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Delaware to join FBS in 2025 as Conference USA member

Delaware will become the first FBS team from The First State.

Delaware v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The first FBS team is coming to The First State.

The Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens are expected to join the FBS level as a Conference USA member, starting with the 2025 season. The news was first reported Monday by ESPN’s Pete Thamel and is expected to be formalized in the upcoming days.

Earlier in October, the application fee to transition from the FCS to FBS increased from $5,000 to $5 million and Delaware will be the first program to pay the amplified fee. The Fightin’ Blue Hens have one of the largest operating budgets in the FCS at $48 million, which is greater than the majority of current CUSA schools.

Delaware Stadium, nicknamed “The Tub” seats 18,500 and overfilled that capacity this season as 18,952 spectators flocked in to watch the Fightin’ Blue Hens take on Duquesne. Delaware posted a 9-3 record this season and received a No. 11 ranking heading into the FCS playoffs, where it faces No. 2 Montana on Dec. 2.

The Blue Hens upgraded from Division II to FCS in 1980 and won one FCS national championship in 2003. They’ve qualified for the playoffs in three of the last five seasons and 18 times overall, with their most successful stretch transpiring from the late 1980s through the early 2000s.

Delaware is currently coached by Ryan Carty, who was hired prior to the 2022 season after serving as the offensive coordinator for a national championship Sam Houston team. Notable alums of the program include Super Bowl XLVII MVP quarterback Joe Flacco and 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon.

Delaware is somewhat of a geographical outlier in the conference for the time being. The closest current CUSA member to Delaware is Liberty which is roughly 280 miles southeast of Newark, DE — approximately a 5-hour drive.

The Fightin’ Blue Hens will become the 11th member of the conference and the fourth FCS team to transition to the CUSA since 2023. Sam Houston and Jacksonville State were additions this season and Kennesaw State joins the league for 2024. Delaware will be the only FBS team in the state of Delaware, leaving only eight states without an FBS program — Alaska, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont.