TAG | NJAC
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
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.
ASC · Austin · Averett · Berry · Birmingham-Southern · Centenary · Centre · Christopher Newport · East Texas Baptist · Empire 8 · Frostburg State · Hendrix · Howard Payne · Huntingdon · LaGrange · Marymount · Maryville (Tenn.) · Millsaps · Neumann · NJAC · North Carolina Wesleyan · Oglethorpe · Rhodes · Salisbury · SCAC · Sewanee · Texas Lutheran · Trinity (Texas) · USAC · Wesley
Kentel Noel and Christopher Newport still control their own destiny.
CNU photo by Heidi Naylor
So much to talk about this week and we didn’t even get to it all — we try to keep the podcast under an hour and almost did so this week. But not quite.
Let’s run it down for you.
- Six conferences yet to be decided
- Three could end up in three-way tiebreakers
- Pool B took another blow. Who gets those bids?
- Are those new faces or just bad teams in the playoffs?
- How did W&L and Muhlenberg sneak up on everyone?
- Pat and Keith talk about their trips to Wittenberg and Muhlenberg
- Rivalry games still have a lot to play for
That just about covers it. All that and yes, more, in the Around the Nation podcast.
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You can also get this and any of our future Around the Nation podcasts automatically by subscribing to this RSS feed: http://www.d3blogs.com/d3football/?feed=podcast
We’ve had some trouble with the iTunes situation and we keep trying to resolve it. Thanks for your patience.
Albion · Benedictine · Case Western Reserve · Chicago · Christopher Newport · Cortland State · Defiance · DePauw · Endicott · Franklin · Hampden-Sydney · Hanover · HCAC · Maine Maritime · MIAA · Montclair State · Muhlenberg · NCAC · NEFC · NJAC · North Carolina Wesleyan · Rowan · Salisbury · St. Lawrence · SUNY-Maritime · Trine · Ursinus · USAC · Wabash · Wartburg · Washington and Lee · Washington U. · Wesley · Wittenberg · Wooster
Keith and I rank the conferences every summer and they get tweaked after we get through the bulk of non-conference play. We don’t have comments on the Around the Nation page yet (probably a 2009 item) but I thought we’d bring them over here to see what people thought.
1. WISCONSIN INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (WIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 1st of 27
Non-conference record so far: 14-7
Verdict: Still at the top of the heap, given the depth (La Crosse and River Falls have accounted for five of the seven non-conference losses) and caliber of play and players. Whatever Northwestern (Minn.)’s win over River Falls took away in respect, UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh’s wins over top 10 NAIA programs St. Xavier and Ohio Dominican restored.
2. OHIO ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (OAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 2nd
Non-conference record so far: 7-3
Verdict: Heidelberg, Otterbein adding weight to OAC’s usually tough top half, but conference still can’t match the WIAC’s strength from top to bottom.
3. AMERICAN SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE (ASC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 3rd
Non-conference record so far: 8-8
Verdict: Hardin-Simmons’ early resurgence keeps ASC up high, though Mississippi College’s loss to Millsaps was a bad one.
4. COLLEGE CONFERENCE OF ILLINOIS AND WISCONSIN (CCIW)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 5th
Non-conference record so far: 19-5
Verdict: Wheaton, North Central, Elmhurst and Illinois Wesleyan are a combined 12-0 and only 1-2 North Park has a losing record. The Thunder beat Bethel and the Cardinals beat Ohio Northern in the most significant non-conference games.
5. EMPIRE 8 (E8)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 4th
Non-conference record so far: 10-8
Verdict: St. John Fisher’s 33-3 loss to Mount Union of the OAC is the only significant non-conference result, but this is the same conference that sent three teams to the playoffs last season, so it holds its ground for the most part.
6. MINNESOTA INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (MIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 7th
Non-conference record so far: 13-2
Verdict: Only non-conference losses have been to now-ranked teams (Concordia-Moorhead to Willamette, Bethel to Wheaton). Depth, as seven of nine teams are off to winning starts.
7. NORTHWEST CONFERENCE (NWC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 6th
Non-conference record so far: 11-10
Verdict: Championship days of 2004 and 1999 looking more distant, but first automatic playoff bid should keep conference play spirited. In key non-conference matchups, NWC went 1-1 vs. MIAC, 0-2 vs. WIAC and 0-1 vs. ASC. Redlands of the SCIAC also dealt Whitworth a convincing defeat.
8. NEW JERSEY ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (NJAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 8th
Non-conference record so far: 3-4
Verdict: Top team no longer an automatic Stagg Bowl contender, but conference is stronger top to bottom, even with new additions.
9. MIDDLE ATLANTIC CONFERENCE (MAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 15th
Non-conference record so far: 13-11
Verdict: Big move up the rankings is a bit deceiving, since middle group of conferences are very evenly matched. MAC gets the edge by virtue of its record so far, including a 4-2 record vs. the ACFC, including Delaware Valley’s two big wins over then-top-10 Wesley and Salisbury. Six 2-1 teams have helped MAC go 2-2 vs. Centennial. Against the ODAC, USAC and NJAC, the MAC is 2-1 vs. each, plus 1-0 vs. the Liberty League but 0-3 vs. the Empire 8.
10. ATLANTIC CENTRAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE (ACFC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 9th
Non-conference record so far: 6-6
Verdict: ACFC goes as Wesley and Salisbury go, and each has a key MAC win (Widener, Albright) and loss (Del Val).
11. CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE (CC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 11th
Non-conference record so far: 10-8
Verdict: Four of the eight losses are by the bottom two teams, Gettysburg and Juniata. Illustrating the parity among middle conferences, CC is 8-8 combined against the MAC, ODAC and Liberty League.
12. OLD DOMINION ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (ODAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 12th
Non-conference record so far: 14-9
Verdict: Success came early in non-conference schedule, with five wins against the USAC in Week 1. ODAC is 3-2 vs. Centennial, but the CC took the even matchups (Franklin & Marshall 24, Washington & Lee 0; Johns Hopkins 39, Randolph-Macon 31, 3OT).
13. LIBERTY LEAGUE (LL)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 13th
Non-conference record so far: 10-10
Verdict: In the middle of the 27 ranked conferences, LL is .500 against modest competition so far. Hobart’s win over Carnegie Mellon kept the LL in front of the UAA.
14. UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (UAA)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 14th
Non-conference record so far: 8-5
Verdict: Four-team UAA is 5-2 in the first season of its scheduling agreement with the NCAC, with Chicago accounting for both defeats. Washington U.’s 30-27 win against Wittenberg of the NCAC is a significant non-conference win.
15. SOUTHERN COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (SCAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 18th
Non-conference record so far: 9-6
Verdict: Trinity and Millsaps account for three of the wins in a 4-1 mark vs. the ASC, and the ASC teams beaten have a combined 2-10 record. The rest of the SCAC’s non-conference wins have come against teams from the HCAC, SLIAC and outside Division III.
16. IOWA INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (IIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 10th
Non-conference record so far: 6-8
Verdict: Slow start and lack of a dominant top 25 team hurt the IIAC more than any other conference in our re-ranking, but there’s still not much difference in strength among the middle third of Division III conferences. The IIAC could get credit for much of its damage coming against the MIAC (0-4) and CCIW (1-1), but it was only 1-2 against the MWC. The other four wins were against the Northern Athletics Conference, the UMAC and a non-division team.
17. PRESIDENTS’ ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (PAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 17th
Non-conference record so far: 8-10
Verdict: For a nine-team conference, the depth isn’t there in terms of power teams. It’s Washington & Jefferson and the occasional challenge. PAC teams are 0-4 vs. the OAC, 0-2 vs. the CC and 1-1 vs. the ACFC. The wins are against teams from the NCAC, HCAC, UAA plus an independent and a non-Division III.
18. USA SOUTH ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (USAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 16th
Non-conference record so far: 10-12
Verdict: Bulk of where they’re placed is the result of a 5-7 record against ODAC teams. Three wins came against independents or non-Division III teams, while the USAC is 1-2 vs. the MAC and 0-2 vs. the SLIAC.
19. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (SCIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 21st
Non-conference record so far: 8-6
Verdict: A 5-6 mark vs. the NWC is decent, and Redlands has bowled a couple non-conference strikes, against Dubuque of the IIAC (46-9) and Whitworth of the NWC (38-7). But three of the SCIAC’s non-conference wins have come against Lewis & Clark and Principia, who haven’t beaten a Division III team other than each other since 2004.
20. NORTH COAST ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (NCAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 19th
Non-conference record so far: 7-11
Verdict: Beyond the top teams, the strength is questionable, and even the numbers back it up: 2-5 vs. the UAA, 1-3 vs. the PAC. The two wins against the MIAA were Wittenberg beating defending champ Olivet and Denison beating Kalamazoo.
21. MICHIGAN INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (MIAA)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 22nd
Non-conference record so far: 11-16
Verdict: It wasn’t just Trine’s win against HCAC champ Franklin that moved the conference up a spot. MIAA teams are 6-2 against the HCAC this season. They are also 0-7 against the CCIW and winless against the PAC, IIAC, OAC and WIAC.
22. HEARTLAND COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (HCAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 20th
Non-conference record so far: 10-12
Verdict: The rise of Franklin to give Mount St. Joseph a consistent challenger and top 25 threat helped last season, but re-ranking was not as kind. The 2-6 MIAA mark was offset by a 2-1 mark against the OAC, but the overall win total is less impressive than it looks. Its three wins against the NCAC were all against struggling Earlham.
23. MIDWEST CONFERENCE (MWC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 23rd
Non-conference record so far: 5-4
Verdict: Monmouth’s win against Loras of the IIAC was intriguing, but the MWC is judged by its most successful team, St. Norbert. Wartburg defeated the Green Knights 44-20 in the MWC’s most significant chance to make a move upward.
24. NEW ENGLAND FOOTBALL CONFERENCE (NEFC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 24th
Non-conference record so far: 0-6
Verdict: The good vibes from Curry’s playoff win against the Empire 8 champion last season can only go so far; One of the other 15 teams must win a non-conference game at some point, although chances are few.
25. UPPER MIDWEST ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (UMAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 27th
Non-conference record so far: 7-6
Verdict: Down to five teams, including brand new St. Scholastica, Northwestern (Minn.)’s defeat of UW-River Falls of the WIAC is alone enough for a bump up a couple notches.
26. ST. LOUIS INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (SLIAC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 26th
Non-conference record so far: 8-13
Verdict: The addition of former independents LaGrange and Huntingdon give conference travel budgets a boost, but it’s done the same for the SLIAC’s profile in its first season back on the football field since 1999. The other six teams, however, are just 4-12 in non-conference action.
27. NORTHERN ATHLETICS CONFERENCE (NATHC)
Kickoff ’08 ranking: 25th
Non-conference record so far: 4-20
Verdict: With five teams at 0-3 and only 2-1 Aurora with a winning record, this new mix of former Illini-Badger Football Conference, UMAC and MIAA teams has a long way to climb.