/notables/2000/swarthmore-decision

Swarthmore drops football

Swarthmore head football coach Pete Alvanos cries while addressing the crowd at a Saturday night rally.
Photo by Claire Weiss. The Phoeni
At halftime of the Stagg Bowl, Swarthmore head coach Pete Alvanos joined D3football.com's Pat Cummings via phone. After a brief analysis of the first half of the game, they discussed Swarthmore football:

D3football.com: Two Saturdays ago word came down. Why don't you describe the situation for our listeners.
Pete Alvanos:
We knew this committee was formed and that they were going to look at the overall athletic program. So we were kind of in limbo, so to speak, before recruiting started because the committee was meeting about certain recommendations. Then on the 15th of November we got the green light to go out on the road, recruiting for next season. Things looked good at that point in time. It was the Thursday right before two Saturdays ago – my dates are running into each other – I got a phone call, I'm on the road, down in Maryland recruiting, and basically it was from the provost, who said 'Coach, you have to come off the road, I have to meet with you.'

I met with her late Thursday afternoon and she had said to me that the committee had an emergency meeting and that they were going to recommend to drop football, purely based on numbers. 'It had nothing to do with Pete Alvanos, or the way we coached our teams, or anything that happened on campus' – not that anything did happen. She said 'Coach, this is not a definite, the board is going to have to vote on it,' that weekend.

At that point in time I still felt somewhat comfortable because I knew the Quaker consensus philosophy and things of that nature. So I really wasn't nervous because I knew there would not, I didn't think there would be a consensus on the Board. Neil Austrian and [unintelligible] were two Board members that I met with prior, they're the ones that kind of talked me into taking the job 2½ years ago. I went out to lunch with both of those men on Friday and they said 'Coach, we'll come and see you on Saturday with the outcome.' And lo and behold it was 1:00 on Saturday afternoon, and the door opens and there's Neil Austrian and I stand up and he says 'No no, coach, you need to sit back down.' And that's when he says 'Coach, we lost. They're dropping football.'

At first you're numb, you're in shock, but the more these guys started talking about everything, the discussion and so on and so forth, it was real. When they left I just sat in my office and basically cried, because I'm sitting here thinking we finally turned the corner with the program and we were getting our numbers [of players] increased while maintaining the higher academic standards of Swarthmore. The hardest phone call I had to make was to my wife and to tell her what exactly happened and then the phone calls just went to my parents and to the staff... and it was just a trying day, to be honest with you, because you never want to believe that a program's going to be dropped on your watch. You put your heart and soul and energy into building something basically from the ground up, and this was just a decision that the board felt and this committee felt was right for the institution. It just comes as a shock to everyone.

D3: I've seen the team first-hand here in the Centennial Conference and the turnaround with the team was tremendous. The game I saw against Dickinson was a Swarthmore loss, but that was a good game. Ken Clark, the freshman running back, first team all-conference, the Garnet went 4-5 this season. It came as a complete shock to me having seen the team for the past two years and the turnaround that you and the coaching staff made and the quality of players you got in there. Did it hurt more knowing the quality of a team you really had?
PA:
That's what hurts the most. We beat every bush and turned over every stone we could possibly turn over to find the quality scholar-athlete we have on our team, that is first-rate in the classroom and first-rate football players. I said to my wife the other night, 'The thing that I'm going to live with for the rest of my years is that I'll never know if we could have had a winning season at Swarthmore.' While I think we would have won 5, 6 or 7 games next year – I really believe that because we only graduated six seniors and we only lost two starters on defense and one on offense. That's the thing that's just going to eat at me because I just felt like we were right there. I'm not going to say that we would have competed for the conference championship but certainly could have been in the top three or four. I really believe that in my heart. That's what I struggle with on a personal level.

D3: How great was it as a coach to have the feeling that when Swarthmore came in to play people weren't always saying, 'We're going to come in and wipe the floor.' That didn't happen this season and the team really garnered respect.
PA:
I appreciate it and that's something we took pride in as a coaching staff and the kids took pride in. They worked so hard in the offseason to get things done, to lift, and to do all the things that obviously, you can't make anyone do in Division III. They took that on their own. They had an offseason meeting and made a commitment to each other that they didn't want to be the laughingstock of Division III football, or of the Centennial Conference anymore. They saw how committed we were as a coaching staff and they wanted to be just as committed as players. If we had one compliment this year, we had a hundred about how much more physical our kids were and what better shape we were in, and it was all the kids. It was their desire to get into the weight room and lift and make a legitimate commitment to being competitive and winning some football games.

D3: Far from where you were over a year ago, and if anything you guys have become the heart and soul of Division III football, even in the absence of an actual team now.
PA:
Well, I appreciate it, and like I said, the calls have been coming in from coaches throughout the country, which I'm greatly appreciative of, and just Division III fans, because of your Internet service that you supply, we're getting letters and e-mails and I'm just very grateful for those people out there who are making a plea or a case to the president and to the provost and even to the Board of Managers. At this point in time, we'll just have to see. I know the alumni are really working hard, and the players and parents, to try to get the board to possibly meet again and maybe reinstate the program. I don't know how realistic that is at this point, I don't know what the odds are of that happening, but I know there are some people behind-the-scenes that are really making a push for that to happen.

D3: I know there are and that the entire Division III community is behind you, but let's talk about the future for a second. If this does not get reinstated, how many players do you envision transferring out of Swarthmore and where do you see yourself going?
PA:
At this point in time, as the players have come to us we've been granting transfer releases to as many kids as come to us. We probably have anywhere from 15 to 20 players who have come to us as a staff to say they'd be interested in a host of schools, whether it be Amherst, Williams, the University of Chicago, Washington & Lee, Johns Hopkins. There's a number of schools that our kids are interested in, because they came here obviously for the great academic institution that it is, but they also came here to play football and be a part of building something. They've played the game their whole lives and they want to continue playing. So that's where we're at. I would envision about 15 or 20 or so transferring.

As far as personally, I don't know what I'm going to do right now. I've been talking with my wife and I'm just not real sure. I sort of do want to coach again and there are some things out there that I would possibly pursue. But at this point in time I just want to sit down with the president and see exactly what his thoughts are and things of that nature and certainly make a decision that's best for my family and me.
Oct. 13: All times Eastern
Final
Bridgewater State 24, at Mass-Dartmouth 22
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Final
at UW-Whitewater 21, UW-La Crosse 14
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Oct. 14: All times Eastern
Final
Salve Regina 45, at Nichols 10
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Final
Mount Ida 14, at Dean 7
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Final
at Thomas More 59, Waynesburg 7
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Final
at Maine Maritime 34, Coast Guard 16
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Final
at Finlandia 27, Trinity Bible 21
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Final
Hamilton 28, at Bowdoin 7
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Final
at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Olivet 47, Albion 26
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Final
at Wesleyan 41, Bates 23
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Final
Union 27, at Rochester 0
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Final
Amherst 40, at Colby 7
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Final
at Western New England 41, Endicott 14
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Final
at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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Final - OT
at Plymouth State 16, Framingham State 13
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Final
at RPI 27, Ithaca 14
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Final
Hobart 49, at Hartwick 27
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Final
at Ferrum 34, LaGrange 20
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Final
at Carnegie Mellon 42, Geneva 27
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Final
Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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Final
DePauw 26, at Denison 17
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Final
at Trine 42, Kalamazoo 7
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Final
at Washington and Lee 47, Guilford 26
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Final
at Husson 49, Castleton 0
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Final
Gallaudet 35, at Alfred State 19
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Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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Final
Brevard 41, at Methodist 17
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Final
at Lebanon Valley 31, Stevenson 24
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Final
Buffalo State 24, at St. Lawrence 21
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Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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Final
at Randolph-Macon 52, Emory and Henry 29
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Final
at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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Final
at Hampden-Sydney 58, Apprentice 28
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Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
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Final
at N.C. Wesleyan 45, Greensboro 0
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at Westminster (Pa.) 49, Grove City 27
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Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 56, Crown 15
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 29, Iowa Wesleyan 7
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at Knox 56, Grinnell 14
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at Widener 31, Lycoming 17
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Final
Trinity (Conn.) 23, at Tufts 16
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Final
at Mount St. Joseph 66, Earlham 7
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Final - 2OT
Ohio Northern 27, at John Carroll 20
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Final
Baldwin Wallace 23, at Muskingum 20
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Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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Final
Rose-Hulman 44, at Manchester 13
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Final
at Hanover 31, Bluffton 28
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Defiance 45, at Anderson 0
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at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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Hiram 62, at Kenyon 56
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Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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Final
Williams 27, at Middlebury 26
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Final
at Westfield State 33, Fitchburg State 21
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Final
Marietta 43, at Wilmington 33
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Final
at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
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Final
Curry 40, at Becker 0
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Final
TCNJ 20, at Rowan 14
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Final
at SUNY-Maritime 51, Anna Maria 15
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Final
Salisbury 28, at Montclair State 10
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Final
at Huntingdon 28, Maryville (Tenn.) 16
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Final
at Austin 33, Millsaps 19
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
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Final
at Washington U. 55, Buena Vista 20
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Final
Alma 27, at Aurora 19
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Final
at Rockford 29, Concordia-Chicago 14
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Wisconsin Lutheran 22, at Concordia (Wis.) 19
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at Lakeland 57, Benedictine 21
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at St. Norbert 10, Chicago 0
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Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
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Final
St. Olaf 22, at Augsburg 20
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Final
Bethel 24, at Gustavus Adolphus 3
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Final
St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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at Eureka 30, Greenville 19
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Final
Centre 27, at Trinity (Texas) 21
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Final
Dubuque 42, at Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Final
Central 30, at Coe 19
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Final
Lake Forest 56, at Cornell 28
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at Carthage 31, Elmhurst 8
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at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Final
Millikin 28, at Augustana 27
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Final
Ripon 52, at Beloit 28
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Final
MacMurray 49, at Minnesota-Morris 13
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Macalester 21, at Lawrence 18
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Final
at Monmouth 59, Illinois College 14
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at UW-Stevens Point 26, UW-Eau Claire 3
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Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
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Final
at Wooster 38, Oberlin 28
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Final
Texas Lutheran 41, at East Texas Baptist 34
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at UW-Stout 21, UW-River Falls 16
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
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Final
Sewanee 34, at Birmingham-Southern 13
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Final
at Hope 22, Adrian 3
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Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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Cancelled
La Verne at Occidental
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Whitworth 17, at Pacific Lutheran 14
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Final
at Cal Lutheran 42, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 20
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Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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Final
at Pacific 35, Puget Sound 27
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Final
Pomona-Pitzer 45, at Whittier 23
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Final
at Western Connecticut 28, Massachusetts Maritime 21
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Final
at St. Scholastica 56, Martin Luther 21
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Final - 5OT
at St. John Fisher 39, Utica 36
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Final - OT
at Heidelberg 48, Otterbein 45
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Final
at Shenandoah 38, Bridgewater 20
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Final
Southwestern 60, at Belhaven 31
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
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Final
at Louisiana College 52, McMurry 34
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Final
at Simpson 38, Luther 17
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Final
at Chapman 45, Redlands 26
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Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Recap Box Score
Oct. 14: All times Eastern
Final
at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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Final
at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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Final
Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
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Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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Final
at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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Final
Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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Final
Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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Final
at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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Final
at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
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Final
Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
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Final
St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
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Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
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Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
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Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Recap Box Score