The following is my love letter to what we at Dave Campbell’s Texas Football formerly referred to as ‘small college football’ during my first six years with the best company in the country as a freelancer. Now that I’ve reached full-time status, I’ve been asked to explain my love of Non-FBS to the rest of Texas.
Occasionally, I'm asked about my professional occupation.
I respond with some version of, “I cover the 34 Non-FBS college teams in Texas.” Then, I throw the name of a school in there – let’s use Stephen F. Austin for this exercise. Often, I'll hear, “Oh…” followed by, “I’ve never heard of them.”
Outside of losing any claim to being a Texan (every red-blooded American should know about the ‘Father of Texas’ by now), everyone in the world should know about Non-FBS football in Texas.
Dear football fans in Texas,
I hope you are doing well in the heat of this summer. I know you’re tired of explaining to people that it gets hot in August every single year, and I join you in that frustration. I ask for a few minutes of your time to explain why you should join me in following some of the best football you will find.
We’ve heard your complaints about Power 5 athletes being treated more like professionals than college students, with players inking NIL deals above $1 million. We don’t have that problem. Keep in mind the players aren’t mistreated in Non-FBS. However, they take long bus trips and fly commercial to games all over the country (and sometimes other countries). If a player earns NIL money at our level, it’s typically a result of their loyalty to the university and the community.
Non-FBS has another advantage over its FBS brethren – we win national titles over here. Five of them since 2016 in came football. The incredible run began with Mary Hardin-Baylor in 2016. The NCAA vacated every Cru victory from that magical season three years later, but we still count that one for us. Even if you didn’t count UMHB’s title in 2016, Texas A&M-Commerce delivered an NCAA Division II national title in 2017. UMHB defeated Mount Union to win the Division III championship in 2018. Sam Houston had a magical run to the FCS national title in Spring 2021.
Most will remember how the Bearkats gave us something to focus on besides a pandemic that had shut football down. It was wild. The championship game was played at the end of May in Frisco and had a weather delay for a tornado warning. But the Kats survived, and Eric Schmid and Ife Adeyi hooked up for the game-winning touchdown that will live in Kats' lore. Sam Houston has now moved on to the FBS, but that title will remain with us forever.
Fall 2021 was the Crusaders's turn again, and they dominated North Central (Ill.), 57-24, to end legendary coach Pete Fredenburg’s career in style. If you’re looking for dominance on a scale similar to Alabama, we present you with Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Some of you may long for the days when college athletes played simply for the love of the game and a chance to earn an education. The NFL began to transition into a full-time career during the 1970s, and the money followed from television contracts, sold-out stadiums, and merchandising and sponsorship deals that eventually bled into college football.
The stadiums may not be full in Non-FBS, but they are packed with fans who love the purity of the game. There are athletic scholarships in FCS, DII, NAIA and NJCAA. However, most players only receive a partial scholarship that covers books or meals if they’re lucky. Players in Division III aren’t eligible for athletic scholarships. Many players at Non-FBS schools work jobs year round to make ends meet and pay for their education.
Speaking of stadiums, you won’t pay for parking at most Non-FBS games, another big plus, and you’ve likely visited venues where they play as many programs utilize high school stadiums or allow the local high school to use their facility. These games don’t break the bank, either. Many teams offer general admission tickets for around $10, and some college games are cheaper to attend than high school games. There's a naturally communal aspect to them more so than at the more mainstream levels.
These universities and athletic programs are immersed in their communities in ways similar to high schools. You’ll see college athletes welcoming children to their first day of school each year, and many teams rack up an impressive amount of service hours while performing projects to help the community.
Non-FBS is the best of football at the collegiate level. It combines the camaraderie and community of high school with the skill level and talent of athletes that were often standouts on their varsity team. The athletes and coaches in Non-FBS put in the same amount of time as FBS players in preparation and practice for each game.
Non-FBS players love football. It’s the only explanation as to why they play a game filled with the same physicality and long-term effects on their body without the notoriety or NIL deals many at FBS institutions receive. And even still, there are always new stars waiting to break out at a national level and make their way to the NFL every. Tony Romo came from the FCS, Danny Woodhead came from Divsion II and Jerry Rice played for an HBCU. We'll get introduce to new future pros again this year. Every athlete and coach would appreciate your presence at a game this year. Give them a chance. Likely, you won’t regret it.
This article is available to our Digital Subscribers.
Click "Subscribe Now" to see a list of subscription offers.
Already a Subscriber? Sign In to access this content.