Between the Lines

Between the Lines
There are some people who live, eat and breathe sports.

They pore over the sports pages every morning. They can tell who did what during a game, and spew statistics like a cash register at Wal-Mart during the Christmas shopping season.

My brain just doesn't work that way. When USD's Stefan Logan would take off for one of his long gallops on the DakotaDome turf, I wasn't counting the yards.

When Wesley Beschorner scrambled from defenders much larger than him to buy time and release an aerial bomb that landed neatly in the hands of Derek Gearman, I wasn't counting the distance of the pass, or making a mental note of how many completions he made that day.

When Tim Dacy picked off a UND pass when things were starting to get tense in the second half of Saturday's game, I wasn't counting how many yards he carried the ball.

I, like over 9,000 other Coyote fans, simply celebrated when watching superb athletes like Beschorner, Logan, Gearman and Dacy in action.

There's no arguing that the 2005 Coyote football squad, with its 9-2 record, is of championship caliber. The team very legitimately claimed a share of the NCC crown Saturday with its win over UND.

But today?

Today, the team is benched. The Northwest Regional Championship Committee of the NCAA decided to put a "Coyotes Not Welcome" sign on the door to the playoffs.

The NCAA comes up with some rather innocous terms in explaining its reasoning. One can easily detect that its trying its best not to "hurt" anyone, even the people who get bad news, when it announces who is and isn't destined for the playoffs.

So we're hearing the least harmful terms the NCAA can muster. Strength of schedule. Or "the thinnest of margins" between USD and Northwood, a team from Michigan that was selected over USD for a playoff berth.

We have a simple request for the NCAA.

Tell it to us straight.

Tell us we stink, that athletes like Gearman and Beschorner and Logan don't deserve to see how they stack up against the some of the elite teams in the country.

Of course, to do that, you'd have to focus primarily on the two games we managed to lose this year. And you'd have to put a great deal of emphasis on some of the weaker schools that we were forced to play in order to cobble together an 11-game schedule.

Admittedly, Minnesota-Crookston, Minnesota-Moorhead and Truman State weren't the toughest teams we faced this fall.

But there are only seven teams in the NCC. Those seven teams, including USD, share the similar problem of trying to find competitive squads to face each weekend.

Some schools solve this problem by playing a 10-game schedule, something that coach Ed Meierkort refuses to do. The Coyote football team practiced hard every week to play football, he said, at every opportunity.

USD legitimately tried to make this year as competitive as possible. They made a long bus trip to play the Colorado School of Mines, a team that was 12-1 last year. This year, they eked out a 6-5 season record.

The Colorado team's performance this year clearly isn't USD's fault.

The NCAA decision-makers also find themselves forced to ignore the fact that the Coyotes clearly demonstrated strength, not weakness, by defeating Nebraska-Omaha on Sept. 24 and North Dakota in the Dome on Saturday.

But these two NCC teams, with the same 9-2 record as the Coyotes, made the playoffs.

You don't need to be die-hard sports fan to know that something just isn't right here.

It's time for the NCAA to be straight with us.

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