|Dan Pugh and Rob Adamson
celebrate Mount Union's seventh national
Photo by Pat Cummings, D3sports.com
By Pat Coleman
SALEM -- It had been a nice couple years.
Before the past few weeks, the rumbling had stopped. But come December, just like in 1999, the call from fans was clear.
Mount Union should move out of Division III.
This is a request that doesn't make any sense, frankly. The people who think Mount Union can play Division II football the way Johns Hopkins plays Division I lacrosse or Colorado College plays Division I hockey don't realize that the NCAA won't let schools "play up" a level in football or basketball.
The people who think Mount Union should move up to D-II in everything don't understand the financial outlay it would take to do so. It's more likely those people haven't even considered Mount's other sports at all.
Where was all this negative feeling last year, when they barely beat Bridgewater in the Stagg Bowl? Or in 2000, when they were coming off a season-ending loss from the previous year and were held to 10 points in the title game?
Fact is, it should be fun to chase Mount Union. Every coach that has brought a team to Salem the past three seasons to play Larry Kehres' squad has talked about how it's an honor to play the best team of the era. To get to the title game, you'll have to go through Alliance.
Besides, who knows? Mount Union faces an offseason where it loses Rob Adamson and Dan Pugh on offense, and unlike when Chuck Moore graduated after the 2001 season, having a seasoned Pugh to step in, the probable 2003 starter averaged fewer than five carries per game.
"I think there are some relatively significant changes that we'll experience next year," said Kehres. "There were glimpses of those changes this year, when we played without Rob. We played with a slightly different style, and that could be our trademark next year."
The Purple Raiders also lose eight starters on defense, including Hula Bowl-bound cornerback Chris Kern. And Don Montgomery, Mount Union's defensive coordinator, could take the head coaching job at Marietta. It's apparently his if he wants it.
But even that might not prove a blip on the purple radar, as four starters return on an incredibly talented offensive line and wide receivier Randell Knapp has come into his own. The biggest pressure the 2003 Mount Union squad will face might be from themselves.
"Our football team this season had sort of the daunting task of trying to play as well as the others," Kehres said. "It's hard to be recognized as a great team unless you win all your games, and they did."
With all due respect to teams like UW-Whitewater, Baldwin-Wallace and OAC up-and-comer Capital, I fully expect to see Mount Union playing in the national semifinals next year, going after its 55th consecutive win, breaking its own record.
Is that considered balanced? No. Does the dominance lessen people's general interest in Division III? Probably. But is it fair? Yes. Many have griped about it and some have tried to do something about it, but nobody has proven that Mount Union does anything illegal.
So, as long as Mount Union doesn't suddenly start offering athletic scholarships, they belong in Division III as much as anyone else.
It's up to you other 226 to catch them.