BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - Union College will make its first-ever appearance in the NAIA Football Championship Series Saturday as the No. 11 Bulldogs will square off against host No. 3 University of St. Francis (Ind.) at 12 p.m. Eastern.
"Obviously, we're excited (about making the playoffs) and looking forward to the opportunity to play for a national championship," said Union head coach Tommy Reid. "I'm happy for our players and our coaching staff, and I'm looking forward to playing a very good team in St. Francis."
After over a decade of struggling, Union put together its first winning season since 1995 as the Bulldogs posted a 9-2 overall record and 5-1 Mid-South Conference East mark. Since the 1995 campaign, Union had not won more than four games in a season and endured a 25-game losing streak that began in 1998 and did not end until midway through the 2000 season.
"I think we did a good job in the early part of the season taking care of the football and cashing in on turnovers our defense created," Reid said of the turnaround. "We were able to beat some good teams early in the year, and that gave our team the confidence to go out and win."
Reid, who is in his eighth year at the helm and owns a 31-49 record at Union, credits the players themselves for the team's transformation as well.
"We've have so many different guys step up for us," the Bulldog coach said. "And the big thing is that players haven't cared who's getting the credit as long as we're winning."
The NAIA announced the official pairings Sunday afternoon as a total of 16 teams will play at eight first-round sites on Saturday, Nov. 22. Defending national champion Carroll (Mont.) College opens up by hosting Dickinson State (N.D.) University in Helena, Mont. The Fighting Saints have won five of the last six National Championships and are 14-1 in their last 15 Football Championship Series home games.
Two teams are making their first ever appearance in the Football Championship Series -- Shorter (Ga.) College and Union . Shorter travels to University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) while Union visits the University of Saint Francis (Ind.).
The 53rd Annual Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 20 at Rome, Ga. Rome-Floyd County and Shorter (Ga.) College will host the event at Barron Stadium. The event will be televised live on CBS College Sports Television with kick-off slated for 12 p.m. EST. For ticket information, call (706) 233-7288 or click here to download the order form.
For more information on the 2008 National Championship, click here.
Championship Series Quick Facts:
Carroll (Mont.) is seeking its sixth overall National Championship and sixth in the last seven years. Texas A&I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville) holds the most NAIA Championships with seven.
St. Francis (Ind.) holds the longest active streak of consecutive Championship Series appearances with 10; Carroll (9) and Sioux Falls (8) are right behind USF.
Shorter (Ga.) and Union (Ky.) are making their first ever Championship Series appearance.
The Heart of America Athletic (HAAC) Conference and Mid-South East Division both send the most participants (3).
Carroll (Mont.) is riding a 26-game winning streak heading into the playoffs.
St. Francis (Ind.) has won 50 straight home games including playoffs.
After securing the Frontier Conference Championship on Nov. 8, Carroll (Mont.) now has won nine straight (outright and shared) conference championships. The Fighting Saints own the nation's longest active streak of conference champ.
Five teams will enter the FCS with an undefeated record (Carroll, Sioux Falls, St. Francis, MidAmerica Nazarene and Friends). The amount is the most since six NAIA teams were undefeated during the regular season in 1995.
2008 Football Championship Series
First Round: November 22
Quarterfinals: November 29
Semifinals: December 6
53rd Annual Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship
Saturday, December 20, 2008
12 p.m. EST Kick-off (Approximate)
2008 NAIA Football Championship Series
First Round Pairings | Saturday, Nov. 22
Game 1: Carroll (Mont.) College hosts Dickinson State (N.D.) University - 12:07 MST
Game 2: University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) hosts St. Ambrose (Iowa) University - 12 CST
Game 3: University of Saint Francis (Ind.) hosts Union (Ky.) College - 12 EST
Game 4: MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) University hosts Langston (Okla.) University - 1 CST
Game 5: Friends (Kan.) University hosts Northwestern Oklahoma University - 1:30 CST
Game 6: Morningside (Iowa) College hosts Baker (Kan.) University - 1 CST
Game 7: Lindenwood (Mo.) University hosts Lambuth (Tenn.) University -- 1:30 CST
Game 8: University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) hosts Shorter (Ga.) College - 12 EST