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Rivals and contenders to face off in Week 0

Quarterback+TJ+Davis+sprints+through+Washburns+defense+during+UNKs+27-21+homecoming+victory+over+the+Ichabods.+Photo+by+Shelby+Berglund+%2F+Antelope+Staff
Quarterback TJ Davis sprints through Washburn’s defense during UNK’s 27-21 homecoming victory over the Ichabods. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

hammekea@lopers.unk.edu

Schools within Division II have been scrambling to schedule a Week 0 contest since NCAA legislation passed in January. Several MIAA schedules have announced their Week 0 opponent so far. But how have schools been able to schedule games so quickly.

For Pittsburg State, it was a little bit of luck, according to Gorillas AD Jim Johnson. The Gorillas were the first school to announce a Week 0 game, playing powerhouse Ferris State to open the season.

“In our 2024 schedule that had a rolling bye week, that had a bye week because of Lincoln’s departure, our bye week was week 4, and Ferris had a bye week in Week 4 too,” Johnson said. “We started talking to them quite a while back about the potential of Week 4.”

When week 0 legislation was approved at the 2024 NCAA convention that allowed schools to play their eleven week schedule in twelve weeks, Johnson and Ferris State personnel started discussing the potential of playing during Week 0, allowing both teams to have a bye week after the first four games of the season. 

As of Monday, five schools within the Mid America Athletics Association (MIAA) have officially announced Week 0 football games. Pittsburg State was the first school to announce their early season matchup with Ferris State on January 26. Northwest Missouri State also will have their Week 0 game at home, playing Minnesota-Mankato. 

Missouri Southern, Missouri Western and UNK will play their Week 0 games on the road, with Missouri Southern playing at Midwestern State (Tx.) and Missouri Western will play newly-named independent Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Okla. UNK stayed in-state to renew a rivalry with Chadron State. 

Fort Hays unofficially announced their opponent during a coaches show on the Tiger Sports Network that they will play Angelo State.

With Lincoln departing from the MIAA, this left a bye week during the regular season. Some schools, such as Pittsburg State and Northwest Missouri, are keeping their bye week to accommodate. Other schools, such as Washburn, elected to fill their bye week with a non-conference opponent, hosting Colorado School of Mines in Week 2. Missouri Western also filled their bye week for the season finale, hosting Quincy in the season finale.

Other schools were able to be flexible with independent member Northeastern State, who will not be playing a league schedule this year. Northeastern State will not be playing UNK this year to accommodate the Lopers contest with Chadron State.  

MIAA Commissioner Mike Racy was very pleased with the new legislation.

“I think its going to do nothing but help position the schools for postseason berths and seeding. The football committee will take notice of these matchups,” Racy said. “I would expect that MIAA schools should be rewarded for those difficult schedules at the end of the year when it comes to selecting teams, and also seeding them in the playoffs.”

To find the 2024 UNK Football schedule, which was formally released Monday, go to lopers.com. The full MIAA football schedule can be found at themiaa.com.

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Alex Hammake, Reporter
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