Photo courtesy of Morehead State athletics
As you surf through Twitter and see football prospects proudly display their offers, you may run across programs you have never heard or know nothing about.
Some perhaps come from the Pioneer League. The Pioneer League does not offer any athletic scholarship money and most of its schools have very expensive tuition.
While the Pioneer League is a Division I conference in the FCS, the scholarship money has to be something to consider. There is a reason why Pioneer teams like playing NAIA/D3 teams. They may actually have more in common with NAIA schools than many of their FCS counterparts.
The important thing for any perspective student-athlete is that they can still get a quality education at these universities, play college football and qualify for academic scholarships.
Member Schools and Stadium Capacities
- Butler: 7,500
- Davidson: 6,000
- Dayton: 11,000
- Drake: 14,557
- Marist: 5,000
- Morehead State: 10,000
- Presbyterian: 6,500
- St. Thomas: 5,025
- San Diego: 6,000
- Stetson: 6,000
- Valparaiso: 5,000
The majority of schools in the conference have a stadium capacity hovering around 5,000 or 7,000, which is typical for high school football. Some of these names you may even recognize for their basketball prowess, but football is not supported the same way. The conference spans as far south as Florida, as far northeast as New York and as far west as California.
Pioneer teams often like scheduling NAIA teams as the athletes are similar. In 2021, for example, Valparaiso played NAIA Indiana Wesleyan while Stetson played NAIA Warner.
With the exception of Morehead State, every Pioneer League institution is private. Private universities tend to be costlier than public institutions. That’s especially true if an athletic scholarship is out of the question.
Pioneer Teams in the FCS Playoffs
Pioneer teams have made the FCS Playoffs 11 times, and have only won two playoff games ever. Davidson has won the league in each of the last two seasons and made the playoffs both years. In the postseason however, the Wildcats were outscored, 97-35.
Of all the members, San Diego owns the only two playoff wins for the conference. The Toreros have won the conference 12 times. Their first conference championship came in 2005 under a head coach named Jim Harbaugh.