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How does 4th-ranked UW-La Crosse have a home game over the defending national champions, who’ve been No. 1 all season?



TOP PHOTO: FILE – The UW-La Crosse football team kneels after a win. (PHOTO: James Garvey, UW-La Crosse)

All season, the defending National Champions, North Central, have been the top-ranked football team in both NCAA Division III polls.

That would make sense, considering the Cardinals are in the midst of an incredible four-year run that includes two National Championships, one runner-up and a 54-2 record ← of which they’ve won their last 27 consecutive games.

So, why is Saturday’s matchup with fourth-ranked UW-La Crosse (11-1), not at North Central? The Eagles host the noon kickoff DIII quarterfinal at Roger Harring stadium — a game that will video stream with WKTY.

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When the playoff brackets were being formulated, UW-L actually received the top seed over North Central.

The online commentary since that decision was made three weeks ago has been constant and at times contentious, arguing the Cardinals should be at home.

UW-L coach Matt Janus told WKTY he hears and understands the arguments from the North Central community, but adds it’s not a perfect system for anyone.

“This is the NCAA playoffs,” Janus said. “It’s a broken system. It’s the same thing last year. Why were we playing Wartburg in the first round? Because you have to stay within 500 miles because the NCAA doesn’t care enough to fly you. 

“Until the NCAA chooses to change this system, this is what we’re stuck with. I get what they’re saying, but I’d also argue my guys deserve a home game, too.” 

Part of the criteria for the committee is based on regional rankings that are created in the last week of the regular season.

UW-La Crosse was named a one seed this year in Region 6 ahead of UW-Whitewater. Wartburg was named the No. 1 seed in Region 5 ahead of North Central. Both No. 1 seeds are also one seeds in those quadrants.

Strength of schedule was a component in that regional ranking. Based on DIII opponents, UW-Whitewater and UW-La Crosse had Top 10 S.O.S at 6th and 9th respectively. Wartburg stood at 15th and North Central at 75th.

Whitewater will travel to Wartburg in another quarterfinal this Saturday. The winner of the UWL-North Central game will match up with that winner.

So far this season, the Cardinals are an unbeaten 12-0.

Last year, they went 14-0 in winning the DIII championship.

In 2021, a year in which they eliminated UW-La Crosse in the second round, they went 13-1 — their only loss coming in the championship.

And, in 2019 — COVID cancelled the 2020 season — North Central won the title with a 14-1 record.

— By Drew Kelly, WKTY

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