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HAAC, KCAC agree on football schedule deal

Thursday, July 14, 2011

To open the coming season, the Vikings will play a KCAC member for the first time since senior wideout Eric Brown (8) caught eight passes for 136 yards to lead them to a 34-21 victory at Friends (Kan.) in the first round of the 2007 NAIA Championship Series.
(Chris Allen/Democrat-News)
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Although geography suggests football programs from the Heart of America Conference and Kansas Collegiate Athletic conference should be natural rivals, seldom do teams from those leagues meet during the regular season.

That will change starting in the 2013 season.

In what is being billed as a "landmark agreement," the two NAIA conferences will pair teams based on previous seasons' standings for regular season schedules.

"We are pleased with the fine work done by the coaches of both conferences in the development of this historic agreement," commissioners Larry Lady of the HAAC and Dr. Scott Crawford of the KCAC said in a joint statement.

The only interleague meeting last year occurred in the season-opening Victory Sports Network "First Down Classic" on Aug. 28, when HAAC member Baker defeated visiting Ottawa (Kan.) of the KCAC, 24-14.

The opportunity to cut this deal resulted from the down-sizing of the Heart of America Conference to 10 teams. Lindenwood and charter member William Jewell both left the league to join NCAA Division II, with Peru State (Neb.) joining.

Although HAAC teams were still allowed to schedule a non-conference game during a "bye" week, not all did so. With more chances to play the 10-member KCAC, it should easier to keep regular season schedules at 10 or 11 games.

"Most importantly, this opens up an opportunity for the HAAC and the KCAC to play schools that are close geographically," noted veteran Benedictine head coach Larry Wilcox, entering his 33rd season at the helm. "It also opens for all schools the chance to play schools that are like in size and like in nature, and could create some new rivalries for both conference."

Some member institutions didn't wait for a formal accord to begin pairing up. There are four match-ups on the 2011 schedule, starting with a rematch between Ottawa and Baker in the First Down Classic on Aug. 27.

Missouri Valley also availed itself of the proximity of the KCAC to set up a contest to open the season Sept. 3 at Gregg-Mitchell Field against defending champion MacPherson (10-1, 9-0 KCAC), which was beaten in the first round of the 2010 NAIA playoffs by McKendree (Ill.), 38-14.

"We are very excited about the possibility of playing non-conference games, and the KCAC is a natural fit," said MVC head coach Paul Troth, whose Vikings are coming off an 8-2 campaign and third-place finish in the HAAC -- missing the playoffs for the second time in five seasons.

Valley will also begin its 2012 season against MacPherson on the Bulldogs' turf.

The last time the Vikings played against a KCAC member was in the first round of the 2007 NAIA Championship Series, rolling to a 34-21 win at Friends in Wichita, Kan., en route to their second straight appearance in the semifinal round -- an 11-10 loss at top-ranked Sioux Falls (S.D.).

Valley hasn't played a regular season non-conference game since Sept. 17, 2005, when it hosted Lambuth (Tenn.) -- where Troth had served as an assistant to legendary coach Vic Wallace several years earlier -- for a 32-12 decision.

"This is a great opportunity for two highly competitive conferences to come together and build an annual rivalry," noted former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Jonathan Quinn, head coach at 2010 HAAC champion MidAmerica Nazarene. "It should be fun for the teams as well as the fans, especially with the proximity of the schools involved."

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