Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The NCAA Board of Directors approved a new budget Friday for the Division I Football Championships, allowing the Football Subdivision postseason bracket to be expanded to 20 teams in 2010.
As part of the expansion, the Big South and Northeast Conference champions will receive automatic bids to the playoffs beginning in 2010 and can earn access into the field in 2008-09 by attaining certain criteria adopted this week during the Board of Directors meeting.
The Division I playoff committee adopted changes in the selection process that will guarantee entry into the postseason for any conference champion that wins at least eight games against Division I opponents, wins two non- conference games against teams from auto-bid leagues and ranks 16th or higher in an average of the Sports Network top-25 poll, the coaches poll and the Gridiron Power index (GPI) computer ranking.
"This is great for the NEC and its student-athletes," Northeast Conference commissioner Brenda Weare said. "It provides greater opportunity for our league on numerous levels. It should bolster our recruiting efforts and overall competitiveness, while helping us brand our league."
The NEC, which began offering scholarships two years ago, has never had a team chosen for the FCS playoffs. NEC teams are currently allowed to hand out 30 scholarships and a proposal will be voted on later this summer to expand that to 40 scholarships.
"This is great news for NEC football," said Monmouth vice president and director of athletics Dr. Marilyn McNeil. "I applaud the NCAA and its presidents for a decision that will further the opportunity of our student- athletes. I thank commissioner Weare for the tremendous work she has done in spearheading this expansion effort."
The FCS playoffs expanded from 12 to 16 teams in 1987 and has remained at that level ever since. During that time, 28 additional teams have swelled the FCS ranks.
Currently, the following conferences, Big Sky, Colonial Athletic Association, Gateway, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Southern and Southland receive the eight automatic bids. The rest of the field is comprised of eight at-large selections.
In 2010, the field will be composed of 10 automatic berths and 10 at- large teams, with eight teams being seeded to receive first-round byes.
The Big South Conference will be playoff eligible in 2010. The Great West Conference, with five teams is one short of the amount needed to start the clock towards playoff eligibility.
The Ivy League and the Southwestern Athletic Conference do not send their champions to the playoffs and the Pioneer Football League was denied its petition for an automatic bid.
"This is not just good for the NEC, but its good for the entire landscape of FCS football," said Weare. "It allows more opportunities across the board and makes the championship stronger."
04/25 17:59:35 ET