Frequently asked questions about the Division III football playoffs. If you have a question that isn't answered here, contact us via email or comment at the bottom of the page. 

1. How are the Division III football playoffs set up?

2. Which conferences get automatic bids?

3. How are the at-large bids determined?

4. How is a three-way tie broken for first place in a conference?

5. How are the playoffs structured?

6. Which regions will be paired up in the national semifinals?

7. What dates are playoff games?

8. What is a regional game?

9. How has each conference performed in the playoffs?

10. How many players can be on a playoff roster?

11. How many automatic bids were there in (your year here)?


1. How are the Division III football playoffs set up?

For 2018: Automatic bids to go the champions of 26 conferences.

There will be one bid set aside solely for Pool B teams, that is, teams who are independents or in conferences without automatic bids.

The leftover Pool B teams get dumped into Pool C, and those teams get considered for the remaining five bids.

Scroll down for the year-by-year history of automatic bids, Pool B bids and Pool C bids.

2. Which conferences get automatic bids?

For 2018: American Rivers Conference; American Southwest Conference; Centennial Conference; College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin; Commonwealth Coast Conference; Eastern Collegiate Football Conference; Empire 8; Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference; Liberty League; Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference; Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association; Middle Atlantic Conference; Midwest Conference; Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference; New Jersey Athletic Conference; North Coast Athletic Conference; Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference; Northwest Conference; Ohio Athletic Conference; Old Dominion Athletic Conference; Presidents' Athletic Conference; Southern Athletic Association; Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference; Upper Midwest Athletic Conference; USA South Athletic Conference; and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

In 2019, the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference should receive an automatic bid, and Pool B would no longer receive a bid.)

3. How are the at-large bids determined?

These are the selection (and seeding) criteria:

The following primary criteria (not in priority order) will be reviewed:
● Won-lost percentage against Division III opponents;.

● Division III head-to-head competition;

● Results versus common Division III opponents;

● Results versus ranked Division III teams as established by the regional rankings at the time of selection. Conference postseason contests are included;

● Division III strength of schedule
-- Opponents’ average winning percentage (OWP), weighted 2/3.
-- Opponents’ opponents’ average winning percentage (OOWP), weighted 1/3.

● Should a committee find that evaluation of a team’s won-lost percentage during the last 25 percent of the season is applicable (i.e., end-of-season performance), it may adopt such criteria with approval of the Championships Committee.

If the evaluation of the primary criteria does not result in a decision by the committee, the following secondary criteria (for ranking and selections) will be evaluated:
● Non-Division III win-loss percentage
● Results versus common non-Division III opponents
● Non-Division III Strength of Schedule

When all criteria are equal among teams with undefeated records in the primary criteria, the NCAA Division III Football Committee can use a team’s performance in the previous championship season as criterion.

Additionally, input is provided by regional advisory committees for consideration by the Division III football committee. In order to be considered for selection for Pools B or C, an institution must play at least 50 percent of its competition against Division III in-region opponents. Coaches’ polls and/or any other outside polls or rankings are not used as a selection criterion by the football committee for selection purposes.

4. How is a three-way tie broken for first place in a conference?

You'd have to ask the conference in question. Each conference sets its own tiebreakers.

5. How are the playoffs structured?

Since 2005: There are four brackets of eight teams apiece. The brackets are set by the NCAA committee, grouping eight teams together in a roughly geographic manner.

The NCAA reserves the right to seed the bracket in the interest of avoiding having to pay for extra airplane flights in the first round. If two schools are within 500 miles' driving distance, then the road team travels by bus. If the distance is longer than 500 miles then the NCAA must fly one team to play the other.

Generally speaking, the No. 1 seed plays the No. 8 seed, the No. 2 seed plays the No. 7 seed, No. 3 plays No. 6 and No. 4 plays No. 5. But the committee also reserves the right to juggle first-round pairings to satisfy their travel requirements as well as keep conference foes from facing each other in the first round.

In general, the higher seed hosts through to the national semifinals. If two equal seeds from different brackets meet in the national semifinals, the NCAA will determine who hosts. That is announced when the brackets are released.

In 2009, the NCAA announced that there were no seeds and never had been. However, this contradicted the facts from previous years, in which the NCAA liaison communicated seedings to D3football.com personally.

6. Which regions will be paired up in the national semifinals?

This is not predetermined. We'll find out on Selection Sunday when the bracket is unveiled.

7. What dates are playoff games?

The Division III football playoffs are held on five consecutive Saturdays in November and December, starting with the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Games kick off at noon local time.

Specifically, by year:
2018: Nov. 17, Nov. 24, Dec. 1, Dec. 8, and the Stagg Bowl will be Friday, Dec. 14. (Whether the Stagg Bowl is Friday or Saturday is typically clarified in September.)

Semifinal game times were set by television in 2011-2016. The 2018 and 2019 Stagg Bowls will be held in Shenandoah, Texas; the 2020 and 2021 Stagg Bowls will be in Canton, Ohio. The Stagg Bowl was held in Salem, Virginia, from 1993 to 2017. 

8. What is a regional game?

The following definition determines which games are in-region. However, as long as a team plays 70 percent of its schedule vs. in-region opponents, or receives a waiver from the NCAA, then all games vs. Division III opponents count in the primary criteria and we mark them as "regional" on our schedules.

A game can be classified as regional in any of three ways.

1) Both teams are full Division III members (or third- or fourth-year provisional members) and are in the same Division III member conference or same region as defined by the Division III football committee. That list of regions is linked on the Teams menu at the top of this page.

2) The teams are within 200 miles of each other via the NCAA's approved mapping software.

3) The teams are within the same NCAA administrative region. Those regions are defined below.

Region 1: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont.

Region 2: New York, Pennsylvania.

Region 3: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia.

Region 4: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

If the teams are in the same region by any one of these three definitions, it is a regional game.

Some examples: 1. Trinity (Texas) is scheduled to play the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in a regular season game in Ireland. Is this a regional game?
Answer: Yes. It doesn't matter where the game is played, only where the schools are from. Texas and Wisconsin are both in Administrative Region 4.

2. Merchant Marine plays Grove City. They are in different NCAA regions and are more than 200 miles apart.
Answer: This is a regional game. Merchant Marine is in New York, Grove City is in Pennsylvania. Both are in Administrative Region 2.

3. Albion (Mich.) plays Grand Valley State (Mich.).
Answer: This is not a regional game. Grand Valley State is not a Division III member. No game against a non-Division III member can ever be a regional game.

4. Brevard plays Berry.
Answer: This is not a regional game. Although both teams are in the same administrative region and same Division III football region, Brevard is not a full member or third- or fourth-year provisional member.

5. Johns Hopkins (Md.) plays Bridgewater (Va.) Answer: This is a regional game. Although Maryland and Virginia are in different administrative regions, both schools are in the South for football.

9. How has each conference performed in the playoffs?

A look at each conference from playoff expansion in 1999 through the 2018 semifinals.
* - conference no longer competes in D-III football.

Conference W L Pct.
OAC 95 25 .792
WIAC 67 21 .761
MIAC 55 32 .632
ASC  46 38 .622
NWC 37 23 .617
ACFC * 15 11 .577
Independents 15 12 .556
E8 26 21 .553
NJAC 33 27 .550
CCIW 33 30 .524
MAC 24 22 .522
NCAC 23 23 .500
SCAC* 11 15 .423
Centennial 16 23 .411
ARC 17 26 .395
LL/UCAA 15 23 .395
PAC 15 23 .395
FFC * 3 5 .375
ODAC 12 22 .353
SAA 3 6 .333
UAA 2 6 .250
HCAC 6 21 .222
USAC/Dixie 5 20 .200
MWC 4 21 .160
CCC 4 22 .154
MIAA 3 19 .136
SCIAC 2 18 .100
ECFC 1 9 .100
NEWMAC 0 2 .000
MASCAC 0 5 .000
IBC * 0 8 .000
UMAC 0 8 .000
NACC 0 11 .000

The following list restricts results to the past 10 playoff brackets: 2009 through 2018 semifinals.

Conference W L Pct.
WIAC 46 10 .821
OAC 49 13 .790
Independents 16 7 .696
ASC 29 15 .659
MIAC 32 17 .653
NWC 18 13 .581
E8 17 13 .567
CCIW 17 16 .515
MAC 12 12 .500
NJAC 13 14 .481
Centennial 11 12 .478
NCAC 10 13 .435
LL/UCAA 7 10 .412
IIAC 7 12 .368
PAC 6 12 .333
SAA 3 6 .333
HCAC 3 10 .231
MIAA 3 10 .231
SCAC 1 4 .200
USAC/Dixie 2 10 .167
ODAC 2 11 .154
MWC 2 11 .154
NEFC/CCC 2 12 .143
ECFC 1 9 .100
UAA 0 2 .000
NEWMAC 0 2 .000
MASCAC 0 4 .000
UMAC 0 8 .000
NACC 0 10 .000
SCIAC 0 11 .000

10. How many players can be on a playoff roster?

Starting in 2012, the limit was increased from 52 to 58 players. That list is final 10 minutes before kickoff but can be changed until then. A team can field a different roster in each round, if it desires. Both the home and road team are limited to suiting up 58 players. The team's remaining players cannot be in the team box on the sidelines during the game.

11. How many automatic bids were there in (your year here)?

From 1972, the first year of the Division III football championship, through 1998, there were no automatic bids and a range from four up to 16 teams were selected on an at-large basis.

Here's how the history has progressed since:

1972-98 no automatic bids
--------- 28-team fields ---------
1999    15 AQs, 9 B, 4 C
2000    17 AQs, 8 B, 3 C
2001    17 AQs, 7 B, 4 C
2002    18 AQs, 7 B, 3 C
2003    19 AQs, 6 B, 3 C
2004    21 AQs, 4 B, 3 C
--------- 32-team fields ---------
2005    21 AQs, 4 B, 8 C
2006    22 AQs, 4 B, 7 C
2007    22 AQs, 3 B, 7 C
2008    23 AQs, 3 B, 6 C
2009    24 AQs, 3 B, 5 C
2010    23 AQs, 3 B, 6 C
2011    25 AQs, 1 B, 6 C
2012    24 AQs, 1 B, 7 C
2013    24 AQs, 3 B, 5 C
2014    24 AQs, 2 B, 6 C
2015    25 AQs, 1 B, 6 C
2016    25 AQs, 1 B, 6 C 
2017    25 AQs, 2 B, 5 C
2018    26 AQs, 1 B, 5 C 

Dec. 14: All times Eastern
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Mount Union 16
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
Box Score Recap Photos
Dec. 8: All times Eastern
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, UW-Whitewater 14
Box Score Recap Photos
at Mount Union 28, Johns Hopkins 20
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Maintenance in progress.