WILMINGTON, De – It’s time to stop this madness. Yes, Appalachian State shocked the world and led every edition of SportsCenter for most of last week, but the Mountaineers are the exception, and far from the rule when it comes to interdivision matchups in college football. All too often the talent gap between the now Bowl subdivision and Championship subdivision of college football, and an even larger extent between the Championship subdivision and Division II, is so great, that the games are almost meaningless.
If Appalachian State’s 34-32 win over the Michigan Wolverines served as validation to the tangible football benefits for a lower division team to visit an upper division powerhouse, then West Chester’s 41-14 debacle Saturday and continued ineptitude against the Delaware Blue Hens is exhibit 1A in the case against this archaic practice.
Since the teams’ inaugural meeting in 1941, the Golden Rams record stands at 6-40. The most recent Golden Ram victory came 15 years ago. WCU has reached double figures on the scoreboard just five times in the last ten years, and was even shut out 84-0 in 2000.
West Chester’s struggles against Delaware are not unlike the results playing out in the early weeks of Division I schools across the nation. One would be hard pressed to find a team who possesses a winning record against its counterpart from a higher division. When you get right down to it, unless the teams in question are Appalachian State and the University of Michigan, the talent gap is almost immeasurable. The receivers are faster, the offensive linemen are better, and the defensive linemen are quicker and stronger. On paper, and more often then not between the lines, these games are mismatches.
Let’s not kid ourselves; these games are not played with hopes of emerging victorious from the hornets’ nest of a DIAA or DI stadium. No, the overwhelming force, and the reason that these so called rivalries are still played is none other then the almighty dollar. West Chester University receives an annual check that at first estimates exceeds $40,000. This is enough to pay for two football scholarships, and aid other non-revenue teams on campus as well.
And while the bottom line undoubtedly rules when decisions are made to become the powerhouse’s sacrificial lamb in the early going, one has to wonder, is the financial gain truly worth the yearly embarrassment?
“I do still like playing the game, and I want us to keep coming down here and playing it,” Zwaan said. “But when they’re that good, it’s tough because you go into halftime down 34-0, and there’s not a lot you can stay to your kids. You tell them to come out and play hard in the second half which I thought our kids did, but that’s not why we come down here to play hard in the second half, we play games to win, and I feel like we just weren’t in this one at all, its just frustrating when you really don’t have a chance to win the game.”
What’s far worse is the risk of injury that is escalated in a game of this caliber. Three Golden Rams missed time during the course of Saturday’s glorified scrimmage at Raymond Stadium. Osagie Osunde suffered an ankle injury which the severity is not yet known, and worse, Joe Wright fell victim to what could be a season ending knee injury.
“Going in to this [game] the thing I was most concerned about was injuries, and we’re going to lose Joey Wright and that hurts a lot,” Zwaan lamented.
These games hold so little meaning, that the NCAA throws the results of West Chester’s annual excursion down route 202 to I-95 out the window, when determining final rankings and playoff seeding.
The shame of it all this time around, is that this Golden Ram team has the pieces in place to notch an undefeated record at the Division II level. Instead, no matter how well this team performs in the final nine games of the season, the otherwise potentially unblemished record season will be marred by Saturday’s ugly 41-14 loss in Delaware.
Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk radio show on 91.7 FM WCUR, Saturdays from noon to 2PM and is sindicated worldwide online at www.wcur.fm He can be reached at ML606516@wcupa.edu.