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Bid brings excitement to Wash U

Washington University beat its archrival, won the Founders Cup, won a conference title and earned a bid to the playoffs all in the span of a little more than 24 hours.
Photo by James Byard, WUSTL Photo Services

While there were no real surprises of what teams from the Midwest made the Division III playoffs Sunday, there were a few wrinkles.

Washington U. coaching veteran Larry Kindbom admitted he was excited when he saw his Bears make the Division III playoff board when the 32-teams were announced on Sunday.

The Bears, who successfully defended their University Athletic Association on Saturday by defeated Chicago 17-7, knew that nothing was guaranteed being a Pool B team on the bubble, with two regular season losses – even if those losses came at the hands of No. 5 UW-Whitewater (10-0) and Coe (7-3).

"They put (the selection show) on our website and we all met together," Kindbom said Sunday. "We didn't have the vocal part of it on so all we could do is look at the board and we couldn't hear it. I'm excited because they've been rewarded for working hard and believing in themselves because it's been an interesting year."

Washington U. will travel to No. 20 Franklin (7-3), which thought their chance of hosting a home playoff game was all but gone when the Grizzlies were upset by Bluffton (4-6) 24-17 on Nov. 9. The Grizzlies end up sharing the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title with Rose-Hulman.

"The lesson I always try to teach guys when they're having problems is sometimes the worst thing that has happened to you can turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you if you don't let it get the best of you," Leonard said after learning his team will play in the friendly surrounding of Faught Stadium for its opener.

"We learned a lot of great lessons getting beat by Bluffton and I give Bluffton credit. We learned you can't just walk on the field because you think you're going to win. I'm surprised we got a home game but we love playing at home. We started letting things slide. It's my fault for letting little things slide. Good football teams and coaches don't let things slide. No doubt our guys are excited and will be ready to play on Saturday."

Another team surprised to be at home is Illinois Wesleyan (9-1). The Titans, which finished second to North Central in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, will play at home against Wartburg (8-2) with the help from their strength of schedule.

"We felt pretty confident that we would get a bid but we had no idea if we would be traveling or hosting," Illinois Wesleyan coach Norm Eash said. "It worked out very well and we're pretty excited to host Wartburg. Tucci Stadium is a place we love to defend. We have a great fan base and I know our campus will be very excited to have a home playoff game here."

Illinois Wesleyan made the playoffs in 2011, losing to Monmouth in the first round. Eash said a lot of his seniors were sophomores on that team – several...

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Clyde Hughes

Clyde Hughes has been writing sports at various times over the past 24 years, covering everything from high school, college and sporting events. A native of football-crazed Texas, Hughes works in Indiana and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines.
2003-04 columnist: John Regenfuss

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