Janesville55.7°

Warhawks’ No. 2 seed simply wrong

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THOMAS J. MILLER
November 18, 2010

At worst, it was corrupt. At best, it was idiotic.


However a group of NCAA Division III officials came to award UW-Whitewater’s football team with a No. 2 seed in its region—effectively the No. 5 seed overall in the 32-team, four-region tournament—the decision was wrong.


The committee had to consider geography—you can’t send teams criss-crossing the country—and strength of schedule to determine the seedings.


Wesley earned the No. 1 overall seed. Let’s see, ah yes, Wesley. In 2005, Whitewater defeated Wesley, 58-6, in the national semifinals. In 2006, Whitewater beat Wesley, 44-7, in the national semifinals.


This is 2010, but do programs change that much?


If the seeds hold true, Whitewater will have to travel to Naperville, Ill., to play North Central in the quarterfinals, and to Dover, Del., to play Wesley in the national semifinals.


Whitewater wouldn’t lose revenue by not being at home for those two playoff games. Where the seeding could hurt financially is a plane trip to Delaware. The NCAA pays for only a 62-member traveling party (52 players and 10 coaching staff members).


The Warhawk traveling party usually is 75, with athletic trainers and administrative staff, according to athletic director Paul Plinske. That added expense would have to be raised by fundraising.


A playoff system should award the best teams all available advantages, topped by home field. This year, all indications are that the committee attempted to throw as many hurdles as it could to keep the Warhawks from their sixth straight NCAA Division III championship game.


This is a team that won the national championship last season and won all 10 of its games this year by an average score of 43-8.


If it’s any consolation, Mount Union is No. 1 in its region but the No. 3 seed overall, despite being ranked No. 2 all season and not losing a game after playing Whitewater in the last five national title games.


If the seeds win out, Mount Union would have to beat St. Thomas in Minnesota in the semifinals.


The committee did put Whitewater and Mount Union in opposite brackets, which doesn’t make a Whitewater-Mount Union VI impossible. In fact, that matchup has to be the odds-on favorite to occur.


Whitewater coach Lance Leipold stepped around commenting on the situation this week, although he admitted on his radio show Monday that, “We were shocked, in disbelief and with plenty of disappointment in the room” when the selection committee’s nonsense was announced.


On Wednesday, he said the team has to concentrate on Franklin, its first-round opponent, and “we have to channel all our energy in a positive direction.”


However, Plinske indicated common sense was left outside in the hallway when the committee met.


“It’s inconsistent with prior years and doesn’t make sense with the common folk,” Plinske said. “If it continues, UW-Whitewater will be inaccurately and unfairly measured in national competition.”


The Warhawks likely will never win in strength of schedule. The fact is, most everybody runs from the Warhawks in regular-season scheduling. Just last week, Adrian (Mich.) College dropped out of next season’s opener, leaving a major hole for Whitewater to fill.


“They felt it wasn’t good for the development of their program,” Plinske said.


The Warhawks had a two-year contract with Adrian, whom they defeated, 35-0, in this season’s nonconference opener.


To fill the schedule this year, the Warhawks played two NAIA teams—Dakota State University and Campbellsville University. That ultimately hurt them, because the NCAA does not recognize those victories.


Wesley earned the No. 1 seed on its .608 strength of schedule (opponents’ combined winning percentage). St. Thomas’ SoS was .548, while North Central’s was .523.


Wesley is an independent and can pick its schedule. St. Thomas needs only two nonconference games to fill out its schedule.


Whitewater’s strength of schedule was .487, with only Adrian’s 5-5 record added into the WIAC teams the Warhawks’ defeated. Plus the other WIAC teams went only 9-12 against nonconference opponents, dragging down the Warhawks SoS further.


Whitewater can use this as added incentive, although Leipold did not want to comment on that, either. Rex Ryan probably would have told you exactly where the team was going to put that seeding chart.


North Central is 10-0, but the Cardinals beat UW-Eau Claire, 20-6, in Naperville. The Warhawks beat the Blugolds at Eau Claire, 45-0.


Do you think the bus trip to Naperville is going to make that much of a difference?


And will a plane trip to Delaware to take on Wesley affect the Warhawks? Only if their luggage gets lost.


Whitewater is a good bet to make it back to the national championship game.


It’s unfortunate that human hands had to soil the process.



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