Every September, the road to McKinney, Texas for the DII football championship begins for every team, but only two reach the pinnacle in December. Here's a look at how the DII football championship tournament works.
2022 DII FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: How Ferris State won the 2022 title
When did the DII football championship begin?
The DII football championship as we know it officially began in 1973. Prior to that, DII football was known as the NCAA College Division and champions were named by the United Press International and Associated Press polls. From 1958 to 1972, six teams — Ohio, Pittsburg State, Arkansas State, and North Dakota State, San Diego State, and Delaware twice apiece — were unanimous national champions.
The inaugural DII football championship in 1973 was held in Sacramento, California. Louisiana Tech defeated Western Kentucky 34-0.
How has the DII football championship changed since 1973?
For the most part, the tournament hasn’t changed. It has long been a single-elimination tournament, pitting the best of DII football against each other for the chance to claim the national championship.
What has changed is the field. The original DII football championship consisted of eight teams, which lasted 15 years until eight more teams were added in 1988. In 2004, the field again expanded from 16 to 24, and in 2016 it added four more teams to get to the current 28-team format we see today.
How do teams get into the NCAA DII tournament?
Unlike most other DII sports that have eight regions, DII football is broken down into four Super Regions. Since four conferences make up each Super Region, there are no automatic qualifiers in the DII football championship, another trait unique to DII football compared to other DII tournaments.
Here’s a breakdown of the Super Regions:
|Super Region 1||G-MAC, MEC, NE10, PSAC, Independents (Bluefield State, Post)|
|Super Region 2||CIAA, GSC, SAC, SIAC|
|Super Region 3||GAC, GLIAC, GLVC, MIAA|
|Super Region 4||LSC, NSIC, RMAC|
What is the DII football selection process?
Since there are no automatic bids in the DII football championship, every team in the four Super Regions that is DII eligible can qualify for the tournament. The NCAA DII football national committee provides three Super Regional rankings over the final three weeks of the season, showing the top 10 teams from each region. Though it isn’t an exact measure of who will make up the final bracket, it helps to shine a light on those in contention.
Originally, the top seven seeds in each regional ranking advance to the DII football championship tournament. The top seed in each of the four Super Regions gets a first-round bye. Once the teams reach the national semifinals, the four teams are seeded No. 1 through No. 4.
In 2019, the DII football committee changed the seeding process. The changes were in the No. 5-7 seeds, where the committee has the flexibility to move those teams out of region or in-region to a closer destination to cut down on flights. For example, the traditional No. 2 vs. 7 and No. 4 vs. 5 regional matchups could become No. 2 vs. 5 and No. 4 vs. 7 if the travel plans make more sense. For more on those changes, click here for our interview with the committee.
What does the DII football bracket look like?
The current DII football championship tournament has three first-round games in each Super Region, normally played at the higher-seeded school’s home field. The top seed in each Super Region gets a bye to the second round. The national quarterfinals, or what essentially comes down to the Super Region championship, is next before the seeding takes place in the semifinals.
Here’s a look at how Ferris State won the 2021 national championship.
DII football championship history
A lot has changed in the DII football landscape since that 1973 DII football championship. Many of those early champions went on to find success in both the FBS and FCS with three — North Dakota State, Montana State and Delaware — winning titles at the FCS level.
DII TITLE TOWN? Check out the programs with the most DII football championships
The last few years have seen a lot of Gulf South Conference representation. Ferris State defeated Valdosta State in 2021 in rematch of the 2018 national championship game. West Florida won its first title in 2019, which was its second trip to the title game since 2017. North Alabama lost the championship game in 2016 before jumping to the FCS marking five-straight years of GSC dominance. However, the record of six titles, held by Northwest Missouri State, stays in the MIAA.
Here’s a list of all the DII football championship finals since 1973:
|2022||Ferris State||Tony Annese||41-14||Colorado School of Mines||McKinney, Tx.|
|2021||Ferris State||Tony Annese||58-17||Valdosta State||McKinney, Tx.|
|2020||Canceled - Covid-19|
|2019||West Florida||Pete Shinnick||48-40||Minnesota State||McKinney, Tex.|
|2018||Valdosta State||Kerwin Bell||49-47||Ferris State||McKinney, Tex.|
|2017||Texas A&M-Commerce||Colby Carthel||37-27||West Florida||Kansas City, Kan.|
|2016||Northwest Missouri State||Adam Dorrel||29-3||North Alabama||Kansas City, Kan.|
|2015||Northwest Missouri State||Adam Dorrel||34-7||Shepherd||Kansas City, Kan.|
|2014||Colorado State-Pueblo||John Wristen||13-0||Minnesota State-Mankato||Kansas City, Kan.|
|2013||Northwest Missouri State||Adam Dorrel||43-28||Lenoir-Rhyne||Florence, Ala.|
|2012||Valdosta State||David Dean||35-7||Winston-Salem State||Florence, Ala.|
|2011||Pittsburg State||Tim Beck||35-21||Wayne State (Mich.)||Florence, Ala.|
|2010||Minnesota-Duluth||Bob Nielson||20-17||Delta State||Florence, Ala.|
|2009||Northwest Missouri State||Mel Tjeersdma||30-23||Grand Valley State||Florence, Ala.|
|2008||Minnesota-Duluth||Bob Nielson||21-14||Northwest Missouri State||Florence, Ala.|
|2007||Valdosta State||David Dean||25-20||Northwest Missouri State||Florence, Ala.|
|2006||Grand Valley State||Chuck Martin||17-14||Northwest Missouri State||Florence, Ala.|
|2005||Grand Valley State||Chuck Martin||21-17||Northwest Missouri State||Florence, Ala.|
|2004||Valdosta State||Christ Hatcher||36-31||Pittsburg State||Florence, Ala.|
|2003||Grand Valley State||Brian Kelly||10-3||North Dakota||Florence, Ala.|
|2002||Grand Valley State||Brian Kelly||31-24||Valdosta State||Florence, Ala.|
|2001||North Dakota||Dale Lennon||17-14||Grand Valley State||Florence, Ala.|
|2000||Delta State||Steve Campbell||63-34||Bloomsburg||Florence, Ala.|
|1999||Northwest Missouri State||Mel Tjeersdma||58-52 (4ot)||Carson-Newman||Florence, Ala.|
|1998||Northwest Missouri State||Mel Tjeersdma||24-6||Carson-Newman||Florence, Ala.|
|1997||Northern Colorado||Joe Glenn||51-0||New Haven||Florence, Ala.|
|1996||Northern Colorado||Joe Glenn||23-14||Carson-Newman||Florence, Ala.|
|1995||North Alabama||Bobby Wallace||27-7||Pittsburg State||Florence, Ala.|
|1994||North Alabama||Bobby Wallace||16-10||Texas A&M-Kingsville||Florence, Ala.|
|1993||North Alabama||Bobby Wallace||41-34||Indiana (Pa.)||Florence, Ala.|
|1992||Jacksonville State||Bill Burgess||17-13||Pittsburg State||Florence, Ala.|
|1991||Pittsburg State||Chuck Broyles||23-6||Jacksonville State||Florence, Ala.|
|1990||North Dakota State||Rocky Hager||51-11||Indiana (Pa.)||Florence, Ala.|
|1989||*Mississippi College||John Williams||3-0||Jacksonville State||Florence, Ala.|
|1988||North Dakota State||Rocky Hager||35-21||Portland State||Florence, Ala.|
|1987||Troy||Rick Rhoades||31-17||Portland State||Florence, Ala.|
|1986||North Dakota State||Earle Solomonson||27-7||South Dakota||Florence, Ala.|
|1985||North Dakota State||Earle Solomonson||35-7||North Alabama||McAllen, Texas|
|1984||Troy||Chan Gailey||18-17||North Dakota State||McAllen, Texas|
|1983||North Dakota State||Don Morton||41-21||Central State (Ohio)||McAllen, Texas|
|1982||Texas State||Jim Wacker||34-9||UC Davis||McAllen, Texas|
|1981||Texas State||Jim Wacker||42-13||North Dakota State||McAllen, Texas|
|1980||Cal Poly||Joe Harper||21-13||Eastern Illinois||Albuquerque, N.M.|
|1979||Delaware||Tubby Raymond||38-21||Youngstown State||Albuquerque, N.M.|
|1978||Eastern Illinois||Darrell Mudra||10-9||Delaware||Longview, Texas|
|1977||Lehigh||John Whitehead||33-0||Jacksonville State||Wichita Falls, Texas|
|1976||Montana State||Sonny Holland||24-13||Akron||Wichita Falls, Texas|
|1975||Northern Michigan||Gil Krueger||16-14||Western Kentucky||Sacramento, Calif.|
|1974||Central Michigan||Roy Kramer||54-14||Delaware||Sacramento, Calif.|
|1973||Louisiana Tech||Maxie Lambright||34-0||Western Kentucky||Sacramento, Calif.|
2022 DII football championship date and location
The 2022 DII football championship returns to McKinney ISD Stadium in McKinney after its debut in the 2018 season. The championship game is scheduled for Dec. 17, 2022.
FUTURE DII CHAMPS: The DII football championship returns to McKinney
McKinney marks the ninth host site for the DII football championship, and the fourth stadium in Texas to have the honors. The title game was a bit nomadic in its early days, before settling in Florence, Alabama for a 28-year run between 1986 to 2013. It spent three years in Sacramento to start before heading to Wichita Falls, Texas for two seasons. After one year in Longview, Texas it headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico for two years, until returning to Texas — this time McAllen — for a five-year run. Then it was on to Florence, followed by a four-year run in Kansas City, Kansas before returning to Texas once again.