurricanes 31–24, ending Miami's 34-game winning streak. Jim Tressel won the national championship in only his second year as head coach.
The 2006–07 NCAA football bowl games concluded the 2006 NCAA Division I FBS football season in college football.
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was a selection system designed, through polls and computer statistics, to determine a No. 1 and No. 2 ranked team in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). After the final polls, the two top teams were chosen to play in the BCS National Championship Game which determined the BCS national champion team, but not the champion team for independent voting systems. This format was intended to be "bowl-centered" rather than a traditional playoff system, since numerous FBS Conferences have expressed their unwillingness to participate in a play-off system. However, due to the unique and often esoteric nature of the BCS format, there had been controversy as to which two teams should play for the national championship and which teams should play in the four other BCS bowl games. In this selection process, the BCS was often criticized for conference favoritism, its inequality of access for teams in non-Automatic Qualifying (non-AQ) Conferences, and perceived monopolistic, "profit-centered" motives. In terms of this last concern, Congress has explored the possibility on more than one occasion of holding hearings to determine the legality of the BCS under the terms of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and the United States Justice Department has also periodically announced interest in investigating the BCS for similar reasons.
The 2005 NCAA conference realignment was initiated by the movement of three Big East Conference teams to the Atlantic Coast Conference set into motion events that created a realignment in college football, as 23 teams changed conferences and Army became an independent.
The 2010–11 NCAA football bowl games concluded the 2010 NCAA Division I FBS football season and included 35 team-competitive bowl games and four all-star games. The games began play with three bowls on December 18, 2010 and included the 2011 BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona played on January 10 at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The bowl season concluded with the East–West Shrine Game, the Eastham Energy All-Star Game, the Senior Bowl, the Dixie Gridiron Classic, and the NFLPA Game. One bowl, the Toronto-based International Bowl, has ceased operations.
A superconference is an athletic conference noted for its large number of members, significant revenue generation, and substantial power that it wields in comparison to at least some of its counterpart conferences. The term is typically used in reference to college athletics in the United States. Because superconferences are emergent and not clearly defined, the term is often used in a hypothetical and speculative way, although one definition of American college superconferences posits that they must form from leagues that were Automatic Qualifying (AQ) conferences during the era of the now-defunct Bowl Championship Series, possess a significant multi-network television deal, and at least consider expanding to the "magic number" of 16 members. The term, though used infrequently before 2010, has historical roots in the proposed "Airplane Conference" of 1959, the Metro Conference's 1990 plan to expand to 16 members, the expansion of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) to 16 members in 1996, and the creation of 12-team, two-division conferences with football championship games by the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Big 12 Conference, and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in the 1990s and 2000s. Since major conference realignment began in 2010, the term has been used to describe the expanding ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC conferences.
The 2011–12 NCAA football bowl games were a series of college football bowl games. They concluded the 2011 NCAA Division I FBS football season, and included 35 team-competitive games and five all-star games. The games began on December 17, 2011 and, aside from the all-star games, concluded with the 2012 BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans, that was played on January 9, 2012.
The 2012–13 NCAA football bowl games were a series of college football bowl games. They concluded the 2012 NCAA Division I FBS football season, and included 35 team-competitive games and four all-star games. The games began on Saturday December 15, 2012 and, aside from the all-star games, concluded with the 2013 BCS National Championship Game in Miami Gardens, Florida that was played on January 7, 2013.
The 2013–14 NCAA football bowl games were a series of college football bowl games. They concluded the 2013 NCAA Division I FBS football season, and included 35 team-competitive games and three all-star games. The games began on Saturday December 21, 2013 and, aside from the all-star games, ended with the 2014 BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena that was played on January 6, 2014.
The New Year's Six (NY6) bowls are the top six major NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision bowl games: the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl. The New Year's Six represent six of the ten oldest bowl games currently played at the FBS level. These six top-tier bowl games rotate the hosting of the two College Football Playoff (CFP) semifinal games, which determine the teams that play in the final College Football Playoff National Championship game. The rotation is set on a three-year cycle with the following pairings: Rose/Sugar, Orange/Cotton, and Fiesta/Peach.