By BEN JOHNSON
It’s a week to be thankful. Thanksgiving is on the horizon and with it comes food, football and family — three staples that are hard to pass up.
In terms of being grateful and appreciative this time of year, just be thankful you’re not a football player in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. Or better yet, a football player hoping to accomplish a personal milestone at an institution outside of Northwest Missouri State, Missouri Western, Emporia State, Pittsburg State and Washburn — the five schools that lord over the rest and call the shots in the league.
If you play at Fort Hays State, Nebraska Kearney, Central Oklahoma or Northeastern State, then you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than picking up First Team football honors.
Don’t believe me? Just take a peek at the recent release of the All-MIAA teams.
Quick, count all the non Bearcats, Griffons, Gorillas, Ichabods or Hornets. It shouldn’t take long. In fact, if it took you longer than one second to scan over Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir’s name, well then a trip to the optometrist is in order.
The rest of the First Team defense consisted of players from the top third of the league. And some have rightful claims to those spots:
- Northwest Missouri State defensive end Matt Longacre. Solid choice.
- Washburn pass rusher Cameron Jackson. No question.
- Pittsburg State linebacker Nate Dreiling. Absolutely.
- Washburn linebacker Bryce Atagi. No doubt (the guy is the definition of a playmaker).
- Emporia State linebacker Jordan Sanders. Wait, what?
Sanders logged 89 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss, a half sack, one forced fumble and one pass break-up for the Hornets in 2013. Of course, 19 of those tackles, one tackle for loss and a forced fumble came in Emporia State’s blowout loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the playoffs — which was played after MIAA coaches had already decreed on conference accolades. That means Sanders’ nomination to the All-MIAA First Team was granted based on pedestrian statistics that best resemble a Geo Metro next to a Rolls-Royce.
Who is the luxury vehicle in this instance? Northeastern State linebacker Langston Jones, among others. Lincoln’s Kendrick Causey and Nebraska Kearney’s duo of Tyke Kozeal and Kellen Werner could also be give some consideration.
Look, postseason honors mean nothing in the grand scope of importance in the sports universe. They’re as useless as a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-32. But at the same time, this is Division II football. A vast majority of players will never play football again; instead they’ll be getting ready to start their careers in suits and ties vs. pads and helmets.
Awards and postseason honors should be given to those who deserve them. Honestly, if you had a vote, who would you pick between Player A and Player B?
- Player A: Eighty-nine tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss, one half sack, one pass break-up, one pass defended, one forced fumble and a blocked kick.
- Player B: Nine tackles for loss, 141 total tackles, one half sack, two interceptions, six pass break-ups, eight passes defended, two quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.
That’s a no-brainer, yet Player A was the top vote-getter for the First Team.
The problem occurs when coaches are called upon to vote for one or the other. They look at the name of the institution and the subsequent record and go that route.
Someone within the conference made a solid point recently.
“Too bad you can’t get rid of ‘Northeastern State’ and 2-9. If (the Langston Jones) nomination had ‘Pittsburg State’ and 9-2 attached to it, he would be a shoe-in for All-Region [and All-Conference].”
No argument here.
Perhaps the accolades shouldn’t just be decided by a group of head coaches in a conference room at a hotel in Kansas City. Let media members submit a ballot, thus adding a bit of credibility to the selections.
Until then, we’ll just call it the All-MIAA First Team, presented by the Bearcats, Griffons, Gorillas, Ichabods and Hornets.