TAG | Millsaps
Christian Bailoni has thrown just five interceptions in seven games. He’ll try to lead Kean past Cortland State on Saturday.
Kean athletics photo
Open the floodgates. After this week, no one can fault you for talking about the playoffs too early. Why’s that? Because, with a win, we might see the first playoff competition officially enter the field.
You’ll have to read below to find out exactly who we’re talking about.
But there is lots more than that to discuss. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps bring you upset picks, teams with losing records that are worth watching and other surprises.
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: No. 20 Illinois Wesleyan at No. 9 North Central. Can the Titans rebound after squandering a lead and losing last week to Wheaton? The fact is, last week’s game against Wheaton was arguably the first real test IWU faced this season – and they slipped up. Meanwhile, North Central has faced and toppled stiffer competition ever since the Week 1 loss against UW-LaCrosse. Both teams are statistically among the absolute best in the nation defensively. It will be interesting to see which team does the best job in motivating the offense to getting in the end zone. Both teams have been adept at not just putting points on the board after reaching the red zone but also actually getting touchdowns. But can IWU still do so without quarterback Rob Gallik? He’s out for the season with an ACL tear, and his backup’s only pass attempt last week resulted in an interception. That puts North Central heavily in control.
Pat’s take: No. 23 Cortland State at Kean. Cortland, which floated below the radar all season after losing at Buffalo State on Sept. 1, announced its return last week with a home win against Rowan. These two teams have taken the past two automatic bids from the league and are both unbeaten in NJAC play coming in. Remember the great game these two played last year? And it means more in Week 9 than it did last year in Week 3. Cortland is rolling up record numbers of points, while Kean has two offensive standouts as well in Darius Kinney and Deandre Fowlkes.
Keith’s take: No. 5 Wesley at No. 16 Huntingdon. Will someone clinch here? Technically, no, but effectively yes. This is a Pool B play-in game, in my opinion, because the Wolverines’ strength of schedule makes it a no-brainer if it finishes its games against D-III teams with just a seven-point loss to No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor. On the flipside, Millsaps might finish with a better record than Huntingdon, but the Hawks’ last game, two weeks ago, was a 45-24 win against Millsaps. QB Neal Posey and RB Trevor Manuel power the high-octane Hawks offense (43.3 points, 444 yards/game) but Wesley’s been quietly good on defense (16 points per game, No. 24 against the pass). Much of the preseason talk about the Wolverines centered on QB Justin Sotillare, but Wesley’s getting contributions up and down the roster, on offense (five players, not including Sotillare, generating at least 53 all-purpose yards per game), defense (LB Sosthene Kaepepula, 9.43 tackles/game) and even special teams (Sean Hopkins, 19 yards per punt return). So many other games this week could fit the G.O.T.W. bill.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Carnegie Mellon at Washington U. You have to go back to 2005 to find a matchup between these two teams that hasn’t been separated essentially by more than a touchdown. Entering this year with inverse 5-2 and 2-5 records, CMU is the clear favorite thanks to a nicely stacked backfield. Yet when the Bears play a good team, it’s amazing how much they step up into the role. Just ask Coe and Wabash. Wash U. may not get the win, but they’ll make it fun to watch.
Pat’s take: Westminster (Pa.) at No. 25 Waynesburg. Shoot, pretty much every Waynesburg game has been close and pretty much every Westminster game has been close as well. I’d actually think about this in the next category down, but Waynesburg has somehow found a way to be resilient.
Keith’s take: FDU-Florham at Misericordia. The first-year Cougars are basically a JV team playing against full-fledged varsity teams, and the results have reflected that. Their closest game was a 55-17 loss to King’s, which is 1-6 and lost, 30-14, to FDU-Florham. I wouldn’t suggest that Misericordia’s going to win, even though the 1-6 Blue Devils have been outscored 128-21 in their past three games and rank 200th or worse in 10 of the main 17 statistics tracked by the NCAA. But that’s just it; knowing they should win going in leaves an opening for the Blue Devils to be lackadaisical even when they should be hungry for a victory, and it might result in the best two or three quarters of Misericordia’s inaugural season before FDU-Florham gets serious and puts the game away.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: None. End of story.
Pat’s take: No. 11 Wabash. I actually think Ryan is on the right track here, but I feel like I should pick someone. (Someone other than the Waynesburg pick I obliquely referenced earlier.) Wabash at least has a decent shot of losing, just because Ohio Wesleyan is playing better than it has in years, but if you look at the Around the Nation column we posted on Thursday, you’ll see the comparative scores don’t favor OWU.
Keith’s take: No. 19 Coe. Way too many great games this week to think the top 25 will get through unscathed. There are three top 25-on-top 25 matchups, and another six games where a top 25 team is playing a five-win team. Maybe they’ll all come through, but the odds aren’t in their favor. Based on common results against Simpson (a 20-19 Wartburg loss, a 47-7 Coe win), one wouldn’t suspect an upset. But the Knights allow just 48 rushing yards per game, while Coe depends on the ground attack for 233 of its 479 yards per game. Plus, an outright conference title and simple Weeks 10 and 11 seems so un-IIAC. Coe would put the league title in the bag with a win, but the IIAC seems like it’s always got a tiebreaker coming into play. I’m betting on that more than I’m betting against the Kohawks.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: Millsaps. The Majors go up against a Trinity team that has been up and down all year – convincing win over Texas Lutheran and narrower one over Birmingham-Southern; yet also big losses against Sul Ross State and Centre. Millsaps, on the other hand, is riding a 6-1 record into the stretch, and still has B-S lying in wait. A playoff spot isn’t out of the question if they can win out.
Pat’s take: Middlebury. This is a team with some talent, especially on offense. You should have read about quarterback McCallum Foote, especially in Kickoff, as well as tight end Billy Chapman in a Team of the Week this year and right tackle Ryan Moores, an NFL prospect. Playing at Trinity (Conn.) is about the biggest challenge you can get in the NESCAC in any given year. While last year the Panthers lost this game 42-7, Foote did not play.
Keith’s take: Heidelberg and Willamette. For simple reasons. The Student Princes have hardly been challenged, and we really have no idea if they’re a team that can give Mount Union a game — with the nation’s No. 11 scoring offense (42 points per game, behind No. 1 UMU’s 55.3), a team that can beat another league champion in the first round of the playoffs, or one that is going to stumble this week and against either John Carroll or Baldwin Wallace and miss the postseason entirely. Until I watch the SportsTime Ohio rebroadcast at 11 p.m. on Saturday night, I still won’t really have any idea how strong this Heidelberg team is. The stats (The Student Princes are the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense, at a little more than eight points per game, behind No. 1 Mount Union, who’s got six straight shutouts) suggest a great game, but also that the OAC has been very poor challengers this season as well. Willamette I’m interested in because the loss to Pacific Lutheran puts a three-way tie on the table in the NWC with a win at No. 3 Linfield, which seems unlikely. The Bearcats also put the NWC’s chances at a second playoff bid, which once seemed strong, in danger with a loss.
Which team with a losing record has the most left to play for?
Ryan’s take: LaGrange. Besides any team with a Week 11 rivalry? (DePauw, Mount St. Joseph, Williams, I’m look at you guys.) Aside from a rivalry game, the other great factor is a conference championship, and LaGrange is actually in the driver’s seat for the USA South’s automatic qualifier. The team’s only conference loss is against Averett, which is at the bottom of the conference and is no threat to compete for the AQ. In their first year in the USAC, the Panthers took down perennial conference power Christopher Newport and now enjoy a 3-1 conference record, despite being just 3-4 overall. Methodist is this week, but it’s Ferrum and a rising Greensboro that will be the biggest challengers to LaGrange.
Pat’s take: Marietta. It is just pride that they’re playing for, but this is one of those times where a team should really look further down the schedule. Baldwin Wallace and Otterbein come up next, but the season-ending game against Muskingum is where Marietta needs to peak. The Pioneers haven’t gone winless since 1991, and this young team needs to pull together with its eyes on avoiding that.
Keith’s take: St. John’s. You’ve got to dig through the record book to find the last .500 (4-4-1, 1986) or sub-.500 (3-5, 1967) team coached by John Gagliardi. You don’t become the all-time winningest coach (487) or program (.705 winning percentage, per a claim on the Johnnies’ website) by having many of those. At 3-4 currently, coming off a bye since a win that followed a four-game losing streak, the Johnnies finish their home slate with Gustavus Adolphus, before playing at Hamline and at Bethel to end the season. Given that the final two weeks are probably a win and a loss, this week marks the difference between 5-5 and 4-6. Below .500, or the lack of a strong three-week finish, could make the calls for Gagliardi to finally retire grow louder. I’ve never heard John say anything that would suggest he would ever hang them up without being forced to, but I’m not sure how much he calls his own shot in that regard. Winning couldn’t hurt, and so the Johnnies, who have scored 21 or more in all but one game this year, welcome Gustavus, who averages less than 20, to town for a clash, to, oh, preserve the Johnnie legacy, keep its legendary coach in place and simply win.
Which “state of mind” are you drawn to?
Ryan’s take: Cortland State. The Red Dragons will clinch a playoff berth with a win over Kean this week. How can we not be drawn to that? But, since I’m the first of our trio to make his Triple Take picks, it’s possible one of my colleagues will have already mentioned Cortland higher up. Sooooooo, Castleton State, which lines up against a Gallaudet squad that’s playing better than ever, is also a good one to watch.
Pat’s take: Illinois College. This week’s game at Monmouth should be interesting, because Michael Bates hasn’t come back since the game in which he got injured against Lake Forest. I’d really like to talk about the state of Defiance, but I don’t see them beating Franklin.
Keith’s take: Framingham and Bridgewater States. The Rams (No. 4 total defense nationally) have a lower yards-per-play (3.3) than anybody but Mount Union (2.12) and have won seven in a row since a seven-turnover opening-week debacle against Endicott in which the Gulls returned two interceptions for scores. Coast Guard, a surprising 4-3, hosts Framingham State, while Bridgewater State (No. 9 total defense nationally) hosts punchless Maine Maritime (0-7) hoping for a stumble and a chance to sneak back into the Bogan Division race. The Bears only loss came 16-0 at home against the Rams, so they’d be pulling for Worcester State (5-3) the following week if Framingham State does stumble. The Rams’ name to know is Melikke van Alstyne, a running back rushing for 148 yards per game.
Which game are you surprised means as much as it does at this point in the season?
Ryan’s take: Guilford at Hampden-Sydney. With Guilford having swept through Bridgewater and Randolph-Macon over the past two weeks, the team that was 2-8 last season could put themselves in prime position with a win over Hampden-Sydney this week. H-SC may be slightly down compared with recent year, but I emphasize “slightly.” The Tigers are still going to take advantage of opponent miscues as well as come up with creative play-calling. The Quakers probably won’t emerge from this with a win, but just the fact that they’re in a position to compete for the ODAC title in Week 9, that’s an impressive stride over their recent seasons.
Pat’s take: No. 17 Heidelberg at No. 1 Mount Union. And this is not just because the two teams are unbeaten, although that’s obviously a big part of it. This is also bigger than expected because neither team has particularly been challenged this season, because Ohio Northern is unexpectedly 2-5 and Capital has struggled. (By the way, on the opposite side, surprised that Concordia-Chicago at Benedictine doesn’t have more riding on it. Would not have expected Benedictine to be 1-3 in the league.)
Keith’s take: No. 11 Wabash at Ohio Wesleyan. Let’s be real. There are probably some team Moms, videographers and backup linemen that didn’t expect a 7-0 start for the Battling Bishops, who haven’t finished above .500 since 2005. The national praise has been slow to come because of Ohio Wesleyan’s competition; If we’re all waiting for them to beat a serious opponent, they don’t come much more serious than the Little Giants. Defensive linemen James Huddleston and Johnathan Valentine have propelled OWU to the top of D-III in sacks this season, Miles McKenzie leads the nation in field goals and QB Mason Espinosa is top 15 in passing. If OWU pulls off the upset, it’s not only in the driver’s seat for the NCAC automatic bid with two games to go, it makes Coach Tom Watts a favorite for the North Region coach of the year and puts the 2002 Hanover graduate on the short list of young D-III coaches on the rise.
When Williams and Trinity (Conn.) meet, usually the game has NESCAC title implications, even though it’s always the second game of their season.
Williams athletics photo
Some weeks, our perceptions are shaken; other times, they’re only slightly stirred.
This year, we’ve seen Top 10 teams fall, and many others earn just the narrowest of wins. But that’s not an indictment on the higher-polled team. Rather, it’s a testament to the underdogs’ “leave it all on the field” mentality — that which pushes them forward even when the odds are stacked against them. Isn’t that the heart of competition? Isn’t that the reason the players play and fans cheer on Saturdays? Isn’t that why we love football?
And the best part is that any team, from any conference, can bounce back the following week. Some teams play with the goal of the postseason, but many others play for pride or simply to do better than the year before. Ask undefeateds Ohio Wesleyan and Salve Regina and Whitworth if this was the kind of season they realistically saw ahead of them. Conversely, ask McDaniel, DePauw and St. Vincent if they expected to still be on the hunt for win No. 1 at this point in the year.
There is still lots of time left on the field for teams to reach their goals. Pat Coleman, Keith McMillan and Ryan Tipps will walk you through their own unique views of the weekend at hand.
– Ryan Tipps
Game of the week.
Ryan’s take: Carnegie Mellon at No. 17 Wabash. The Little Giants experienced a fall from grace last week after a surprising loss against Allegheny. Can Wabash rebound in front of its home crowd? Carnegie, which sits undefeated, will provide a much tougher matchup than the Gators were for Wabash, which should give Wabash pause. CMU quarterback Rob Kalkstein leads the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown for more than 1,000 yards in just four games. The Little Giant secondary will have to be on its toes, and the defense will need to showcase its ability to force turnovers.
Pat’s take: No. 4 UW-Whitewater at No. 13 UW-Platteville. At least it better be, since it’s nearly a five-hour drive each way for me. The Warhawks’ struggles on offense were somewhat put behind them last week in a 34-7 win against UW-Stevens Point, putting together three long scoring drives though Lee Brekke was just 12-for-30 passing. Now, UW-Platteville, on the other hand, has averaged more than 53 points against overmatched competition, including a 49-19 win against UW-Eau Claire. If John Kelly can have anywhere near the kind of success against UW-Whitewater as he did against Eau Claire, the Whitewater I saw the first two weeks is going to have a hard time keeping up. The Warhawks may need to make some significant changes on offense.
Keith’s take: Trinity (Conn). at Williams. There’s nothing on the line here but Saturday night pride, and perhaps a shot at the NESCAC title in November. And that’s what makes it so appealing — that and a couple of very good defenses. With no playoffs and little top 25 recognition because they don’t accept bids and start so long after everyone else (it’s NESCAC Week 2), there are but a few opportunities for the spotlight games that bring out the best. The Bantams allowed 120 yards in Week 1, making theirs the nation’s No. 1 defense. The Ephs weren’t far behind, with 149 yards and a No. 3 national ranking. It’s not uncommon for NESCAC teams to rank that high, espscially after one game — Amherst is fifth — but it could make points hard to come by. Williams QB Adam Marske was 22 of 27 for 277 yards in a 41-7 win over Colby. Trinity got 146 yards from RB Evan Bunker in the opener. These two teams, plus Amherst, are your main title contenders here, and someone is going to get eliminated on Saturday. Honorable mention, Elmhurst at No. 11 North Central (see below) and No. 2 UMHB at Sul Ross State.
Surprisingly close game.
Ryan’s take: Spingfield at Union. Averaging nearly 375 yards a game on the ground, Springfield has rightly earned respect for its ground game. But 1-3 Union has been able to limit its opposition to less than half that per outing, and the Dutchmen’s opposition has been more consistently challenging than that of the Pride, which carries a 3-1 record into its second week of conference play.
Pat’s take: No. 10 Bethel at Augsburg. If you didn’t hear me on the Around the Nation podcast this past week, Augsburg quarterback Ayrton Scott intrigues me. He’s a speedy and shifty runner — my only question is whether that’s going to be enough against Bethel, which will feature a much better defense than Hamline did last week. First-year starting quarterback Erik Peterson has completed 74 percent of his passes and throws for an average of 225 yards per game, but Buena Vista and Carleton haven’t provided much competition either.
Keith’s take: Juniata at Johns Hopkins. I’m going way out on a limb in this one, but the Eagles deserve a little notice. They’re predictably 1-3, aren’t outstanding at any one thing and have the recent history that would make Blue Jays players take them lightly. But Juniata lost by just a touchdown to Dickinson and Franklin & Marshall, and led Gettysburg early in a 28-7 loss. With the right combination of Johns Hopkins apathy and continued improved play by the Eagles, including sophomore QB Ward Udinski,who had 371 yards of total offense against Dickinson, this could be a close game into the second half.
Most likely Top 25 team to get upset.
Ryan’s take: No. 15 Baldwin Wallace. I’ve been high on the Yellow Jackets since the beginning of last year, thinking they’ve been on the cusp of some really great things. A low-scoring overtime win against Muskingum last week, though, has my faith in BW rattled. Opponent Otterbein has yet to earn a blemish this season, but the Cardinals are saddled with a litany of ifs and buts. The Yellow Jackets need to find their momentum soon if they want to be playing deep into November.
Pat’s take: No. 14 Illinois Wesleyan. Going out on a limb here because I don’t think Millikin is actually quite ready to do so this year. I might come back to this in 2013 when it makes more sense, but this is my super upset special for the week.
Keith’s take: No. 11 North Central. I might as well hop all the way on the Elmhurst bandwagon. With the nation’s No. 2 rusher (Scottie Williams, 193 yards per game), No. 2 turnover margin (plus nine) and No. 3 scoring defense (Loras and Chicago were shut out, Trine scored 13), there’s a lot to like. But the Cardinals are at home, and have played a power schedule in the first few weeks. They’ll be ready for Elmhurst. The question is whether the Bluejays redefine the CCIW narrative, or stick to the script.
They’ll be on your radar.
Ryan’s take: No. 18 Widener. I can’t help but think to a game earlier this year, where Wartburg thumped an opponent 73-0. The following week, the Knights failed to score even once against a tougher competition. Coming off a 90-0 win, Widener reminds me of that. The Pride won’t be able to steamroll Lebanon Valley (3-1) the way they have their previous opponents, but a win should help validate Widener’s ranking.
Pat’s take: Lebanon Valley. Sorry, Ryan, I’m going in the opposite direction. A win would definitely validate Widener’s ranking, though, that’s true. Lebanon Valley will be a much tougher opponent than anyone Widener has faced (Widener’s first four opponents are currently 2-12). Lebanon Valley has pulled itself out of the doldrums it was in a decade ago and is now a contender for the conference crown. A win here would secure that.
Keith’s tak: Rhodes. The Lynx have more than just one of D-III’s coolest mascot names. They’ve got wins over Wash. U. and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, and a very respectable 16-2 loss to nationally ranked Birmingham-Southern. Their next three games are on the road, but Macalester and Austin could be easy wins nonetheless. This week at Trinity (Texas), a team coming off consecutive humbling weeks, is the one time before late October we get to see if Rhodes is for real, or just had a fortunate first few games.
Which undefeated team is going to pick up its first loss?
Ryan’s take: Millikin. It’s very possible that the CCIW, which currently has three undefeated teams, will have just one left after the weekend is over. Millikin lines up against Illinois Wesleyan, neither of which have a blemish on their 2012 record. But I like the Titans for this because I like what they bring to the table defensively: seventh in the nation in total defense, allowing just 65 and 135 yards from rushing and passing, respectively. Illinois Wesleyan should be riding high going into the second half of its season, and that moment starts with Millikin.
Pat’s take: Millsaps. I like what Millsaps has done so far this season, don’t get me wrong. But I think the top of this five-team SAA is going to be pretty competitive and all three will take a loss at some point, perhaps two.
Keith’s take: Ithaca. The Bombers put their 229-yard a game defense against Utica’s 459-yard-per-game attack. Andrew Benkwitt is completing six passes per game to Jeremy Meier, and more than three each to Paul Smith, Matt Dunn and Jamie Murphy. As good as the Bombers have been statistically, not many teams have the personnel the Pioneers land.
Team most likely to salvage a bad season.
Ryan’s take: LaGrange. An 0-3 start is not what the Panthers were hoping for, but the USA South slate should be much more favorable than the nonconference opposition, which has combined to go 10-1 this year. Don’t count LaGrange out for a .500 season just yet, and this week against N.C. Wesleyan will be a good tell as to where they could end up.
Pat’s take: DePauw. And there is a lot of salvaging to do for this reeling program. But scoring 28 against Carnegie Mellon is a nice start, and Wash U, which travels to Greencastle, Ind., doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower of the Tartans.
Keith’s take: Redlands. As a playoff team last season, the Bulldogs didn’t expect an 0-2 start. But what’s done is done. The SCIAC slate opens against an Occidental program that’s fallen on hard times, with the 233rd-ranked turnover margin and just 12 points scored. Time for QB Will King, who didn’t start in the opener, to impress.
Which predator is ready to feast on the opposition?
Ryan’s take: The Panthers of Chapman. Chapman will be squaring off against Whittier, and both carry a 1-1 record into the matchup. On the surface, they pair quite well: Both have had high scoring wins against Puget Sound, both had narrow losses to Whitworth and both have pretty impressive statistical rankings because of these games. But Chapman brings a run game that is going to grind the ball and be too much for the Poets to contain.
Pat’s take: The Pirates of Whitworth. I was taught in my high school bio class that humans were the top predator on the planet. Who’s with me? Whitworth has gone 4-0 so far without facing a program really capable of putting up a challenge, and unfortunately, I don’t think Pacific is there either.
Keith’s take: The Lobos of Sul Ross State. They might not beat the No. 2 team in the country, but you can bet A.J. Springer’s gang is going to sling it around, making UMHB’s defense work for its stops. Springer is fifth nationally in passing efficiency and has already thrown 14 touchdown passes
Augsburg · Baldwin-Wallace · Bethel · Carnegie Mellon · Centre · Chapman · DePauw · Illinois Wesleyan · Ithaca · Johns Hopkins · Juniata · LaGrange · Lebanon Valley · Mary Hardin-Baylor · Millikin · Millsaps · North Central (Ill.) · Pacific · Redlands · Rhodes · Spingfield · Sul Ross State · Trinity (Conn.) · Union · Utica · UW-Platteville · UW-Whitewater · Wabash · Washington U. · Whittier · Whitworth · Widener · Williams
Chris Denton was the Purple Raiders’ top receiver and returned two punts for touchdowns.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com
It was a long, strange trip. But when you see four games, you are bound to see a good one, and that’s what happened when Pat Coleman (and his 10-year-old son) drove into Galesburg, Ill., where Eureka quarterback Sam Durley was about to have the game of his life.
You see, you never know what you’re going to get when you roll into town for a game in Division III. There are so many schools and rivalries and storylines that you could end up seeing something truly memorable, like a last-second win, a surprise upset or a great individual performance.
Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan discuss in this week’s Around the Nation podcast.
Plus, they talk about the teams who got their 2012 off to a good start by ending long losing streaks, look at UW-Whitewater’s opening game, as well as Mount Union’s, and the surprises put up by North Carolina Wesleyan, Buffalo State, Rowan, Norwich, Willamette … as was said, a very interesting week.
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Plus, here’s this week’s D3football.com reports.
Becker · Benedictine · Buffalo State · Capital · Cortland State · Empire 8 · Eureka · Hardin-Simmons · John Carroll · Juniata · Knox · MacMurray · Millsaps · Mississippi College · Montclair State · Mount Union · NJAC · North Carolina Wesleyan · North Central (Ill.) · Norwich · Ohio Northern · St. Norbert · UW-La Crosse · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Whitewater · Wartburg · Washington U. · Western New England · Wheaton (Ill.) · Willamette · Wittenberg
Redlands quarterback Chad Hurst led four second-half scoring drives in the Bulldogs’ win.
The opening weekend of the season is exciting enough without all these hear-stopping finishes we had. North Central … Otterbein … Delaware Valley … Mississippi College … Bridgewater … Illinois College. Plus a big Top 25 matchup and much more to talk about.
The Around the Nation Podcast is a weekly discussion between D3football.com Executive Editor Pat Coleman and Deputy Managing Editor Keith McMillan, who writes the Around the Nation column. It’s the first analysis of the week that was. The show tends to run anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes per week — fit it into your lunch hour.
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Alma · Bethany · Bridgewater (Va.) · Central · Coe · Cornell · Delaware Valley · Endicott · Framingham State · Frostburg State · Gallaudet · Geneva · Guilford · Hardin-Simmons · Heidelberg · Illinois College · Lycoming · McMurry · Millikin · Millsaps · Mississippi College · Monmouth · Muhlenberg · North Central · Olivet · Otterbein · podcast · Redlands · Rowan · Salve Regina · Shenandoah · St. Thomas · St. Vincent · Stevenson · Trine · Union · UW-La Crosse · UW-Oshkosh · UW-Stevens Point · UW-Whitewater · Wartburg · Willamette
Trinity athletics photo
As a football conference in the Division III model, the SCAC never made sense. The geographic footprint, from Colorado to Indiana to Alabama to Texas, created a demand on travel costs that small-college budgets usually find unnecessary.
Colorado College realized this and abruptly dropped football after the 2008 season. But they weren’t the only outlier. Rose-Hulman left after the 2006 season to join the HCAC, which is Indiana and Ohio-based. DePauw, finding a group of schools with similar academic cache in closer proximity, decided this year to join Indiana rival Wabash in the NCAC, beginning in 2012.
That left seven football members behind in the SCAC, enough to maintain its automatic bid to the 32-team playoff field. Schools from coast to coast – LaGrange, Cornell and Chapman – announced new conference affiliations this offseason. But nothing shakes up the national picture like seven schools withdrawing from a 12-school conference; of the seven football-playing members, five are forming a new conference that will require less travel but would need to add two football programs and then wait two years to get an automatic bid. Trinity and Austin retain the SCAC name and history but need five football-playing members — and two “core” members in all sports — to keep their AQ.
Who exactly might those be? What ripple effects can Division III expect?
With the remaining SCAC schools mostly Texas-based, this would seem to be a ripe opportunity for any school in the ASC that feels it either isn’t competitive or wants to align itself with Trinity and Austin (which left the ASC and took Rose-Hulman’s place in the SCAC) to make the leap. Texas Lutheran comes to mind, while Howard Payne and East Texas Baptist wouldn’t be total shocks.
It also means any NAIA school, particularly those in the Mid-South Conference and perhaps the KCAC, which eyes the NCAA’s financial stability has its opening. There are also four NAIA schools in Oklahoma, two independents in Florida and another independent, Southern Virginia, which has expressed interest in moving to Division III. Those schools might not all fit in the SCAC, but might come into play if teams begin shuffling their affiliations.
Then of course, there’s the obvious: Huntingdon, one of the last football independents in D-III, has eagerly sought out a conference. The Hawks joined the SLIAC for one season, then the conference dropped football. The SCAC-7 (those schools that just broke off from the SCAC) appear to have not been interested in the Hawks, but the SCAC-5 might take them out of necessity. They’d be a core member.
That’s an example of the tough spot the SCAC is in. With 50 years of history and a reputation for academic prestige, the conference – whose commissioner of 16 years, Dwyane Hanberry, is staying on – would probably like to maintain how it is perceived. We might hear a lot of talk about being “excited for the future” or schools that “fit the SCAC profile,” but from an outsider’s view, it’s hard to see how the SCAC-5 isn’t desperate.
The SCAC-5, remember, has just two football schools. Colorado College recently dropped the sport, and Southwestern and U. of Dallas don’t seem to be on track to add it. Huntingdon would be a third. If the SCAC stole more than two from the nine-member ASC, then that conference’s automatic bid would be in jeopardy.
The odd thing is Division III had narrowed itself down to just three football independents, and only two with scheduling problems. Huntingdon is one. Wesley, which is a competitive fit for the NJAC but as a private school can’t afford to play by that conference’s rules, such as 100-player roster limits, might look to revive talks of football in its all-sports conference, the CAC. The third, Macalester, is independent by choice, having left the MIAC in the early part of the decade. The St. Paul-based school also has 14 potential opponents in Minnesota, plus dozens more nearby in Iowa and Illinois.
A former independent, LaGrange already made its move this offseason, to the USAC, where former football-only affiliate Maryville and non-football Piedmont joined this offseason, All three were members of the GSAC in other sports. Shenandoah announced plans to leave the USAC for the ODAC in all sports –- citing reduced travel as a reason – last fall.
The USAC moves leave few Division III schools in the south looking to move. A GSAC/SCAC-5 merger doesn’t make much sense for football because of the four women’s schools and the distance from Southwest Virginia to Colorado. Rust (Holly Springs, Miss.) is in no shape to add the sport.
The USAC might not have seen its last shuffle either. Averett, N.C. Wesleyan and Christopher Newport could join Wesley in the CAC, which currently doesn’t sponsor football. Salisbury and Frostburg State, which joined the Empire 8 as a football-only affiliates for access to an automatic bid and because Norwich had left the E8 one member short, could come back home and give the CAC six football playing members. Two sources have told D3sports.com that Neumann (Pa.) is considering adding football, which could be a potential seventh, as could Marymount (Va.) if it added the sport. Catholic, a former member of the CAC, competes in the ODAC for football and the non-football Landmark conference for other sports.
So why all the movement?
First, access to automatic bids, especially in sports like football where at-large bids are scarce, is key. But schools prefer being in conferences for ease of scheduling, formation of natural rivalries, an enhanced athletic experience (i.e. all-conference awards, etc.) and association. Schools like being aligned with certain peers, because of the perceptions it creates.
The SCAC certainly did that. But perhaps the main reason Division III schools like their conferences are something the SCAC-5 still doesn’t care about: containing travel costs.
That would open the door for Westminster (Utah), an NAIA member whose name was mentioned in The Colorado Springs Gazette as a potential member. They’d be the third Westminster in D-III, joining the ones in Missouri (UMAC) and Pennsylanvia (PAC).
If Trinity and Austin can’t save the SCAC’s football automatic bid, they might be forced elsewhere to look for affliate membership. Or, they could dangle their bid and entice others – perhaps the four schools in the UAA (Case Western Reserve, Chicago, Carnegie Mellon and Wash U.) could join to create a who-cares-about-travel-costs football league. It certainly would be prestigious, but it would need a seventh member to keep the AQ.
The perfect seventh member, Rochester, figured something out long ago. Flying a football team across the country four or five times a season is cost-prohibitive. The Yellowjackets, a member of the UAA in other sports, are in the New York-based Liberty League for football.
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