No Need to Wait for Bowl Season…the Playoffs are Here

Walston-Hoover Stadium will be a busy place as Wartburg hosts Bethel in the 1st round of the Division III playoffs on Saturday.

As the majority of the nation continues to be enthralled by the drama that is the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), the issue of whether Cam Newton of Auburn should be playing, and whether Boise State or TCU will play for a national title, something out of the ordinary is starting this weekend.

It’s called the playoffs.

Teams in Division II, Division III, and NAIA begin their journey for a national title on Saturday.  I know that Iowa and Iowa State fans (and bandwagon apologists) don’t care much about the small colleges, but if you ever want to make a case for a playoff system without the crookedness of SEC, college presidents waffling, and coaches whining about their team not going to a bowl game, you may want to consider watching a playoff game.

Missy Butry, 3-time National XC individual champion ('02-'04), from Wartburg.

As one of the unapologetic homers for Wartburg College, the Knights are hosting the Bethel Royals at 1:00 pm in Waverly.  However, the football game isn’t the only big event on campus on Saturday morning.  Wartburg is hosting the Division III Cross-Country Championships at the Herbert Max XC Course.  The Wartburg women are in competition to win the title at home.

One would assume that a large university would be able to pull off running and handling three major sporting events on one campus.  The testament to Wartburg and the Iowa Conference is that all of its member schools are not only capable of doing it, but they do it with flying colors.

Coe travels to Wheaton on Saturday. (Becky Malewitz/ SourceMedia Group News)

Another IIAC rival, the Coe Kohawks, travel to Wheaton, Illinois to face the Wheaton Thunder.  Wheaton’s famous alumni include film director Wes Craven and evangelist Billy Graham.

Mt. Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater will be the prohibitive favorites to win the D-III title once again.

UMD coach and former Knight Bob Nielson. Could he be a candidate for the Minnesota Golden Gophers job?

In Division II, Grand Valley State, Minnesota-Duluth, and NW Missouri State are among the favorites to win the title in Florence, Alabama on December 18th.  In the case of the GVSU Lakers and the Duluth Bulldogs, there are ties to Wartburg as well.  Four members of the Grand Valley St. staff either played or coached at Wartburg.

Grand Valley St. was also where current Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly cut his teeth at by winning a national title at the campus in Allendale, Michigan.

The Bulldogs of UMD is coached by Bob Nielson, the former Wartburg quarterback, coach and AD of the Knights.  Nielson is also the AD up there and has another great squad led by QB Issac Odom.

This is off-topic, but if the Golden Gophers were smart (pending if they get a new prez and hopefully a new A.D.) they would at least call Nielson about being their new coach.  The guy is a winner everywhere he goes and he’s one of the brightest and smartest coaches no one knows about outside of Division II and III.

Morningside hosts Dickinson State in a 1st round NAIA playoff game. (Sioux City Journal)

The Morningside Mustangs host Dickinson State in Sioux City to open the first round of the NAIA playoffs.  The Mustangs, known as the Chiefs back in the day, has become one of the best teams in NAIA.  That is a far cry from their days in Division II and the old defunct North Central Conference, where they languished in the cellar in most years.

Division I and their fans can continue to debate about how to determine a national champion in football.  In the smaller divisions and NAIA, the polls are trumped by a series of games at the end of the regular season that determines one champion, without a debate or doubt.

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