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District College Notebook: Playoff picture coming into focus for a few area teams

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

By Phil Axelrod, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Allegheny and Duquesne are in. Edinboro and Waynesburg could be a win away from getting in. IUP and Washington and Jefferson probably need help. Gannon is out.

Edinboro and IUP are in the most precarious position because the unpredictable whim of the selection committee in the Northeast Region will determine their fate for the NCAA Division II playoffs.

In a surprising turn of events yesterday, No. 4 Edinboro (8-2) jumped ahead of No. 5 IUP (9-1) in the Northeast Region rankings, with only the top four reaching the playoffs. Edinboro, hoping to make the playoffs for the first time since 1995, received support on the basis of a 34-3 victory against California. IUP defeated Slippery Rock, 27-14.

Edinboro, ranked No. 22 in the American Football Coaches Association poll, won at No. 6 IUP, 28-20.

IUP plays Saturday at Bloomsburg (7-3) and Edinboro is at Lock Haven (3-7).

It's impossible to predict how the committee will crunch the numbers when it ranks the teams, but the odds appear to favor Edinboro remaining No. 4 and getting the bid if it wins Saturday.

Bids to the playoffs will be extended Sunday.

Duquesne (6-3), which has won its fifth consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship, will play host to the Northeast Conference champion in the ECAC Classic at 1 p.m. Nov. 22 at Rooney Field. The Dukes most likely will meet Monmouth (9-1), which has to defeat lowly St. Francis to reach the Classic for the first time. If Monmouth stumbles, Albany will win the NEC and get the bid.

Albany defeated Duquesne, 24-0, in the Classic last season. Duquesne has never played Monmouth. The Dukes are 1-3 in their previous appearances in the Classic.

Duquesne, which has won 29 consecutive games against league foes, plays host to Robert Morris at 7 p.m. Saturday in a non-league game between area rivals.

Allegheny (6-3, 6-0) has clinched the North Coast Athletic Conference championship and earned an automatic bid for its first trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs since 1997. The Gators rebounded from an 0-3 start to win their ninth NCAC title. Allegheny plays host Saturday to Ohio Wesleyan .

Although IUP is highly ranked nationally and can at least claim a share of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division title with a win, the Indians are in danger of not participating in the playoffs after five consecutive appearances. The national rankings are not considered by the selection committee when it offers at-large bids. IUP needs one of the teams in the top four in the Northeast Region to lose - Saginaw Valley State (10-0), Bentley (9-0), Grand Valley State (9-1) or Edinboro (8-2).

Edinboro is in good shape because the Fighting Scots defeated IUP and have only one loss against a Division II opponent (Shippensburg). The other defeat came at Division I-AA Youngstown State. Edinboro will share the PSAC West title with IUP if both teams win.

Waynesburg (8-1) can clinch its first Presidents' Athletic Conference championship with a win against visiting Westminster (5-4) Saturday. The PAC champion doesn't receive an automatic bid because the six-team league doesn't qualify under NCAA rules that require a minimum of seven teams. But Waynesburg likely would get one of the six at-large bids from Pool B as champion of a league that doesn't receive an automatic bid.

Waynesburg's six-game winning streak since a 31-30 loss at non-league Gettysburg includes a 27-17 victory against Washington and Jefferson.

The Yellow Jackets, who won the 1966 NAIA Division II national championship, moved to Division III and joined the PAC in 1990.

Washington and Jefferson (8-1) needs a win Saturday against Buffalo State and a Waynesburg loss for a chance at making the Division III playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.

If Waynesburg and W&J finish with 9-1 records, Waynesburg would get the bid as PAC champion. Although the PAC never has sent two teams to the playoffs, it's not totally out of the question that W&J could join Waynesburg. W&J is ranked 17th in the AFCA poll and Waynesburg is 26th with the most votes among others receiving votes.

Gannon (8-0), whose eight-game win streak is the school's longest since the program was reinstated in 1989, isn't under consideration for the NCAA Division II playoffs because the Golden Knights are an independent playing a soft schedule. They will have a better chance next season when they join the prestigious Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. A win at Bryant (R.I.) College Saturday would give Gannon a school record for victories in a season.


Phil Axelrod can be reached at paxelrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1967.

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