NCAA Division I independent schools

In American college sports, NCAA Division I independent schools are four-year institutions that do not belong to a conference for a particular sport.

Beach volleyball

Beach volleyball, currently a women-only sport at the NCAA level, holds a single national championship open to members of all three NCAA divisions. As of the 2020 season (2019–20 school year), abbreviated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the following programs compete as independents. A total of 13 schools that were independents in the 2019 season exited that status after that season. Of these, 11 are full members of conferences that began sponsoring beach volleyball in 2019–20, with five being members of the Ohio Valley Conference[1] and six being members of the Southland Conference.[2] The other two schools that left the independent ranks, Louisiana–Monroe and Missouri State, joined the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association, a league that sponsors only beach volleyball plus men's and women's swimming & diving.[3]

Institution Team Location Founded Type Enrollment Primary Conference
Boise State University Broncos Boise, Idaho 1932 Public 25,540 Mountain West Conference
California State University, Los Angeles
(Cal State Los Angeles)
Golden Eagles Los Angeles, California 1947 Public 27,685 California Collegiate Athletic Association (Division II)
Carson–Newman University Eagles Johnson City, Tennessee 1851 Private 2,115 South Atlantic Conference (Division II)
Colorado Mesa University Mavericks Grand Junction, Colorado 1925 Public 11,000 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (Division II)
Concordia University Irvine
Golden Eagles Irvine, California 1976 Private 2,564 Pacific West Conference (Division II)
Eckerd College Tritons St. Petersburg, Florida 1958 Private 1,650 Sunshine State Conference (Division II)
Florida Southern College Moccasins Lakeland, Florida 1883 Private 2,185 Sunshine State Conference (Division II)
Grand Canyon University Antelopes Phoenix, Arizona 1949 Private 19,500 Western Athletic Conference
Huntingdon College Hawks Montgomery, Alabama 1854 Private 900 USA South Athletic Conference (Division III)
Lincoln Memorial University Railsplitters Harrogate, Tennessee 1897 Private 2,579 South Atlantic Conference (Division II)
Mississippi State University Bulldogs Mississippi State, Mississippi 1878 Public 21,884 Southeastern Conference
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Cornhuskers Lincoln, Nebraska 1869 Public 33,273 Big Ten Conference
Principia College Panthers Elsah, Illinois 1912 Private 600 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Division III)
Saint Leo University Lions St. Leo, Florida 1889 Private 2,235 Sunshine State Conference (Division II)
San Jose State University Spartans San Jose, California 1857 Public 33,409 Mountain West Conference
Spring Hill College Badgers Mobile, Alabama 1830 Private 1,439 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Division II)
Stevenson University Mustangs Stevenson, Maryland 1947 Private 3,621 MAC Commonwealth (Division III)
University of Tampa Spartans Tampa, Florida 1931 Private 7,600 Sunshine State Conference (Division II)
Tarleton State University Texans Stephenville, Texas 1899 Public 13,020 Western Athletic Conference
Texas A&M University–Kingsville Javelinas Kingsville, Texas 1925 Public 8,783 Lone Star Conference (Division II)
Tusculum University Pioneers Tusculum, Tennessee 1794 Private 2,053 South Atlantic Conference (Division II)


Bowling, like beach volleyball, is currently a women-only sport at the NCAA level that holds a single national championship open to all NCAA members. As of the 2019–20 season, at least eight bowling programs compete as independents. This list is likely incomplete, as Division III independents have not yet been analyzed.

Institution Team Location Founded Type Enrollment Primary Conference
Belmont Abbey College Crusaders Belmont, North Carolina 1876 Private 1,320 Conference Carolinas (Division II)
Chestnut Hill College Griffins Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1924 Private 2,301 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (Division II)
Kentucky Wesleyan College Panthers Owensboro, Kentucky 1858 Private 785 Great Midwest Athletic Conference (Division II)
University of Nebraska–Lincoln (Nebraska) Cornhuskers Lincoln, Nebraska 1869 Public 25,260 Big Ten Conference (Division I)
Post University Eagles Waterbury, Connecticut 1890 Private 7,317 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (Division II)
Ursuline College Arrows Pepper Pike, Ohio 1871 Private 1,136 Great Midwest Athletic Conference (Division II)
Walsh University Cavaliers North Canton, Ohio 1960 Private 2,766 Great Midwest Athletic Conference (Division II)
Wilmington University Eagles New Castle, Delaware 1968 Private 20,522 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (Division II)


Football Bowl Subdivision

As of the upcoming 2020 college football season, there will be seven NCAA Division I FBS independent schools.

  1. ^ Does not include roughly 100,000 students enrolled in online programs.
  2. ^ Notre Dame remains officially an independent football team, and is not a member of the ACC in any capacity for football. However, as part of the agreement to join the ACC in other sports, Notre Dame agreed to schedule 5 games per year against ACC opponents.[4]

Football Championship Subdivision

In the 2020 season, four schools will play as FCS independents—Dixie State, Presbyterian, Robert Morris, and Tarleton State. Dixie State announced in January 2019 that it would begin a transition from Division II to the non-football Western Athletic Conference in July 2020, with the football program becoming an FCS independent at that time.[5] Presbyterian announced in 2017 that it had started a transition to non-scholarship FCS football. The Blue Hose played their final season of Big South Conference football in 2019, and will play the 2020 season as an independent before joining the Pioneer Football League, a football-only conference made up entirely of non-scholarship FCS programs, in 2021. Presbyterian will remain a full non-football Big South member.[6] Robert Morris will leave the football-sponsoring Northeast Conference for the non-football Horizon League in July 2020; it will play the 2020 season as an independent and then join Big South football.[7] Tarleton State announced in 2019 that it would join the WAC alongside Dixie State and also play football as an FCS independent.[8]

The only school that had played as an FCS independent in 2019, North Dakota, joins the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020. North Dakota left the Big Sky Conference in 2018 to join the non-football Summit League, but agreed to honor existing contracts to play Big Sky members in football, and thus played a full Big Sky football schedule as an FCS independent in 2018 and 2019. While North Dakota was not listed in conference standings, their games against Big Sky football members counted fully in conference standings.[9]



Institution Team Location Founded Type Enrollment Primary Conference
Francis Marion University Patriots Florence, South Carolina 1970 Public 4,200 Peach Belt Conference (Division II)[10]


Institution Team Location Founded Type Enrollment Primary Conference
Augusta University Jaguars Augusta, Georgia 1828 Public 9,000 Peach Belt Conference (Division II)[11]

Ice hockey


There is currently one NCAA Division I independent in men's ice hockey. The Sun Devils moved up from club hockey in the ACHA to full varsity status. Arizona State began playing a full Division I schedule in 2016–17, and expected to be in a hockey conference for 2017–18, but no conference move has yet materialized.

Institution Team Location Founded Type Enrollment Years Primary Conference
Arizona State University Sun Devils[12] Tempe, Arizona 1885 Public 50,246 2015–present Pac-12 Conference


No women's ice hockey teams played as independents at the National Collegiate level, the de facto equivalent to Division I in that sport, in the 2019–20 season.

Five schools—Franklin Pierce, Post, Sacred Heart, Saint Anselm, and Saint Michael's—competed as independents in the 2018–19 season, all participating in the nascent New England Women's Hockey Alliance (NEWHA), which had originally been established in 2017 as a scheduling alliance among all of the then-current National Collegiate independents. The NEWHA initially included six schools, but Holy Cross left after the inaugural 2017–18 NEWHA season to join Hockey East. The NEWHA officially organized as a conference in advance of the 2018–19 season,[13] but was not officially recognized by the NCAA as a Division I league until the 2019–20 season, by which time the newly launched LIU program had joined to return the conference membership to six.[14]



There are no men's soccer independents as of the 2018 season.


Two schools were independents in the most recently completed 2019 women's soccer season. The most recent departure from the independent ranks was Hampton University, which joined the Big South Conference, which sponsors women's soccer, in 2018.[15]

Institution Team Location Founded Type Enrollment Primary Conference
Delaware State University Hornets Dover, Delaware 1891 Public 3,400 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
South Carolina State University Lady Bulldogs Orangeburg, South Carolina 1896 Public 3,000 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Men's volleyball

Men's volleyball has a truncated divisional structure in which members of both Division I and Division II compete under identical scholarship limits for a single national championship. In the 2020 season, which was not completed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 11 men's volleyball programs, all but one of which are Division II members, competed as independents.

  1. ^ a b c While no member of the University of Puerto Rico system is part of a recognized NCAA conference, all are members of Liga Atlética Interuniversitaria de Puerto Rico, which governs college sports competitions in both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
  2. ^ St. Francis Brooklyn will join the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association in July 2021.[16]
  3. ^ Urbana closed at the end of the 2019–20 school year.


There are no wrestling independents as of the 2018 season.

See also


  1. ^ "OVC Adds Beach Volleyball as Championship Sport" (Press release). Ohio Valley Conference. July 30, 2019. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  2. ^ "Southland Conference Adds Beach Volleyball to Championship Sports Offerings" (Press release). Southland Conference. August 14, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  3. ^ "CCSA Announces Addition of Louisiana Monroe and Missouri State to Beach Volleyball" (Press release). Coastal Collegiate Sports Association. December 13, 2019. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  4. ^ "Notre Dame Goes To ACC: Bowl Security, Football Scheduling Flexibility Key To Move". Sports Business Daily. Street and Smith’s Sports Group. September 13, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
  5. ^ "Blazing a New Trail: Dixie State Accepts Invitation to Join Western Athletic Conference" (Press release). Dixie State Trailblazers. January 11, 2019. Retrieved January 25, 2019.
  6. ^ "Presbyterian College to join Pioneer Football League in 2021" (Press release). Pioneer Football League. November 20, 2017. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  7. ^ "Big South Conference Adds Robert Morris University as Football Member" (Press release). Big South Conference. June 15, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  8. ^ "Tarleton State University to Join Western Athletic Conference in 2020-21" (Press release). Western Athletic Conference. November 12, 2019. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  9. ^ "UND athletics accepts invites to The Summit League, Missouri Valley Football Conference" (Press release). North Dakota Fighting Hawks. January 26, 2017. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  10. ^ "NCAA Membership Directory: Francis Marion University". NCAA. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  11. ^ "NCAA Membership Directory: Augusta University". NCAA. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  12. ^ "Sun Devil Athletics Announces Addition of Men's Ice Hockey as NCAA Sport" (Press release). Arizona State Athletics. November 18, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  13. ^ "NEWHA announces intent to be recognized as NCAA national collegiate women's hockey conference". September 26, 2018. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  14. ^ "New England Women's Hockey Alliance approved for NCAA Division I status, effective with '19-20 season". September 4, 2019. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  15. ^ "Big South Adds Hampton University as Full Member" (Press release). Big South Conference. November 16, 2017. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  16. ^ "St. Francis College Brooklyn Men's Volleyball Accepted into EIVA" (Press release). St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers. May 6, 2020. Retrieved May 8, 2020.

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