|Stadium||Cramton Bowl (2017–present)|
|Previous stadiums||Campus sites (2014–2016)|
Guardian Credit Union (2017–)
|North Carolina A&T 20, Jacksonville State 17|
The FCS Kickoff is an annual college football game played on the Saturday before the opening weekend of the college football season. The game showcases teams from the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision; for its first three editions, it rotated to various campus sites, but the 2017 edition was the first to be played at a neutral site, specifically the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. The game is televised nationally by ESPN.
In February 2013, ESPN announced that the 2014 college football season would begin at its earliest point in 11 years with the creation of the "FCS Kickoff", an annual game which would showcase two top-level teams from the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision. ESPN stated that during meetings with FCS conference commissioners there was an interest in creating a "tentpole type" event around FCS football and to showcase the quality and depth of FCS football to a national audience.
Under current NCAA rules, FBS teams are not allowed to play their first regular-season game until the Thursday preceding Labor Day. However, an exception to this rule has been carved out for nationally televised events (on either over-the-air or cable networks); teams may participate in such an event against an out-of-conference opponent on the Saturday or Sunday preceding the standard season start date. No more than one team from a conference can participate in such an event in a given season, and no team can appear in such a game in three consecutive seasons.
The 2017 edition marked several changes for the event. First, ESPN took ownership of the event through its ESPN Events division. The event was moved to a neutral site (the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama); received a name sponsorship by Guardian Credit Union, a small Montgomery-based credit union; was co-branded as the Montgomery Kickoff Classic; and also took on Alabama FCS member Jacksonville State University as a partner for the 2017 and 2018 editions. As such, JSU participated in both editions of the event. With Jacksonville State barred from a third consecutive FCS Kickoff appearance by NCAA rule, ESPN chose another Alabama program, Samford, as the de facto home team for the 2019 edition.
|Date||Winning team||Losing team||Venue||Attendance|
|August 23, 2014||No. 1 Eastern Washington Eagles||56||No. 17 Sam Houston State Bearkats||35||Roos Field (Cheney, WA)||10,310|
|August 29, 2015||No. 13 Montana Grizzlies||38||No. 1 North Dakota State Bison||35||Washington–Grizzly Stadium (Missoula, MT)||26,472|
|August 27, 2016||No. 1 North Dakota State Bison||24||No. 7 Charleston Southern Buccaneers||17||Fargodome (Fargo, ND)||18,881|
|August 26, 2017||No. 6 Jacksonville State Gamecocks||27||No. 12 Chattanooga Mocs||13||Cramton Bowl (Montgomery, AL)||12,952|
|August 25, 2018||No. 14 North Carolina A&T Aggies||20||No. 6 Jacksonville State Gamecocks||17||13,500|
Rankings are from the STATS FCS Poll.
|August 24, 2019||Youngstown State Penguins||Samford Bulldogs||Cramton Bowl (Montgomery, AL)|
|North Carolina A&T||1||1–0||1.000||20||17|
|North Dakota State||2||1–1||.500||59||55|
|Sam Houston State||1||0–1||.000||35||56|
- "ESPN to give college football season an early start in 2014". usatoday.com. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
- "College football season to kick off with FCS battle between Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington on August 23". sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
- "Bylaw 126.96.36.199: First Contest, Exception—Nationally Televised Contest—Championship Subdivision" (PDF). 2018–19 NCAA Division I Manual. NCAA. July 2018. p. 272. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
- Rankin, Duane; Stevens, Matthew (October 12, 2016). "ESPN announces Montgomery Kickoff Classic for 2017". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
- "Guardian Credit Union Joins FCS Kickoff as Title Sponsor" (Press release). ESPN. March 21, 2017. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
- Haley, Craig (September 25, 2018). "Samford, Youngstown State to meet in 2019 FCS Kickoff". Yahoo! Sports. Associated Press. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
- "Sam Houston State Bearkats vs. Eastern Washington Eagles Box Score". ESPN.com. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
- "North Dakota State Bison vs. Montana Grizzlies Box Score". ESPN.com. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
- "Charleston Southern Buccaneers vs. North Dakota State Bison Box Score". ESPN.com. August 27, 2016. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
- "Chattanooga Mocs vs. Jacksonville State Gamecocks Box Score". ESPN.com. August 26, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
- "North Carolina A&T Aggiees vs. Jacksonville State Gamecocks Box Score". ESPN.com. August 25, 2018. Retrieved August 25, 2018.