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The Franklin News-Post
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Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
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Unbalanced USA South football schedule is set for 2013
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Ferrum College head football coach David Harper (Staff Photo by Steven Marsh)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor

FERRUM -- The 2012 football campaign in the NCAA Division III USA South Athletic Conference is three days away from its second Saturday of play.

This weekend's highlighted game matches reigning league champion and preseason title favorite Christopher Newport University (CNU) against Ferrum College, the No. 2 preseason pick.

This year marks the earliest meeting between the two teams since the start of their conference rivalry in 2001, and it's the first time the contest is being played at night.

But in 2013, football play in the USA South gets a complete make over.

Huntingdon (Ala.) College enters the league as its ninth football-playing member and because it is coming into the conference in the middle of a contract cycle, the USA South will play an unbalanced schedule next fall.

Each team will play seven conference games and each team will bypass one of its USA South foes.

In 2013, Ferrum opens play with Huntingdon, ends it with CNU and does not play Methodist (N.C.) University, second-year Panthers head coach David Harper said last week.

Next year, Ferrum's non-conference games will be against Emory & Henry College (away), Shenandoah University (home) and Bridgewater College (away), which returns to the slate after a year's absence.

In 2014, Ferrum plays E&H, Bridgewater and all eight of its conference rivals with an an open date at some point during the league slate.

When CNU ends its football relationship with the USA South -- all of its other sports are exiting the conference at the end of the current academic year for the Capital Athletic Conference -- all USA South football teams will have the same bye week, Harper said. That was the case two weeks ago.

Ferrum's first football meeting against Huntingdon will be on the road.

"I not excited about that because (the game) is in late September,' Harper said. "It could be cool (in Virginia) and 95 degrees (in Alabama) I've been down that road with Georgia Southwestern (a school the Panthers played during Harper's senior year in 1988 in Americus, Ga.).'

"What stinks about the whole thing next year, I think, is that potentially the best two teams in the conference will not play each other, which is Huntingdon and CNU,' Harper said. "They could be voted No. 1 and No. 2 (in the preseason poll) very easily.

"That's bad because both teams could be 7-1, then what do you do,' Harper said.

"And, I believe Averett University and Greensboro (N.C.) College don't play each other. They're within an hour of each other. To me, that makes no sense,' Harper said.

USA South Assistant Commissioner Mike Christie said in an email said the "conference opponents not on a particular schedule were determined by random.'

The league's automatic NCAA Division III playoff berth will go to the the team with the best conference winning percentage, Christie said, and "in the event that the teams at the top of the standings have an equal conference winning percentage and have not played each other, the NCAA regional rankings following the final games will be used to break the tie.'

Ferrum's 2013 schedule will be comprised of five home games and five road games,' Harper said. The Panthers' remaining home schedule this year includes one game this month and two in November.

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