When football season rolls around in a little more than a month, the schedules around the country will have grown ever so slightly. With the addition of three NCAA schools, as well as one NAIA school, there will be an all-time high of 773 college football programs nationwide.
East Tennessee State and Kennsaw State will both be playing in FCS for their debut football seasons, and Division III Finlandia is fielding a team on the gridiron for the first time.
It's a historic occasion any time a team takes the field for the first time, but for East Tennessee State and Kennesaw State, it will be even more rare -- their first game will be against each other. The Bucs and Owls will meet in Johnson City, Tennessee to kick off their seasons, and programs, on Thursday, Sept. 3. Finlandia's first game will be at home against Alma on Saturday, Sept. 5.
East Tennessee State
FCS, Independent (will join Southern Conference in 2016)
Head coach: Carl Torbush
FCS, Big South Conference
Head coach: Brian Bohannon
Division III, Independent
Head coach: Tim Driscoll
Last season, two NCAA schools launched football programs. Limestone went 2-9 in its first season competing in Division II football, and George Fox had a 1-6 record in its debut Division III campaign. Before that, 28 teams started programs in the previous six years.
Four more schools are set to join the NCAA football ranks in the next three seasons.
“No other sport contributes more to the vibrancy of a college campus than football, and we are very pleased to highlight those schools that have added our great game,” NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell in the National Football Foundation's release on this year's expansion. “University and college presidents clearly see the value of having programs on their campuses, and we applaud them for understanding the role football can play in the educational experience of all their students.”