AZUSA, Calif. -- Six home games and a significant change to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference format highlight the 2014 football schedule for Azusa Pacific, the defending GNAC champion.
As it did a year ago, the schedule kicks off against Grand Valley State, although the two-year series shifts to Southern California in 2014 for the Sept. 6 clash against the Lakers, who advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
“Our home schedule starts off with the type of excitement any college football fan would want to see,” Azusa Pacific head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “Grand Valley State is an outstanding program that continues to do great things. We’re always pursuing opportunities that will challenge us to grow into a national-caliber Division II program, and this type of game for a season opener is certainly one of those opportunities.”
From there, the schedule takes on a much different look from the Cougars’ first two years of GNAC membership. The conference has expanded to seven football programs by adding associate member South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, the first GNAC expansion in football since Azusa Pacific was added in 2012. As a result, the conference’s previous 10-game double round-robin format has been replaced by a six-game conference schedule to go with three additional non-conference matchups between GNAC teams.
“The leadership of GNAC commissioner Dave Haglund to add a new program takes a step forward towards creating a conference that can be nationally recognized and respected,” Santa Cruz said. “The way the schedule is arranged adds to our traditional rivalries while introducing new rivalries into the conference schedule. We’re fired up that the GNAC continues to pursue new members who will add to the conference’s reputation for academics and competitive athletics.”
For the Cougars, who went 9-1 to claim the program’s first conference title in just its second season of Division II competition, the non-conference schedule continues through the month of September with visits to Humboldt State Sept. 13 and Dixie State Sept. 27 around a Sept. 20 home game against Simon Fraser.
The six-game conference schedule features a Thursday night home game against Humboldt State Oct. 9, and other home games include matchups with Dixie State (Oct. 18) and Western Oregon (Nov. 1). Azusa Pacific visits Central Washington to open up its GNAC schedule Oct. 4, and on Oct. 25 the Cougars visit first-year member South Dakota Mines, which went 6-4 as an independent Division II program in 2013. Wrapping up the conference schedule is a Nov. 8 visit to Simon Fraser.
Azusa Pacific has also filled its open date in the GNAC schedule with a non-conference matchup against Menlo College to close out the regular season on Nov. 15. Menlo, which competes as an NAIA independent program, was 5-5 in 2013.