By Austin Metz
Editor in Chief
An 11-0 season, a conference championship, the fourth-ranked offense and the seventh-ranked defense won’t be enough to allow Grand Rapids Community College to play for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship game.
“We needed to be ranked in the top two in order to play in the championship game, but we ended up tied for third,” said Coach Tony Annese.
“When we found out we weren’t playing in the championship, we were hoping to be invited to play in Mississippi or another top bowl game but that didn’t happen either.”
DeShawn Byrd is a sophomore offensive lineman on the team and said that the team is very disappointed with the outcome of the bowl game selections.
“The players are upset over the fact that we’ve been putting in work since June 22 and finished 11-0 but didn’t get a bowl game,” Byrd said. “At the same time, the team and I feel that you can’t get mad over a situation you can’t control.”
Although the players and coaches couldn’t control what happened, that doesn’t lessen the disappointment the team feels.
“The players and coaches are disappointed,” said Athletic Director Charles Wells. “They were in pursuit of the championship but that obviously didn’t happen.”
Byrd expressed frustration at the bowl selection process above all else.
“My opinion about it is that the bowl picking situation is terrible,” Byrd said. “There’s no way an 11-0 team shouldn’t have the right to play in a bowl game.”
Coach Annese did saProxy-Connection: keep-alive
that the team was invited to play in a bowl game, buProxy-Connection: keep-alive
the magnitude of the game wasn’t worth it for the team.
“We were invited to play in one bowl game but it wasn’t a game we wanted to play in,” Annese said. “We could have played against sixteenth ranked Snow College but it didn’t make sense to travel to Utah for the game.”
While playing in a bowl game would have been nice, traveling to Utah wouldn’t make sense from a financial standpoint for the college.
Athletic Director Charles Wells said that the money needed to go to the bowl game would have to be raised by donors.
“In order to go to the bowl game, the school would have had to raise money above and beyond what we set aside for the regular season,” Wells said.
“The money would have had to been raised by donors of the school. The team was also unofficially invited to two other bowl games but neither of those worked out either.”
Wells explained that some bowls do give stipends to the teams playing in the game but those generally only ranges from $3,500 to $10,000 and only sometimes include hotel rooms.
On top of that, the fact that the team finished in the top five should have meant playing against another team also ranked in the top five.
While no one will actually say it, the fact that the Raiders were only invited to play against the 16th ranked team in the country in a mediocre bowl is a slap in the face.
The only knock critiques may have on this perfect team would have to be the strength of schedule the Raiders played.
Although the Raiders did twice defeat a team ranked in the top ten, they also won two games against teams not affiliated with the NJCAA.
However, having played in ten games and won another by forfeit, the team averaged 50 points a game and gave up only 17.4 points on defense and outscored their opponents 500-174 for the season. Simply put, the Raiders deserved better.
“We are dis-appointed,” Annese said. “No one can take away what we accomplished this year. When you look at all we did with the perfect season and a conference championship, no one can take that away from us.”
The sad truth is that situations like this have happened before at other college levels.
In 2004, three teams at the Division 1 level finished the college season undefeated. Only two colleges could play for the national championship so Auburn University was forced to play in another bowl.
The pain is worse now though since it’s happening to our Raiders.
As for next year? That’s still up in the air.
“We have a lot of good players coming back,” Annese said. “It’s a long process but we will be working really hard to prepare for next season.”
Led by Coach Tony Annese, the team has experienced continued success from year to year. Annese began coaching in 2009 and since that time the team has accumulated a 30-4 record.
The hope going into next year is that finishing so high in the polls will set them up for a promising 2012 campaign–and possibly a chance to play in the NJCAA title game.