With the college football season hitting its stretch drive and the prep playoffs under way, several observations:
First, kudos to Central Washington for working through several disappointing losses and winning the GNAC championship. And accordingly, congrats to Blaine Bennett for being named co-coach of the year with Simon Fraser’s Dave Johnson, and to junior Stan Langlow on being honored as the conference’s defensive player of the year.
A 6-foot-3, 216-pound junior from Curtis High School near Tacoma, Langlow has played both linebacker and free safety at CWU and has excelled at both positions.
Also, it should be noted that former Wildcats coach Tom Parry was honored at Central’s Nov. 3 home game with Simon Fraser. and former players and friends from throughout the Pacific Northwest paid tribute to Tom in a hospitality tent located in Tomlinson Stadium.
Parry was Central’s coach during my days at the university (then known as Central Washington State College), and remains a friend and mentor for whom I have the utmost respect. Bennett, back then, was a ballboy for his dad Shorty Bennett’s standout Ellensburg High teams.
Speaking of the GNAC, word is that the conference could soon be making some much-needed football expansion. Menlo College in Atherton, Calif., South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City, S.D., and Carroll College in Helena, Mont., all have expressed interest in becoming football-playing members of the GNAC.
Carroll and Menlo presently compete at the NAIA level while the South Dakota school, an NCAA Division II football independent, features former Central assistant Stacy Collins as its head coach.
If even two of the three join the GNAC — and it’s possible they could be on board for the 2014 season — the conference would then have eight football-playing members and its teams would no longer have to play each other twice each season as the current structure dictates.
As for NCAA Division II playoff possibilities, many thought the GNAC would get an automatic bid next year when Azusa Pacific becomes a full-fledged D-II member. But Bennett said recently that the situation remains unclear and that a more likely scenario would have the conference champion reach the postseason only if it were ranked among the top eight in the final regional poll.
Presently, the top six teams in each of the four super regions qualify. In Super Region III, which includes the GNAC, Minnesota State Mankato was voted the top seed and Henderson State (Ark.) was No. 2. Both are undefeated and get first-round byes. Others making the playoffs are Missouri Western, Northwest Missouri State, Harding (Ark.) and Minnesota-Duluth.
NW Missouri St. had the worst record among the regional playoff participants at 9-2. And since Central and Humboldt State each finished 7-4 (CWU was 7-3 in the GNAC), neither was in the postseason picture.