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Lincoln departs MIAA, will face Lopers for final time in 2023

Football on field.

Lincoln’s departure from the MIAA created an interesting wrinkle for the 2023 football season, with the Blue Tigers labeled as a non-conference opponent. This has made schools find new opponents in their place. Pittsburg State announced a non-conference game with Sioux Falls, and Northwest Missouri is actively looking for opponents.

UNK will still play Lincoln in 2023, but there were considerations for a replacement game.

“I got a call from the athletic director from Lincoln, and they were looking at a couple of different institutions to play aside from us and that kind of worried me a little bit,” said UNK athletic director Marc Bauer.

MIAA schools can drop their contest against Lincoln in the 2023 football season, with mutual consent from Lincoln, to find different opponents. The Blue Tigers would then schedule teams from the Great Lakes Valley Conference, alongside other historically Black colleges and universities.

So far, Northwest Missouri and Pittsburg State have exercised that option. Northwest Missouri is actively looking for a Week 4 opponent. The Bearcats defeated Lincoln 58-20 last fall.

Pittsburg State, last year’s MIAA champion, has already found an opponent. The University of Sioux Falls will travel to Pittsburg, Kansas for Week 9. 

Normally finding a non-conference opponent this late in the season is a challenge, however, schools had open dates thanks to conference alignment.

The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, of which Sioux Falls is a member, had Upper Iowa depart for the Great Lakes Valley Conference in October. Upper Iowa will begin athletic play this upcoming fall in the GLVC and left an open spot in the football schedule for all the Northern Sun schools. There was a football opening for every week of the 2023 season, as NSIC schools scrambled to fill the gap.

For the Lopers, Minot State was the only school with a Week 10 opening. Bauer’s call with Minot State AD Kevin Forde didn’t provide good news.

“He’s like, ‘Nope, I’ve already got a non-con game set up with a school up in Michigan,’” Bauer said. “But he’s like, ‘Of course next year. If you’re looking for one [non-conference game] you can call us.’”

The Lopers could’ve just scheduled a bye week as well, but that was something neither Bauer nor head football coach Ryan Held wanted. They didn’t want to break a consistent routine going into the final week of the season.

As a result, the Lopers and Blue Tigers will play one final time in Kearney this fall on Nov. 4 before Lincoln goes off to the GLVC.

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