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 upcoming 2020 season (2019–20 school year), the following programs compete as independents. A total of 11 schools that were independents in the 2019 season exited that status after that season. All 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]

InstitutionTeamLocationFoundedTypeEnrollmentPrimary Conference
Boise State UniversityBroncosBoise, Idaho1932Public25,540Mountain West Conference
California State University, Los Angeles
(Cal State Los Angeles)
Golden EaglesLos Angeles, California1947Public27,685California Collegiate Athletic Association (Division II)
Carson–Newman UniversityEaglesJohnson City, Tennessee1851Private2,115South Atlantic Conference (Division II)
Colorado Mesa UniversityMavericksGrand Junction, Colorado1925Public11,000Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (Division II)
Concordia University Irvine
Golden EaglesIrvine, California1976Private2,564Pacific West Conference (Division II)
Eckerd CollegeTritonsSt. Petersburg, Florida1958Private1,650Sunshine State Conference (Division II)
Florida Southern CollegeMoccasinsLakeland, Florida1883Private2,185Sunshine State Conference (Division II)
Grand Canyon UniversityAntelopesPhoenix, Arizona1949Private19,500Western Athletic Conference
Huntingdon CollegeHawksMontgomery, Alabama1854Private900USA South Athletic Conference (Division III)
Lincoln Memorial UniversityRailsplittersHarrogate, Tennessee1897Private2,579South Atlantic Conference (Division II)
University of Louisiana at Monroe
(Louisiana–Monroe or ULM)
WarhawksMonroe, Louisiana1931Public9,181Sun Belt Conference
Mississippi State UniversityBulldogsMississippi State, Mississippi1878Public21,884Southeastern Conference
Missouri State UniversityLady BearsSpringfield, Missouri1905Public26,000Missouri Valley Conference
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
CornhuskersLincoln, Nebraska1869Public33,273Big Ten Conference
Principia CollegePanthersElsah, Illinois1912Private600St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Division III)
Saint Leo UniversityLionsSt. Leo, Florida1889Private2,235Sunshine State Conference (Division II)
San Jose State UniversitySpartansSan Jose, California1857Public33,409Mountain West Conference
Spring Hill CollegeBadgersMobile, Alabama1830Private1,439Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Division II)
Stevenson UniversityMustangsStevenson, Maryland1947Private3,621MAC Commonwealth (Division III)
University of TampaSpartansTampa, Florida1931Private7,600Sunshine State Conference (Division II)
Tarleton State UniversityTexansStephenville, Texas1899Public13,020Lone Star Conference (Division II)
Texas A&M University–KingsvilleJavelinasKingsville, Texas1925Public8,783Lone Star Conference (Division II)
Tusculum UniversityPioneersTusculum, Tennessee1794Private2,053South 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 nine bowling programs compete as independents. This list is likely incomplete, as Division III independents have not yet been analyzed.

InstitutionTeamLocationFoundedTypeEnrollmentPrimary Conference
Belmont Abbey CollegeCrusadersBelmont, North Carolina1876Private1,320Conference Carolinas (Division II)
Chestnut Hill CollegeGriffinsPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania1924Private2,301Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (Division II)
Kentucky Wesleyan CollegePanthersOwensboro, Kentucky1858Private785Great Midwest Athletic Conference (Division II)
Lewis UniversityFlyersRomeoville, Illinois1932Private6,573Great Lakes Valley Conference (Division II)
University of Nebraska–Lincoln (Nebraska)CornhuskersLincoln, Nebraska1869Public25,260Big Ten Conference (Division I)
Post UniversityEaglesWaterbury, Connecticut1890Private7,317Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (Division II)
Ursuline CollegeArrowsPepper Pike, Ohio1871Private1,136Great Midwest Athletic Conference (Division II)
Walsh UniversityCavaliersNorth Canton, Ohio1960Private2,766Great Midwest Athletic Conference (Division II)
Wilmington UniversityEaglesNew Castle, Delaware1968Private20,522Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (Division II)


Football Bowl Subdivision

As of the current 2019 college football season, there are six NCAA Division I FBS independent schools.

Institution Founded Nickname First season Location Type Enrollment Primary conference
United States Military Academy
1802 Black Knights 1890 West Point, New York Federal 4,294 Patriot League
Brigham Young University (BYU) 1875 Cougars 1922 Provo, Utah Private 29,672 West Coast Conference
Liberty University 1971 Flames 1973 Lynchburg, Virginia Private 15,000[lower-alpha 1] ASUN Conference
New Mexico State University 1888 Aggies 1893 Las Cruces, New Mexico Public 18,497 Western Athletic Conference
University of Notre Dame 1842 Fighting Irish 1887 Notre Dame, Indiana Private 12,179 Atlantic Coast Conference
[lower-alpha 2]
University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) 1863 Minutemen 1879 Amherst, Massachusetts Public 29,269 Atlantic 10
  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.[3]

Football Championship Subdivision

One FCS school is playing as an independent in the 2019 season, namely North Dakota. The school left the Big Sky Conference in 2018 to join the non-football Summit League. While North Dakota played as an FCS independent in 2018 and is doing so again in 2019, it continues to play a full Big Sky football schedule due to contractual commitments; games against North Dakota in those seasons count in the Big Sky standings for their opponents. The Fighting Hawks will then join the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020.[4]

Two other schools, Hampton and North Alabama, played the 2018 season as FCS independents, but both joined Big South Conference football in 2019. Hampton joined the Big South in other sports in 2018, but due to scheduling issues could not immediately join Big South football.[5] North Alabama moved from Division II to the non-football ASUN Conference in 2018, with the football team joining the Big South in 2019 under the terms of an alliance between the two conferences that provides any full member of either league that sponsors scholarship football with a guaranteed football home in the Big South.[6]

The next FCS independents after North Dakota's move to the MVFC will be Dixie State, Presbyterian, 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.[7] Presbyterian announced in 2017 that it had started a transition to non-scholarship FCS football. The Blue Hose will leave Big South football after the 2019 season and 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.[8] Tarleton State announced in 2019 that it would join the WAC alongside Dixie State and also play football as an FCS independent.[9]

Institution Founded Nickname First season Location Type Enrollment Primary conference
University of North Dakota1883Fighting Hawks1894Grand Forks, North DakotaPublic14,906Summit League

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.

InstitutionTeamLocationFoundedTypeEnrollmentYearsPrimary Conference
Arizona State UniversitySun Devils[10]Tempe, Arizona1885Public50,2462015–presentPac-12 Conference


No women's ice hockey teams are playing 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,[11] 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.[12]



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


      Two schools are independents in the current 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.[13]

      InstitutionTeamLocationFoundedTypeEnrollmentPrimary Conference
      Delaware State UniversityHornetsDover, Delaware1891Public3,400Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
      South Carolina State UniversityLady BulldogsOrangeburg, South Carolina1896Public3,000Mid-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 upcoming 2020 season, 11 men's volleyball programs, all but one of which are Division II members, will compete as independents.

      InstitutionTeamLocationFoundedTypeEnrollmentPrimary Conference
      Alderson Broaddus UniversityBattlersPhilippi, West Virginia1871Private1,052Great Midwest Athletic Conference
      Coker UniversityCobrasHartsville, South Carolina1908Private1,000South Atlantic Conference
      Daemen CollegeWildcatsAmherst, New York1947Private3,005East Coast Conference
      Lincoln Memorial UniversityRailsplittersHarrogate, Tennessee1897Private2,579South Atlantic Conference
      University of Puerto Rico at BayamónCowboysBayamón, Puerto Rico1971Public5,014Independent[lower-alpha 1]
      University of Puerto Rico at MayagüezTarzansMayagüez, Puerto Rico1911Public13,146Independent[lower-alpha 1]
      University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras CampusGallitosSan Juan, Puerto Rico1903Public18,653Independent[lower-alpha 1]
      Queens University of CharlotteRoyalsCharlotte, North Carolina1857Private2,100South Atlantic Conference
      St. Francis College
      (St. Francis Brooklyn)
      TerriersBrooklyn, New York1858Private2,834Northeast Conference (Division I)
      Tusculum UniversityPioneersTusculum, Tennessee1794Private2,053South Atlantic Conference
      Urbana UniversityBlue KnightsUrbana, Ohio1850Private1,505Mountain East Conference
      1. 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.


      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. "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.
      4. "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.
      5. Johnson, Dave (May 15, 2018). "As an FCS independent, HU releases its 2018 schedule". Daily Press. Newport News, VA. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
      6. "North Alabama To Join Big South Football in 2019" (Press release). Big South Conference. December 6, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
      7. "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.
      8. "Presbyterian College to join Pioneer Football League in 2021" (Press release). Pioneer Football League. November 20, 2017. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
      9. "Tarleton State University to Join Western Athletic Conference in 2020-21" (Press release). Western Athletic Conference. November 12, 2019. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
      10. "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.
      11. "NEWHA announces intent to be recognized as NCAA national collegiate women's hockey conference". September 26, 2018. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
      12. "New England Women's Hockey Alliance approved for NCAA Division I status, effective with '19-20 season". September 4, 2019. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
      13. "Big South Adds Hampton University as Full Member" (Press release). Big South Conference. November 16, 2017. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
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