|Commissioner||Mark Emmert (since November 1, 2010)|
|No. of teams||7 (4 in 2023)|
|Region||Eastern United States|
Midwestern United States
Southern United States
|Official website||Official website|
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.
There are fewer independent schools than in years past; many independent schools join, or attempt to join, established conferences. The main reasons to join a conference are to gain a share of television revenue and access to bowl games that agree to take teams from certain conferences, and to help deal with otherwise potentially difficult challenges in scheduling opponents to play throughout the season.
All Division I FBS independents are eligible for the College Football Playoff (CFP), or for the so-called "access bowls" (the New Year's Six bowls that issue at-large bids: Cotton, Peach, and Fiesta), if they are chosen by the CFP selection committee. Army and BYU have an agreement with the Independence Bowl. Notre Dame has a potential tie-in with the Orange Bowl, along with other bowls via its affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Historically, Notre Dame had similar agreements with its previous conference, the Big East, and BYU had an agreement with the Armed Forces Bowl for 2011.
The ranks of football independents increased by one starting with the 2011 season with the announcement that BYU would leave the Mountain West Conference (MW) to become a football independent starting with that season. The ranks increased by two in 2013 when the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) dropped football and New Mexico State and Idaho did not have a conference for football. The ranks of football independents decreased by two in 2014 with the return of Idaho and New Mexico State as football-only members of the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) and decreased by one more in 2015 with Navy joining the American Athletic Conference (AAC) as a football-only member. UMass became an FBS independent in 2016. Two further teams joined the ranks of FBS independents for the 2018 season: New Mexico State, whose membership in the Sun Belt Conference was not extended beyond the 2017 season, and Liberty, which transitioned from the Big South Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision in 2018. The UConn Huskies became an FBS independent team.
The next confirmed change to the independent ranks will come in 2023 when BYU joins the Big 12 Conference, and Liberty and New Mexico State join Conference USA.
- "Independence Bowl Ushers in New Era with 2020-2025 Bowl Agreements". radiancetechnologiesindependencebowl.com (Press release). January 30, 2020. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
- Call, Jeff (April 28, 2011). "BYU football: Cougars enter agreement with Armed Forces Bowl". Deseret News.
- Katz, Andy (August 31, 2010). "BYU leaving MWC for 2011–12 season". ESPN.com. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
- Hinnen, Jerry (September 12, 2012). "New Mexico State makes it official, will go independent in 2013". CBSsports.com. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- "Idaho and New Mexico State to Join Sun Belt Conference As Football Members in 2014" (Press release). Sun Belt Conference. March 27, 2013. Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
- At the time Navy announced it would leave the independent ranks, its destination conference was known as the Big East Conference. When that conference split into football-sponsoring and non-football conferences in July 2013, the non-football schools took the Big East name with them. The football-sponsoring conference now operate as the American Athletic Conference.
- "Independent football schedule taking shape for UMass">
- "Sun Belt Football to Be 10 Teams in 2018" (Press release). Sun Belt Conference. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
- "Liberty to become FBS independent in 2018". Fox Sports. February 16, 2017. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
- @Brett_McMurphy (July 26, 2019). "UConn will become an FBS independent in football & reaches agreement with American, will pay $17 million exit fee to leave league & join Big East In Olympic sports on July 1, 2020" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "BYU to Join Big 12 Conference" (Press release). BYU Cougars. September 10, 2021. Retrieved October 4, 2021.