BELTON — Once again the power of the almighty dollar dictated the layout of the NCAA Division III football playoff bracket, which shocked absolutely no one.
The fact that No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor and No. 1 Mount Union could meet prior to the national championship game, though, came as a surprise.
Conference champion UMHB will host ASC runner-up Louisiana College in the first round. The Wildcats (8-2) will bus to Tiger Field to face the Crusaders (10-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday in a matchup that saves the NCAA the price of a plane flight.
“You wish that (the NCAA) didn’t do it that way,” UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg said. “But you kind of knew that everything considered, they were going to look for the simplest and cheapest way.”
The Crusaders are making their ninth straight postseason appearance, and Saturday will mark the third time they’ve squared off with a fellow ASC member in the opening round.
“I just think it’s unfortunate that you match up conference opponents, and I’ve voiced my concern and been upset about it before,” Fredenburg said.
“But the reality of it is that it doesn’t matter who we play. We have to play well, and we have to win.”
UMHB’s players said they felt no disappointment upon learning the identity of their first-round foe.
“We kind of figured it might be (LC) coming in here,” senior quarterback LiDarral Bailey said. “It’s not a letdown. I like the fact that we’re familiar with the opponent, that way we can strategize and get everything right.”
Added senior linebacker Javicz Jones: “We kind of were expecting it. But whoever wants to come our way, it’s going to be a neat experience. We have some familiarity with these guys. We’re going to treat them like any other team and get ready to take care of business.”
The Wildcats are making their first playoff appearance and suffered a 30-3 loss at the hands of the Crusaders on Oct. 13 in Pineville, La.
Saturday’s winner will advance to face the winner between Adrian (9-1) out of Michigan and No. 21 Franklin (8-2) from Indiana.
NOTES: First-round tickets will be sold at the Mayborn Campus Center ticket windows. They will be on sale to season ticket holders from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and 7:30 a.m. to noon Thursday. They will be on sale to the general public from noon to 5:30 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.
NCAA DIVISION III PLAYOFFS
Saturday, Nov. 17
Washington and Lee (8-2) at Hobart (10-0), 11 a.m.
Wittenberg (9-1) at Heidelberg (9-1), 11 a.m.
Franklin (8-2) at Adrian (9-1), TBA
Framingham State (10-1) at Cortland State (8-1), 11 a.m.
Mount Ida (8-2) at Wesley (8-1), 11 a.m.
Bridgewater State (9-1) at Widener (9-0), TBA
Rowan (7-2) at Salisbury (8-2), 11 a.m.
Washington and Jefferson (8-2) at Johns Hopkins (9-1), 11 a.m.
Christopher Newport (6-4) at Mount Union (10-0), 11 a.m.
Louisiana College (8-2) at Mary Hardin-Baylor (10-0), Noon
St. Norbert (8-2) at St. Thomas (10-0), Noon
Elmhurst (9-1) at Coe (10-0), Noon
Bethel (8-2) at Concordia-Chicago (10-0), Noon
St. Scholastica (8-2) at Wisconsin-Oshkosh (10-0), Noon
Pacific Lutheran (7-2) at Linfield (9-0), 2 p.m.
North Central, Ill. (8-2) at Cal Lutheran (8-1), 2 p.m.