New schedule strategy may boost confidence

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Southeast will have a Division II team on the slate in 2006 for the first time since 2002.

Southeast Missouri State athletic director Don Kaverman hopes that by softening the university's nonconference football schedule in the future, that might also help jump-start the Redhawks' program.

The Redhawks will not play either Southern Illinois or Missouri State next season and probably not in the foreseeable future.

Instead, the Redhawks will continue playing one game against a Division I-A program, along with a game against a Division II program and a game against preferably a lower-level program in Division I-AA, the division in which Southeast competes.

Southeast dropped lopsided decisions to both SIU (58-23) and Missouri State (45-21) this year. The Redhawks have lost five straight to Missouri State and three straight to SIU.

Overall, Southeast has lost 10 consecutive nonleague games, and the Redhawks have entered Ohio Valley Conference play without a victory the last three years.

"That's certainly a factor," Kaverman said. "When SIU turned its program around, they weren't playing teams like we've been playing. They've always played a lower-division team, sometimes two.

"We want to get the program turned around, and this type of scheduling is probably best for us right now."

SIU, now one of the nation's premier Division I-AA programs, had experienced nine consecutive losing seasons when coach Jerry Kill was hired in 2001.

The Salukis continued to struggle in Kill's first season, going 1-10 against a schedule consisting of 10 Division I-AA opponents and a Division I-A team.

SIU improved to 4-8 in 2002, with two of the wins coming against programs from levels lower than Division I-AA by a combined 150-21 score.

The Salukis had a breakthrough 10-2 record in 2003, again routing two lower-division opponents by a combined 139-14.

SIU, in going 10-2 last year, beat NAIA William Penn 59-0. The Salukis, 2-1 this season prior to Saturday's game against Missouri State, already own an 82-7 win over NAIA Union (Ky.).

"I think getting some early confidence is so important to any team," Kaverman said. "With the [nonconference] schedules we've played the last few years, that's been difficult to do."

The last time Southeast faced a lower-division opponent was in 2002, when the Redhawks went 8-4 for their winningest season since 1969.

Southeast already has signed a contract to play at Division I-A Arkansas in 2006, which will pay Southeast's athletic department about $300,000.

No contract has yet been signed, but Kaverman said the Redhawks are likely to play Division II Southwest Baptist in 2006, with Southeast paying that institution about $25,000 or $30,000.

"We'll try to schedule as good a Division I-A as we can get, and then use some of that revenue to bring in a Division II team," Kaverman said of the future scheduling philosophy. "This way, with the eight OVC games [four being at home], we're guaranteed at least five home games each year."

Rounding out Southeast's 2006 nonconference schedule will be a game at Austin Peay, currently a nonscholarship Division I-AA program.

Austin Peay, formerly an OVC member, is in the process of resuming scholarship football and will re-join the OVC in 2007. The contract for next season's contest against the Governors has already been signed.

Southeast also will not play longtime rival SIU in men's basketball this season due more to the OVC's expanded schedule -- from 16 to 20 games. Southeast also already had several nonconference commitments, including the ESPN Bracket Buster event.

Southeast and SIU reportedly are in negotiations to resume their men's basketball rivalry in the near future, possibly as early as the 2006-07 season.

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