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Lopers miss out on postseason with limited bowl options

UNK football team. Photo provided by Nate Lilla / Antelope Staff

The Loper football team finished its season with a 42-0 with over Northeastern State Saturday. With an 8-3 record, the Lopers missed the playoffs in the highly competitive Super Region Three.

The team will not play in a bowl game.

UNK last went to a bowl game in 2019 for the Mineral Water Bowl. The event has not taken place since UNK’s 50-33 win over Winona State and will not happen this year. This left options limited for the postseason.

There are two bowl games with MIAA tie-ins; the Fun Town RV Heritage Bowl in Corsicana, Texas, and the Farmers Bank & Trust Live United Bowl in Texarkana, Arkansas.

The Live United Bowl invited Emporia State for its MIAA bid. 

The Heritage Bowl officials considered UNK but invited East Central and Texas A&M-Kingsville.

“We had a really good year and we were close,” said UNK athletic director Marc Bauer. “But I also understand there’s typically four bowl games, this year there’s only two and we just didn’t get the invite. Just disappointed for those seniors and coaches after all the hard work they put in.”

The Lone Star and Great American conferences also have ties to both bowl games. Since those teams are closer, this makes it cheaper for them to compete than UNK.

When a football team makes the playoffs the NCAA pays the expenses. In a bowl game, however, it’s more complicated.

Some expenses are covered by the bowl game sponsor, but the schools have to pay part of it. In the case of the Mineral Water Bowl, UNK had to buy 10,000 tickets and try to resell them.

“Not only did we sell tickets leading up to the Mineral Water Bowl, but Natalie Hagan and I were also outside selling them to everybody that was coming through the door,” Bauer said. “We didn’t get to watch the first quarter.”

The bowl games are on Dec. 3. This would’ve allowed for more practice time, as well as the opportunity for the team to play somebody outside of the MIAA. 

It is a combination of UNK administration and the team that decides to compete.

“If you get the opportunity, the majority of young men that I’ve been around want to go play for something else,” said UNK coach Josh Lynn. “Generally, if you get invited you better go.”

Since the demise of the Mineral Water Bowl, the only two opportunities are an 11-hour bus ride away from Kearney. There is talk of creating a bowl game with the other Nebraska Division II teams, Chadron State and Wayne State.

“We’ve talked about the potential of, ‘What if we started a Nebraska Bowl?’ and highlight the three Division II teams in Nebraska,” Bauer said. “Whoever doesn’t make the playoffs with the highest record would play in the Nebraska Bowl in Kearney. I think we could very easily find a major sponsor to do that, but it comes back to what’s the temperature gonna be in Kearney in December? But we’ve talked about it definitely.”

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GRANT TIGHE, Sports Editor
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