A new scheduling alliance between the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and the Heart of America Athletic Conference offers practical benefits for Tabor College as well as opportunities to compete against some very competitive football programs.
Football coaches and conference commissioners have agreed on a series of football games to be played between teams from each league starting with the 2013 season.
The landmark agreement between the two NAIA football conferences would pair teams based on their conference finish from the previous season.
“I certainly think it has the potential for increasing competitive advantage for Tabor because we will get the opportunity to play in a conference against programs respected nationally,” said Rusty Allen, vice president of athletics at Tabor.
“The success we have against those schools could not only impact recruiting, but also affect national ratings.”
Allen said he talked extensively with football coach Mike Gardner before agreeing with the arrangement. Gardner could not be reached for comment.
The agreement states that KCAC teams would host the first set of non-conference games Sept. 14, 2013, with the HAAC representatives playing host the following season.
“We are pleased with the fine work done by the coaches of both conferences in the development of this historic agreement,” said KCAC commissioner Scott Crawford and HAAC commissioner Larry Lady in a joint statement.
The HAAC has 10 member schools, including Avila, Baker, Benedictine, Central Methodist, Culver-Stockton, Evangel, Graceland, MidAmerica Nazarene, Missouri Valley and Peru State.
Jonathan Quinn, head coach at defending HAAC champion MidAmerica Nazarene University, said, “This is a great opportunity for two highly competitive conferences to come together and build an annual rivalry.
“It should be fun for the teams as well as the fans, especially with the proximity of the schools involved.”
Larry Wilcox, head coach at Benedictine College, said, “This gives schools a chance to play against a like opponent that they would be very competitive against.
“It perhaps puts a little more importance on the teams who finished in first or second (place) because that game could be against a school they would be competing against for a playoff spot.”
Allen said playing schools in the same region has advantages for Tabor’s non-conference schedule.
“It’s kind of nice when you think about the proximity to Hillsboro,” he said. “We’ve traveled as far as Denver and Dallas to play our non-conference games, so there’s a real advantage from a practical standpoint.”
One of the primary intents of the arrangement is to ease the scheduling process for teams from both conferences.
Under the agreement, teams will have one additional non-conference game to schedule prior to the KCAC-HAAC matchups. Following the series game each year, both leagues will move into their respective conference schedules and play nine consecutive weeks of league games.
For the upcoming season, four HAAC-KCAC matchups are on the schedule: Ottawa at Baker on Aug. 27; Benedictine at Sterling and McPherson at Missouri Valley on Sept. 3; and Bethany at Avila on Oct. 1.
In the only game played between the two conferences during the 2010 season, KCAC member Ottawa earned a 24-14 win over Baker of the HAAC.