Tarleton State appears to have the best chance among the schools that are seeking their first FCS playoff bid in 2024.

There will be 37 FCS programs (out of 129 overall) yet to qualify for the playoffs, although only 23 of them will be eligible for a bid in this year’s 24-team field. It comes a year after three schools – Drake, Mercer and North Carolina Central – participated in the playoffs for the first time.

Tarleton State went 8-3 under coach Todd Whitten last year and posted a winning record in each of its four seasons during a reclassification from Division II. This year, the Texans’ veteran team is eligible for the FCS playoffs for the first time and expected to be a title contender in the United Athletic Conference, whose champion receives an automatic bid to the playoffs.

All schools that move up to the FCS go through the transitional period before becoming playoff-eligible – it’s four years in a move up from Division II and five years after arriving from Division III.

2024 Programs That Have Never Participated in FCS Playoffs

The 2024 FCS programs that have never qualified for the playoffs:

Big Sky: Northern Colorado

CAA: Bryant; Campbell

Independent: Merrimack

Ivy (league members do not participate in the playoffs): Brown; Columbia; Cornell; Dartmouth; Harvard; Penn; Princeton; Yale

Northeast: Long Island; Mercyhurst (eligible in 2028); Stonehill (eligible in 2026)

Ohio Valley: Lindenwood (eligible in 2026)

Patriot: Bucknell; Georgetown

Pioneer: Marist; Morehead State; Presbyterian; Stetson; St. Thomas (eligible in 2026); Valparaiso

Southland: Houston Christian; Texas A&M-Commerce (eligible in 2026)

SWAC: Alabama A&M; Alabama State; Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Prairie View A&M; Southern; Texas Southern

UAC: Abilene Christian; North Alabama; Tarleton State; Utah Tech; West Georgia (eligible in 2028)

(Looking back to our never-too-early outlook for the 2024 FCS season.)

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