BETHANY - Bethany College and Division III power Mount Union have announced they have signed a two-year deal for a home and home non-conference football series beginning in 2014.
The match-ups between the schools will be the season opener for both programs, starting with Mount Union visiting Bethany on Sept. 6, 2014. On Sept. 5, 2015, the Bison will make the return trip to Alliance to take on the Purple Raiders. Kickoff for both games is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
The 2014 game will be the ninth all-time between the programs but the first since 1965. Bethany, which won its first PAC championship in program history that year, completed its regular season with a 35-19 loss to Mount Union, who leads the all-time series 7-0-1. The only non-Raider win came in 1908 when the schools battled to a 5-5 tie.
The series with Mount Union continues the Bison's significant upgrade in non-conference scheduling in recent seasons. After splitting two games with Allegheny in 2010 and 2011, the Bison opened the 2012 campaign with games against Centre (Ky.) College, which was fresh off a trip to the NCAA playoffs (where it lost a second-round game at Mount Union 30-10), and Randolph-Macon (Va.) College, who went 7-3 this year and finished second in the competitive Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
Bethany will open the 2013 season at Centre and at home against Randolph-Macon before kicking off the 2014 campaign against the Raiders. That will be the same season the Bison will play Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve, who are joining the PAC as football-only members and will play a full league slate starting in 2014.
Mount Union has been established as one of the national powers in Division III since the 1990s. Counting this season, the Purple Raiders have won 24 Ohio Athletic Conference regular season championships, including 21 consecutive, and they have won 10 NCAA Division III National Championships, with the last coming in 2008. This season has continued the program's string of dominance, as Mount Union is currently 13-0, ranked No. 1 in the country in the AFCA and D3Football.com polls and will host Mary Hardin-Baylor of Texas in the semifinals Saturday.
Bethany will be hoping these match-ups will spawn the same success it has for Mount Union's recent foes. Mount Union's last three non-conference opponents have all experienced post-season success in and around the time of the series with the Purple Raiders. This year's and 2013 non-conference opponent Franklin (Ind.) advanced to the second round of the NCAA Playoffs this past season, Wisconsin-Oshkosh - the 2010 and 2011 opponent - is playing this weekend in the NCAA semifinals while St. John Fisher (N.Y.) - the 2008 and 2009 opponent - just made the post-season for a 10th consecutive season.
In addition, Wisconsin-Whitewater squared off with Mount Union back in 2002 and 2003.
Two years later, the Warhawks reached the first of seven consecutive NCAA Championship games against the Purple Raiders.
Bethany head coach and director of athletics Tim Weaver, who just completed his seventh year on the Bison sideline, has had the chance to watch the Mount Union program over the last couple years doing work for the NCAA and said he is looking forward to the challenge of facing one of the nation's elite programs.
"The decision to play Mount Union was a bit of a philosophical one," said Weaver. "We've gone from having to schedule four non-conference games when we first got here to just one. Because of that, our non-conference schedule has little to do with postseason prospects when it's down to one game, so we wanted to find a game that would test where we are as a program before going into PAC play.
"I've been fortunate enough to be around Mount Union the last three years as a member of the regional advisory committee and their entire operation is very impressive. They are a great model for our program and a way to see how we stand up against the state of the art team in Division III."