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SODAK Football team looking to add game
The USD football team released its schedule for next year, but it’s not exactly finished.
The Coyotes are scheduled to play 10 games, five at home and five on the road, but head coach Ed Meierkort has never coached a team that has played less than 11 games.
“We are trying desperately to get an 11th game, and I bet that we do, but sometimes you just never know,” Meierkort said.
The two open dates the team has are Oct. 24 and Nov. 22, but Meierkort said it’s not easy to find a team for either of those dates because most of the teams are locked into games on those days.
The Coyotes’ 11th game was supposed to be against Akron University.
Akron competes in the Mid-American Conference at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level. Akron had to drop the game late because even though USD is a counter at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level, it’s considered a non-counter in FBS.
For a team to be a counter in the FBS, it has to average 57 scholarships a year. USD didn’t average 57 scholarships last year in its first year in D-I, so the MAC conference forced Akron to drop the game against the Coyotes.
“Akron needed a waiver to play us, and both schools were confident the waiver would get through the process with MAC,” USD athletic director Joel Nielsen said. “But it didn’t because the MAC was concerned if Akron only had six wins, the game against us wouldn’t count and it could potentially cost them a bowl game. We understand where they are coming from and understand it’s part of the process.”
Meierkort said the Zips still want to play the game, but it’s the conference’s call.
Akron isn’t the only team that has dropped the Coyotes on the schedule. Two years ago, USD played McNeese State and West Texas A&M on the road and both teams were supposed to finish out the home and home commitments with USD this year, but both teams have backed out.
Meierkort said he has talked to a lot of teams, but all the talks have been premature right now.
“We are discussing with some FCS teams on playing a road game or a home and home with them, and also some D-II or NAIA schools about playing a home game here,” Meierkort said. “We are also hanging out there and you never know what FBS team is willing to play you.”
The team has put together a competitive schedule with just 10 games so far. Of the 10 games the Coyotes will play, eight of them are against D-I FCS teams.
The Coyotes will play a full slate of Great West Conference games, including the Dakota Days game against the University of California-Davis.
“UC-Davis will bring in a great atmosphere for Dakota Days and they are a very good team,” Meierkort said.
USD also played three of the six nonconference teams last year – Northern Iowa, Southeastern Louisiana and Montana State. This year Southeastern Louisiana will head to the DakotaDome, but USD will once again travel to Northern Iowa, Montana State and Cal Poly. USD lost to all four teams last year.
Meierkort said those four games will be the measuring stick for the team this year.
“Those games will show how much we have improved from last year,” Meierkort said. “We have to come out of that situation with some wins.”
Both Northern Iowa and Cal Poly made the FCS playoffs last year and Northern Iowa lost in the championship game.
The other three FCS games the Coyotes will play are road games against North Dakota and Northern Colorado and a home game against Southern Utah.
USD will open the season with a home game against William Penn, an NAIA team.
The second home game of the season for USD will be a familiar opponent for Meierkort: D-III University of Wisconsin-Stout. USD hired Meierkort from UW-Stout, which was Meierkort’s first head coaching job. He is the all-time leader in wins at that school with 55.
Even though the team only has 10 games scheduled, Meierkort said the Coyotes are already further ahead than they were last year.
“The schedule changes on an hourly basis sometimes and we are way ahead this year,” Meierkort said. “We are even further on the 2010 schedule already.”
VOLANTE ASST SPORTS EDITOR