If the Northwest Missouri St. football team had a classified ad in the newspaper it would probably read, “Wanted: Division II football team interested in playing in late August or early September.” Northwest Missouri State is struggling to fill weeks one and two of their football schedule. Three problems started about three weeks ago when South Dakota State wanted out of their game after moving up to Division I-AA. Minnesota State-Mankato decided not to re-new their contract with Northwest, which left another vacancy. Deals to fill the two games have fallen through. Normally the schedule is done by February. The two games have to be at home because of commitments to those who have paid for luxury suites at Rickenbrode Stadium. Head coach Mel Tjeerdsma indicated that Northwest’s winning reputation, especially at home, is making it even tougher to find teams to play. He understood the hesitancy of schools to come to Maryville saying, “We’re the same way. I’m not gonna look for North Dakota or Texas A&M Kingsville or teams like that. That’s not the first teams I’m going to call. I’m sure everybody feels the same way, but we have a tough enough conference schedule” Playing smaller schools isn’t an option because a schedule with NAIA of Division-III teams could keep a team from hosting games in the playoffs. Larger schools, like those in I-AA, want to host games against Division-II schools. Tjeerdsma isn’t too worried about the unfinished schedule yet, saying, “If we get to the first of April, then I’ll probably start to panic a little bit. Until then we’re just gonna keep working at it.” If they can find an opponent, the Bearcats will kick off the 2004 season on August 28.
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