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Bracket busted

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THOMAS J. MILLER
November 15, 2007
— Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Lance Leipold probably doesn’t have any Burns works on his football office bookshelf, but the UW-Whitewater football coach certainly knows what the 18th-century Scottish poet was talking about.


Prior to last Sunday’s NCAA Division III football playoff pairings, Leipold and his staff were looking to get a jump on planning for the Warhawks’ first-round opponent.


The Warhawks were anticipating a date with St. Norbert College, the Midwest Conference champion, or Concordia as first-round opponents. In past years, the Warhawks had opened against Central (Iowa) College in 2005 and St. Norbert last year.


But the NCAA threw the Warhawks a curveball. UW-Whitewater was given the deserved No. 1 seed, but thrown into a bracket that includes far-away Eastern schools.


First up is Capital University from Columbus, Ohio. The Crusaders (8-2) will be at Perkins Stadium for a noon first-round game Saturday.


“Shocked, surprised are probably two good words,” Leipold said Wednesday while describing the coaching staff’s initial reaction to the playoff brackets.


The 9-1 Warhawks will face a Capital team that has a fast and tough defense. All reports indicate the Warhawks would have had an easier time with most of the teams in the bracket it has played in the past two seasons, with teams from Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.


The NCAA has said it wanted the top four rated teams to have No. 1 seeds.


Mount Union (Ohio) the heavy favorite to win the national title again, Whitewater, Central (Iowa) and Washington & Jefferson are the No. 1 seeds, in order of ranking.


The unexpected decision forced the Warhawk coaching staff to react as if someone had thrown a skunk in the middle of its meeting room.


Leipold said his staff preaches to players that they shouldn’t look ahead and focus on the game at hand.


He admits the Warhawk staff didn’t follow that advice.


“I thought we were locked into a region,” Leipold said. “Then they move you out. What was being put out there (rumors and Internet) wasn’t even close.”


The NCAA does have restrictions on travel distances. Only one plane flight is allowed during the first round, and that is usually reserved for a California representative.


Teams traveling by bus are restricted to a 500-mile radius trip.


According to the Web site mapquest.com, it’s 464 miles from the Capital campus to UW-Whitewater.


Minutes after the brackets came out Sunday morning, Leipold contacted Capital head coach Jim Collins. Each team is required to have tapes of its last three games to exchange with opponents.


After initial discussions, the two broke up their conversion to participate in a NCAA conference call.


After the conference call ended, Leipold and Collins hooked up again and agreed that members of the two coaching stafsf would exchange tapes in West Lafayette, Ind.


“They met at a White Castle,” Leipold said. “They probably downed a couple of sliders and got back in the cars. They were back here at 10:30.”


And that is the way the Warhawks’ week of preparation started.



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