10 Best Football Colleges in California in 2024

Football colleges in California combine academics and sporting activities, creating a fine balance between sporting and intellectual learning.

For many college students, nothing beats the fun and joy of making their way to the stadium hours before a game to get the best seats, game accessories, finger food, and play with friends while cheering on their school’s team in a big game.

Football has been a part of college experiences for almost 150 years. While it may have little effect on the educational value of a school, it has an enormous influence on the life of college students and their ongoing devotion to their alma maters. 

There is no doubt that for football fans, and young athletes, the game of football can affect prospective students’ decisions about which school they want to attend.

Are you a student-athlete searching for good football colleges to help improve your skills and chances of being noticed by top football clubs in California?

This guide will give an insight into the best football colleges in California.

Does California have Football Colleges? 

Although no colleges and universities were solely established for football career development, the state of California, known to cherish the game of football, has some of the best colleges with good football programs.

Research has shown that California has about a hundred football colleges and universities. 

These colleges include; the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Southern California, Stanford University, and California State University, Sacramento.

Also read, 10 Best Football Colleges in Illinois

How Many College Football Teams are in California?

When it comes to producing top-tier college football teams, you can probably guess that among the top four states with outstanding college football teams in the United States, California is one of them. 

California has about 22 college football teams. Some prominent teams are California Golden Bears, San Diego State Aztecs, Southern California Trojans, and UCLA Bruins.

You would also find these helpful: 10 Best Football Colleges in Ohio

Does California have Ivy League Schools?

The state of California like many other states in the United States, the state of California does not have an Ivy League school.

However, we cannot rule out that California has some of the most sought-after colleges and universities in the United States.

California is teeming with high-caliber colleges and universities, all of which excel in academics, research, and post-graduate job outcomes.

In many instances, programs at these institutions in California outrank their Ivy counterparts in numerous reputable publications, such as the US News & World Report and Niche.

In no particular order, here’s a list of some of California’s best colleges and universities.

  • Stanford University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • University of California, Berkley
  • University of Southern California
  • Pomona College
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Claremont Mckenna College

What are the Best Football Colleges in California?

Opinions on what makes a good college football experience will certainly vary from student to student. Students must stay open-minded when searching for an ideal football college.

Student-athletes should ensure they have envisaged what they expect to gain from the colleges they are applying to and guarantee that it meets their academic, social, and football development lifestyle.

We hope this list will give you insight into the school of your subsequent choice that will make your college experience worthwhile.

1. University of Southern California 

The University of Southern California (USC) established in 1880 by Robert M. Widney, is the oldest private research university in California, and the largest private employer in the Los Angeles area, generating an estimated $8 billion in economic impact on California.

Home to the USC Trojans, one of the best football teams in America, is a part of the Pac-12 Conference, and Clay Helton is the team’s current head coach.

The USC Trojans are well known for a storied history of victories, dating back to 1888 when the team was first created. The school has won 11 national championships and has produced nearly 500 NFL players. 

The school also holds the record for the most Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, with 12. The school’s official colors are featured predominantly on the USC Trojans’ uniforms.

The cardinal and gold-colored uniforms feature a Trojan helmet on the right side of the helmet and are supplied by Nike. The school’s mascot, Traveler, often wears the colors while riding a white horse at games.

The USC Trojans play their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which fits 93,000 fans in its stands. The school is known for having a vibrant and competitive atmosphere during game day, especially when facing off against their rivals, the UCLA Bruins and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

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2. San Diego State University

Founded in 1897 as San Diego Normal School, San Diego State University is the third-oldest university in California.

On top of its prestigious academic programs and great location, San Diego State University boasts of a successful football program and an intense football culture.

The San Diego State Aztecs, the university athletic team, lay claim to 21 conferences and three national championships.

The school practices several traditions that allow students to get involved, including the Warrior Walk, in which students accompany the football team and marching band on a walk to the stadium. 

San Diego State University also plans to open a new on-campus football stadium by 2022, making it even easier for students to attend football games and show their support.

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3. Stanford University

Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a private research university in Stanford, California, near Palo Alto. The university is ranked among the top universities in the world.

The university’s athletic team, known as the Cardinal, competes in 36 varsity sports, and the university is one of two private institutions in the Division I FBS Pac-12 Conference. 

As of May 26, 2022, Stanford has won 131 NCAA team championships, more than any other university, and was awarded the NACDA Directors’ Cup for 25 consecutive years. 

In addition, Stanford students and alumni have won at least 296 Olympic medals, including 150 gold and 79 silver medals. The team’s official colors are Cardinal red and white, and the unofficial mascot is Stanford Tree.

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4. University of California, Berkeley  

The University of California is located in Berkeley, California. Established in 1868 as the University of California, it is the state’s first land-grant university and the first campus of the University of California system.

In 2014, the university started a strict academic standard for an athlete’s admission. 

By 2017, 80 percent of incoming student-athletes were required to comply with the requirement of having a 3.0 or higher high school grade point average.

The university’s athletic teams, known as Golden Bears, compete primarily in the Pac-12 Conference and have won 107 national championships, and its students and alumni have won 223 Olympic medals.

California Memorial Stadium is the home field for California’s football program. The venue opened in 1923 and seats 71,799 fans making it northern California’s largest football stadium in terms of seating capacity.

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5. California State University, Fresno

This is one of the best universities in California, United States, established in 1911. Commonly known as Fresno State, the Bulldogs are the intercollegiate athletic teams that represent the university.

The university is a NCAA Division I’s Mountain West Conference (MW) member. It was a member of the Western Athletic Conference from 1992 – 2012.

The university has won two NCAA Division I Championships. Fresno State currently sponsors nine men’s and thirteen women’s sports at the varsity level.

The bulldog stadium is the official stadium for the football team, and has a seating capacity of 40,727. The official colors are Cardinal Red and Blue.

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6. San José State University 

Established in 1857, San José State University is the oldest public university on the West Coast and the founding campus of the California State University (CSU) system. 

The university’s sports teams, known as the Spartans, compete in the NCAA Division I FBS Mountain West Conference.

After an 11-2 finish in 2012, the football team achieved its first-ever BCS and first national rankings since 1990. In 2019, the university’s athletic team won 10 NCAA national Division 1 team championships and produced 50 NCAA National Division 1 individual champions.

The Spartan football team had another breakout season in 2020, cracking the AP Poll top-25 for the first time since 2012 and appearing in the College Football Playoff ranking at No. 24.

The team also won its first conference championship title in 1991. The Spartans finished the 2020 season 7-1 and ranked No. 24 in the AP Poll.

Sammy Spartan is the official mascot; the team’s colors are blue and gold.

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7. California State University, Sacramento 

Stringers Up! A phrase used by the Hornets. As a  public university in Sacramento, California, founded in 1947 as Sacramento State College, the university also serves as the eleventh oldest school in the 23-campus California State University system.

Sacramento State sports teams participate in NCAA Division I (FCS for College Football). The official colors are green and gold, its nickname is Hornets, and its mascot is Herky the Hornet.

Additionally, scholarships are offered in all sports. The football and track and field teams compete in Hornet Stadium, baseball at John Smith Field, and the volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, and gymnastics teams call Colberg Court home, in honor of legendary volleyball coach Debby Colberg.

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8. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Informally called Cal Poly, it is a public university in San Luis Obispo, California. Established on March 8, 1908, it is the first of three polytechnics in the California State University system.

The university’s academic focus is on combining technical and professional curriculums with the arts and humanities. Most of the university’s athletic teams participate in the Big West Conference.

Before joining Division I in 1994, the school won 35 NCAA Division II national team championships and competed in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). 

Cal Poly has two mascots. The character represented in costume or cartoon is named Musty the Mustang. The live mascot, a living mustang, is named Chase, after Margaret Chase, the university’s second president.

The Battle for the Golden Horseshoe is an annual rivalry college football game played between the UC Davis Aggies and the Cal Poly Mustangs. Cal Poly has The Mustang

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9. University of Redlands 

The University of Redlands is a private university established in 1907 and located in Redlands, California. 

Redlands University, represented by the Bulldogs, competes in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), which operates within NCAA Division III. Redlands was one of the founding members of the SCIAC in 1915 and is one of only two schools with continuous membership.

Bulldog Athletics aims to provide student-athletes with an opportunity to compete successfully in an intercollegiate athletic program that is an integral part of their educational experience.

In addition to numerous championships, 70 percent of the university’s varsity teams have ranked in the top 25 nationally in NCAA Division III and SCIAC since 2009.

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10. Mt. San Antonio College

Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) is a public community college in Walnut, California. It offers more than 260 degree and certificate programs, 25 support programs, and more than 50 student clubs and athletic programs, including counseling and tutoring.

The Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) Athletics Program teams, known as the “Mounties”, have captured a total of 76 California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) state championships, with 49 titles coming since 2000

Notable alumni of the college include 

Brett Tomko, former MLB player

Alfonso Boone, former NFL player

Sammie Burroughs, former NFL player

and Anthony Calvillo, a Canadian Football League player. 

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What are the Division 1 (d1) Football Colleges in California?

As the highest division in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, California has about 24 d1 football colleges.

Here’s a list of some of the D1 football colleges in California.

California Baptist University

  • Location: Riverside
  • Team: California Baptist Lancers
  • Conference: WAC

California Polytechnic State University 

  • Location: San Luis Obispo
  • Team: Cal Poly Mustang
  • Conference: Big West

University of California, Berkeley

  • Location: Berkeley
  • Team: California Golden Bears
  • Conference: Pac-12

California State University, Sacramento

  • Location: Sacramento
  • Team: Sacramento State Hornets
  • Conference: Big Sky

San Diego University

  • Location: San Diego
  • Team: San Diego State Aztecs
  • Conference: Mountain West

Stanford University

  • Location: Stanford
  • Team: Stanford Cardinal
  • Conference: Pac- 12

 University of California, Los Angeles

  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Team: UCLA Bruins
  • Conference: Pac-12

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What are the Division 2 (d2) Football Colleges in California?

There are a significant number of Division 2 football colleges in California, 23 to be precise. As the intermediate-level National Collegiate Athletic Association, the D2 football colleges also offer scholarships to its student-athletes

Alphabetically arranged, here’s a list of some of the d2 football colleges in California.

  • Academy of Art University 
  • Azusa Pacific University
  • Biola University 
  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • California Baptist University
  • California State University, Monterey Bay
  • California State University, Chico
  • California State University, Dominguez Hills
  • California State University, East Bay
  • California State University, Los Angeles
  • California State University, San Bernardino
  • California State University, Stanislaus

For a comprehensive list, click here

What are the Division 3 (d3) Football Colleges in California?

This is the lowest but largest division in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Although it does not offer scholarships to student-athletes, it provides an avenue for students to nurture their football skills.

Here’s a list of the NCAA D3 football colleges in California.

  • Chapman University
  • University of La Verne
  • Pomona-Pitzer College
  • California Lutheran University
  • Claremont-Mudd Scripps
  • Whittier College
  • Occidental College

For more information, click here

What are the Best Junior Colleges in California for Football?

Other students might find it beneficial to begin their college career at a smaller institution to adjust to college life better.

However, some might be looking for a way to reduce living costs by staying close to home or participating in athletics on a smaller scale. 

A junior college can be the right decision for many students. California offers many junior or community college options, which can be stepping stones to California’s prestigious universities.

Here’s a list of the best junior colleges for football in California

  • Pasadena City College, Pasadena
  • Butte College, Oroville 
  • Orange Coast University, Costa Mesa
  • Fresno City College, Fresno
  • Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara
  • College of the Redwoods, Eureka 
  • Glendale Community College, Glendale
  • Ohlone College, Fremont

Sacramento City College, Sacramento 

  • Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut

Learn more

How to Join a Football Club in California 

There are many ways to get into a professional football club, but what are the most credible ways to do this?

This article will guide on several ways to join a football club in California.

Also Read: 10 Best Football Colleges in Virginia

Attend a Football College

The importance of education cannot be overly emphasized. Be it a junior college or a higher Institute, it is advisable to enroll in one to stand a chance of being noticed by a football club.

You’ll need to have all good grades on your tests, not just your homework to determine how smart you are. Remember that football teams won’t take you in if you fail.

Even football players have to be smart; don’t be deceived by the stereotype that all athletes are ludicrous to deter your efforts. 

Join a local football team

Several local football teams are always looking to hire people. Do not be afraid to take a chance and approach a local team; don’t turn them down if they approach you. 

Opportunities are free, so you might as well take them. It will work out for you in the long run!

For Further reading, click: 10 Best Football Colleges in Georgia

Get the right Football Agent 

A football agent serves as a legal representative for professional athletes and young talents. They process and negotiate employment and endorsement contracts for the athlete they represent.

Football agents also communicate with football team owners, coaches, and managers. 

Attend Open Day Trials

Open day trials allow young players to experience the surroundings of their potential clubs before committing to them.

These open-day trials allow the club to get a good look at their prospective player and all aspects of his/her gameplay over a stipulated time frame.

On your trial, coaches and scouts are not interested in seeing players show off. They want to find players who will work in a team environment and improve the club.

Join a Football Academy 

Football academies are crucial to your journey to being part of a football team in California. These academies h develop young talents by providing professional training, facilities, and experts committed to the individual’s development. 

Football academies help you learn the basic potentials required of a professional football player. Also, most top clubs have their football academies scattered around California.

Some of the best football academies in California include Liverpool Fc International Academy, California Football Academy, and Nike California Soccer Academy.

Also Read: 10 Best Football Colleges in the UK


Every journey towards success starts with a conscious step. We understand the importance of enrolling at a college with a strong football culture and a proper academic curriculum.

This is why we have sourced information on the best football colleges in California in 2022 to meet your requirements. We hope this article helps you make the right choice!

This will also interest you: 10 Best Football Colleges in Texas

Frequently Asked Questions 

At what age do most footballers get scouted?

You can get scouted in football from 7 until 22, and most players get scouted by football academies at 13. There isn’t necessarily a specific age when you’re too old to get scouted.

How many division 3 football colleges are there in California?

There are 23 division 3 football colleges in California.

D2 or D3 football colleges, which is better?

The answer to this depends on what you are looking for when you search for football colleges.

Many talented athletes choose D2 schools for a more well-rounded college experience or for the opportunity to get more playing time or to play all four years.  

While D3, in general, provides a student-athlete with a typical college experience while allowing them to still compete in athletics.

What GPA do you need for junior colleges?

Most Junior colleges require a high school GPA of at least 2.0.


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