INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Beginning in 2013, the Drake football team and the Pioneer Football League will gain access to the Division I Football Championship through an automatic bid as a result of the NCAA Board of Directors approving a budget that will allow expansion of the tournament to 24 teams for the 2013 campaign.
The championship's 2013 expansion will be the second this decade. The bracket grew from 16 to 20 teams in 2010, its first expansion since 1978.
The PFL will join 10 conferences currently awarded an automatic bid. The automatic qualifiers will be placed into the 24-team bracket by the NCAA Football Championship selection committee and join the 13 at-large qualifiers.
The committee will select its eight national seeds that will receive first-round byes. The remaining 16 teams will then be placed in the bracket with an emphasis on geographical proximity.
"Having the Pioneer Football League champion automatically qualify for the FCS Playoffs is hugely important to our teams," said PFL commissioner Patty Viverito. "This opportunity seemed a distant hope just one year ago, but will become a reality when the FCS bracket expands to 24 teams in 2013."
"I think it is a dream come true for our entire league," Drake head football coach Chris Creighton commented. "All our guys wants is what every other FCS player wants and that is to be rewarded for being a champion and having the opportunity to go to the playoffs and chance to be their best. The PFL championship is a big deal, there is no question, but now the PFL championship will be even a bigger deal because there is a pretty nice prize that comes along with it."
The Pioneer Football League, which began with four members upon its inception in 1991, will expand to 12 members in 2013. It is the nation's only non-scholarship, football-only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision conference.
The PFL is a truly national conference with members on each coast and throughout the nation's heartland. The league still retains four of its charter members - Butler University, the University of Dayton, Drake University and Valparaiso University, plus the University of San Diego (joining in 1992), which were joined in 2001 by Davidson College, Jacksonville University and Morehead State University. Campbell University joined the PFL in 2008, its first season of intercollegiate football. Marist College, which joined prior to the 2009 season, further extended the league's footprint into the northeast. The league will add Mercer University and Stetson University in 2013, improving the league's representation in the southeast.