The Cradle of Division 3 Football

January 24, 2019

Between Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois there are 59 Division 3 football teams.
Wisconsin and its neighboring states are usually well represented in the 32 team playing field of
the playoffs. This year is no exception. Two Wisconsin teams, three Minnesota, two Illinois and
one from Iowa are in the playoffs. For a comparison, in those states, there are seven Division 1
teams, none of which have won the national championship game since 1960. There have been
15 D3 titles won by teams in these four states since the tournament began in 1973, so it seems
fair to say that D3 football is stronger around here than in D1. You could argue that there are 59
teams compared to 7 so they have a better chance to have more titles, which is right. however,
here’s the thing: of those 15 D3 titles, they are won by five teams, only one team hasn’t won it at
least twice. The upper midwest is a powerhouse for D3 football. Two of the five big contenders,
sometimes called the purple powers, from the last 10 years in D3 football are from Minnesota
and Wisconsin.
This year we saw UW-Whitewater make a run at claiming a 7th title but fell short in the
semifinals, and St. Norbert take another stab at the playoffs, both from Wisconsin. In Minnesota,
Bethel rode one of its best seasons ever into the playoffs and St John’s took a good shot at a
third title, but both fell in the quarterfinals. Martin Luther went out in the first round. Wartburg,
out of Iowa, fell in the first round as well. Eureka and North Central, from Illinois, both had short
playoff campaigns this year too. All of these teams had to beat one another, St John’s and UW-
Whitewater are the only two that didn’t lose to one of these other teams mentioned. This is
partly because of the fact that the National Collegiate Athletic Association only gives Division 3
football 3.18% of their total budget, this causes an attempt at minimizing flights rather than
getting what may be the most fitting, competitive bracket possible.
The upper midwest is also home to some of the greatest coaches in college football. John
Gagliardi was head coach of St John’s for 60 years and retired with the most wins in college
football history, 489 wins and 4 national titles. Former UW-Whitewater coach, Lance Leipold,
had a record of 109 wins and just 6 loses, he won 6 national championships at UW-W. Now he
is the head coach of D1’s University of Buffalo and led the team to a 10-3 regular season.


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