D-II coaches upset over playoff idea

Sunday, August 20, 2006
By Howie Beardsley
The Grand Rapids Press

BAY CITY — It is comfortably safe to presume that the football coaches of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference are not strong proponents of the NCAA.

Particularly when it comes to some, but not all, members of the NCAA’s Division II Management Council agreeing to sponsor legislation recommended by a Division II football task force to create two football playoff brackets based on the number of scholarships programs offer.

“I’m against it because we’re trying to make a stronger Division II while having some people go to I-AA,” said Grand Valley State University coach Chuck Martin, whose Lakers have won three of the past four Division II championships, including last season’s title.

“If you’re trying to make the division stronger, how does dividing us make us stronger?”

“Show me a company, like IBM, that says, ‘Hey, we’re going to split, become two companies, and become stronger.’

“Show me a family that got split down the middle that became a stronger family.

“I love Division II, and I want it to be as strong as possible. Splitting the playoffs makes no sense. We have a good thing going, and we should keep it going.”

The idea is to have one Division II football playoff — a 1A postseason, if you will — involving schools who offer zero to the maximum 36 scholarships that are split among their players, and a second playoff — 1B — consisting of programs who field teams with zero to 18 scholarships.

There’s also been discussions to reduce Division II football scholarships at all member institutions.

For the record, it was the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference that initiated talks to split the Division II playoffs. The very same PSAC that used to hold its own in postseason play, and regularly throttled the GLIAC in head-to-head playoff games. Then PSAC officials decided to decrease football scholarships in the name of saving money while the GLIAC began to get stronger.

“I don’t like it at all,” Hillsdale College coach Keith Otterbein said of a possible dual playoff format. “It just muddies the waters. It’s kind of setting limits.

“If you don’t want to spend the money to have 36 full scholarships, and be at the maximum, or close to it, then accept getting your tail whipped. But don’t punish those of us who do have 36 or so fulls.

“You look at Grand Valley, and this conference, and the phenomenal run in the playoffs we’ve had the last 10 years. It’s because we aren’t waiting around for someone else to pull everybody down.”

Saginaw Valley State coach Randy Awrey, who competed in football at Northern Michigan, joined the rest of the league’s coaches at their recent GLIAC media day to show his complete displeasure toward two playoffs.

“I’m a guy who would never have been able to go to college had I not been able to get a partial football scholarship,” Awrey said. “I don’t want to take opportunities away for young men to be able to go to college. And that will happen if schools start limiting scholarships to get into a lower-division playoff, or they force us all to limit scholarships.

“I want to do what’s best for the kids. If you start watering down the playoffs, you’re just making it easier for administrations to justify giving less scholarships to certain schools, and that’s not fair to the kids.”

Ferris State coach Jeff Pierce wants to know what happens if members in certain conferences don’t see eye-to-eye as to which playoff to participate in.

“Will some members want to be in 1-A, and others in 1-B? That all sounds very messy to me,” Pierce said.

According to Wayne State coach Paul Winters, the thought of two playoffs is ludicrous.

“It should be Division II, simple as that,” he said.

“If you’re a Division II team, and you’re good enough, you play in the Division II playoffs. To give a benefit to someone who doesn’t want to give a commitment doesn’t make sense to me.”

Any vote on accepting a dual playoff system won’t be made until at least the 2007 Division II Convention. That’s also plenty of time for the powers-that-be within the division to realize that a split postseason is absurd at best.

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