The 2015 season marks the 24th year for the Pioneer Football League – the nation’s only non-scholarship, football-only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision conference.
The PFL is one of only two conferences that sponsor football as its only sport (the Missouri Valley Football Conference being the other). However, 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 for the 2009 season, further extended the league’s footprint into the northeast.
In January 1991 the NCAA passed legislation to require Division I institutions to sponsor all intercollegiate sports at the Division I level. The five charter members (Evansville the fifth before dropping football in 1997), each dedicated to the enhancement and sound management of intercollegiate football as an integral part of the student-athletes’ collegiate experience, joined together to form the Pioneer Football League. From the league’s inception it has been a proponent of the creation of a non-scholarship football classification within Division I and adopted the moniker of Pioneer based on the intent to become the first league in that new division. The PFL’s original membership was comprised of NCAA Division I universities that previously sponsored intercollegiate football at other levels.
In recent years the league has attracted those institutions committed to the principles of the PFL model when beginning their football program, including Jacksonville which started its program in the non-scholarship mold in 1998 and Campbell which did so in 2008. In 2013, the league expanded is footprint in the Southeast when Mercer University and Stetson University – which each restarted long dormant programs – join the league.
The PFL began play in 1993 with Dayton winning the league’s first crown. The league spent its first season in 1993 under the administrative guidance of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference and the office moved to St. Louis in 1994 when current commissioner Patty Viverito was named the PFL commissioner, a leadership position she continues to fill.