Away from the spotlight, the KCAC's 10 football teams have spent more than a year plotting a takeover of the NAIA.
Beginning with spring football practices in 2010 and continuing this year, they've seized upon the league's new sports initiatives that applied specifically to them: added practices, added full-pad work in the spring the last two years and a full-pads spring game, also new to the league.
And it's all been with an eye on this fall, when the teams are able to move from a 10- to an 11-game schedule and add another non-conference game. And, as evidenced by the 10 schedules released this week, most of the teams went looking for a challenge.
Defending league champion McPherson will travel to southern California to take on Azusa Pacific on Oct. 8. Ottawa will host national power Georgetown (Ky.) on Sept. 3. Sterling opens with back-to-back games against William Jewell and Benedictine.
But Friends and Tabor opted to stick with a 10-game schedule.
The inability to get a few extra days of practice approved in the budget kept the Falcons from being able to finalize a deal on an extra game — most likely with Missouri Valley — during the spring. Missouri Valley will host McPherson on Sept. 3 instead.
"I didn't want to get us in another game and have us still reporting (to practice) on Aug. 16, because I just didn't feel like that was enough time to get ready," Friends coach Monty Lewis said. "I felt like, to play on Sept. 3, we needed to be here by Aug. 12. When we couldn't get approval to come in early, I couldn't give a definitive yes to any of the coaches I was talking to.
"Knowing how much (Former Friends president) Biff Greene pushed to get the sports initiative passed, it's frustrating not to be able to play. I wish we could have got something done."
Friends athletic director Joe Zimmerman said that it was an issue of equity, then cost.
"If I bring in football early, then it becomes a question of do I have to bring in all my other fall sports early as well?" Zimmerman said. "And then we're going from 100 to about 250 athletes that we're going to have to house and feed for an extra four days. We just didn't feel content jumping on (the extra game) in the first year."
Other fall sports for Friends are men's and women's cross country, men's and women's soccer and volleyball.
Bethany, which opens Sept. 3 against Southwest Assemblies of God, will report Aug. 15 along with the rest of the Swedes' fall athletic programs. For football coach Jamie Cruce, the risk was well worth the reward.
"The first team we're playing is going to have an extra two weeks of practice on us, but so what?" Cruce said. "You get a chance to play an extra game with your kids, bottom line. The extra game is something we hoped would happen for a long time, so we're going to take advantage of it."