|Willamette played at UW-Stevens Point and Hardin-Simmons last season. This year both teams return the trip.|
Willamette will play NCAA Division I opponent Portland State, which can offer 63 scholarships and competes in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The Bearcats and the Vikings will play at remodeled Jeld-Wen Field (formerly PGE Park) on Saturday, Oct. 22. Game time is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.
Several NCAA Division III teams compete against NCAA Division I teams each year, but nearly all of those matchups are against non-scholarship Division I programs. Willamette, however, will be taking on a team that is fully funded and will have a 63-scholarship advantage, since the Bearcats and other Division III teams do not offer athletic scholarships.
The last Division III matchup against a Division I FCS scholarship school was in September 2009, when Wagner defeated SUNY-Maritime 41-10.
"This game will be a big challenge for us. It is very rare to have two teams with this big a difference in scholarships play each other," Willamette coach Mark Speckman said.
Portland State contacted Willamette about the possibility of playing the game. "Because we have had no success in getting a Southern California Division III school to agree to play us, we still needed to play a game on the West Coast," Speckman said. "Our program is based on competition. We routinely play a tough schedule. We look at this game as a tremendous opportunity to compete. Our players and the coaching staff are excited."
PSU also needed to fill out its schedule, which includes eight games against Big Sky Conference opponents. The Vikings also will play one of the top teams in Division I, in Texas Christian. With limited Football Championship Subdivision teams outside of the Big Sky Conference located anywhere near the West Coast, the Vikings added non-conference match-ups against Willamette and Southern Oregon (NAIA).
For Willamette, the game with Portland State is a chance to play in a big venue against a team from a higher level of competition. It will also be another game that will be played close to home for Willamette's players from Oregon, including a sizable group from the Portland area.
"Our players have a great attitude about this game," Speckman noted. "They are excited to play it and are well aware of the tremendous challenge they'll face."
The Bearcats finished the 2010 season with a 7-3 overall record, including 4-2 in the Northwest Conference (3rd place). Since the start of the 2008 season, Willamette has achieved a combined record of 26-6 (.813), including an NWC Championship and NCAA Division III playoff berth in 2008.