The 1987 NCAA Division I-AA football season, part of college football in the United States organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association at the Division I-AA level, began in August 1987, and concluded with the 1987 NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship Game on December 19, 1987, at the Minidome in Pocatello, Idaho. The Northeast Louisiana Indians won their first I-AA championship, defeating the Marshall Thundering Herd by a score of 43–42.
Four teams were seeded in the 16-team bracket; Appalachian State, Northeast Louisiana, Northern Iowa, and Idaho, who were seeded first through fourth, respectively. Undefeated and top-ranked Holy Cross, featuring Heisman Trophy candidate Gordie Lockbaum, did not participate in the postseason, per the rules of their conference, the Colonial League (known as the Patriot League since 1990).
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) conference champion Howard Bison, who finished their regular season with a 9–1 record but did not receive an invitation to the I-AA playoffs, filed a lawsuit against the NCAA and sought a temporary restraining order to delay the start of the playoffs. The lawsuit asserted "unlawful and racially motivated reasons" for the team being passed over. Two days later, the request for a temporary restraining order was rejected by United States federal judge John Garrett Penn. Howard then advocated that they, plus three other teams, should be added to the second round of the playoffs; the proposal was rejected by the NCAA, who said that Howard had played a weak schedule. In September 1989, MEAC stripped Howard of their 1987 conference championship, retroactively awarding it to Delaware State, after finding that Howard had used some players beyond their four years of NCAA eligibility.
NCAA Division I-AA playoff bracket
|First round||Quarterfinals||Semifinals||National Championship Game|
|November 28 – Boone, NC|
|December 5 – Boone, NC|
|November 28 – Statesboro, GA|
|December 12 – Boone, NC|
|November 28 – Moscow, ID|
|December 5 – Huntington, WV|
|November 28 – Huntington, WV|
|December 19 – Pocatello, ID|
|November 28 – Monroe, LA|
|North Texas State||9|
|December 5 – Monroe, LA|
|November 28 – Richmond, KY|
|December 12 – Monroe, LA|
|November 28 – Cedar Falls, IA|
|December 5 – Cedar Falls, IA|
|November 28 – Jackson, MS|
* Next to team name denotes host institution
* Next to score denotes overtime periods