Coyotes denied playoff berth Sunday by NCAA

Coyotes denied playoff berth Sunday by NCAA
The overwhelming joy experienced by University of South Dakota Coyote fans Saturday was replaced by a profound sense of loss.

USD, despite its 9-2 record and its strong showing against the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux in the DakotaDome, learned Sunday that it would be staying home from the playoffs.

The NCAA Division II national football selection committee picked Northwood University (MI) (9-2) as the sixth and final playoff team from the Northwest Region.

One reason USD may have been left out, according to coach Ed Meierkort, is the desire of some NCC team coaches to simply play their seasons to guarantee the best statistics possible.

"There is a statistical flaw in the way they calculate our playoffs and special schedules," he said.

Teams who play 11 games in a season, such as USD, find themselves at a disadvantage. Coaches who decide to not exert their teams and resources to that extent, and only play 10 games, put their squads at an advantage.

Grand Valley State (MI), with its 10-0 record, is the top seed in the NCAA's Northwest Region.

"You know what? We were in this to play college football. I'm going to play 11 games," Meierkort said.

To put together an 11 game season this year, USD traveled to Crookston, MN. It made a long bus trip to Colorado to take on the Colorado School of Mines.

"The option of not playing and practicing � that's not what we're here for," the coach said. "I'm not going to skew the schedule."

Meierkort won't accept the NCAA's argument that USD's schedule wasn't strong enough.

"I can't help it that Mankato is 2-9," he said. "It's not my fault. We picked a 12-1 national playoff team, and went on the road to play them (Colorado School of Mines) to help strengthen our schedule.

"Is it my fault they have a 6-5 season? I can't predict that," Meierkort said. "How do I know who will be good? And who are you going to play? There's not enough to go around."

While having no choice but to play some weaker schools in its schedule, the USD coach said his team prepared itself to face the top level squads in the North Central Conference.

"What we went after were quality wins," he said. "We beat five teams in the top 25 in the country."

And Northwood, the team that eventually was given a berth in the playoffs instead of USD?

"Northwood beat nobody with a record of .500 or better," Meierkort said.

Another pill that's hard to swallow � USD convincingly defeated both Nebraska-Omaha and UND. Both of those teams made the playoffs.

"Why don't we get a mulligan if the Sioux do?" the coach said. "Why don't we get a mulligan if Omaha does?"

These are questions that, apparently, only the NCAA Division II national football selection committee can answer.

"The Coyote nation is just livid," Meierkort said. "I've gotten e-mails from Pennsylvania, Florida, California ? and I answer every one of them."

Despite Sunday's bad news, the coach said he and his players will never forget Saturday's experience in the DakotaDome.

"There were people all over the place," the coach said. "Everybody had so much fun."

Soon, the coaching staff will be on the recruiting trail once again. "One thing about our staff � we'll always represent this university as it should be in a positive light," Meierkort said. "Hopefully, we can continue to put out a first-class operation."

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