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GPAC, KCAC agree to football challenge series

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GPAC, KCAC agree to football challenge series
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

The Great Plains Athletic Conference has signed an agreement with the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference to play a two-year series of football games.

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The GPAC and KCAC Football Challenge teams will each play one game per year in 2015 and 2016 against a team from the other conference. Scheduling will be based by performance during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, with the games being played the first week of the regular season.

"From day one, our administrators and coaches were on-board to make this work," GPAC Commissioner Corey Westra said in the release earlier this week. "The fans of the NAIA and our two leagues are in for some outstanding small college football."

The 2015 games will be played at KCAC sites, with the GPAC teams playing host in 2016.

Dakota Wesleyan University is scheduled to play Ottawa University (Kan.) in 2015. The two schools have never met on the football field.

"Any time we can have nonconference games against another good conference, like the KCAC, it gives us the opportunity to compete at a high level," Cimpl said, adding he knew little about Ottawa's football team, which was one of three KCAC teams to qualify for the NAIA National Tournament in 2013.

"It will be a long road trip and a good team to start the season out with (in 2015)."

Due to a contractual obligation, Dordt College (Iowa) will be unable to participate in the challenge in 2015 and 2016, bringing the number of GPAC schools to nine. As a result, Bethany College (Kan.), which finished tied for last place in the KCAC in 2013, will not take part in the series in 2015. The last place team in the KCAC in 2014 will not compete in the challenge in 2016.

The addition of the KCAC-GPAC matchups will leave one open spot for a nonconference game on the schedule for teams in the two leagues, as both feature nine-game conference schedules.

Cimpl said DWU would like to keep its rivalry alive with Dakota State University in the future. The Trojans are the lone South Dakota school on the Tigers' schedule in 2014 and could continue to fill the open slot in DWU's non-conference schedule despite the commitment of the series with the KCAC.

"We would like it to remain Dakota State," Cimpl said. "It's an in-state rivalry and a game we definitely want to keep on the schedule."

The Tigers, who finished 8-3 in 2013 and tied for second in the GPAC, open the upcoming season against the University of Wisconsin-Stout on Sept. 6.

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