All along, we thought Western Kentucky would not play a bowl game in its final season of transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
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Because of a three-week break in their schedule, the Hilltoppers will treat their regular-season finale in Miami as a bowl experience. They will play Florida International on Dec. 6.
Coach David Elson will have three weeks to prepare for the game. That is similar to the time frame for the Sun Belt Conference champion to get ready for its automatic bid to the New Orleans Bowl.
Elson will structure practices around Thanksgiving and other off days following WKU's showdown against Middle Tennessee on Nov. 15. Their meeting was to be on Nov. 29, but it became the Sun Belt Game of the Week.
"Coach Elson wanted to structure it as if we were going to a bowl game," WKU spokesman Todd Stewart said. "He wanted to take that window and find something constructive. But we won't go to Miami days in advance like we would in a bowl situation."
Western can compete for the Sun Belt title and bowl eligibility next season. The Hilltoppers visit Kentucky Saturday night.
Celebrating a decade
Transylvania and the Heartland Conference are celebrating a "Decade of Excellence" for the NCAA Division III league.
Transylvania, which joined in January 2001, has found Heartland membership to be "a wonderful experience," Athletic Director Jack Ebel said. "It's been such a positive for all our teams and athletes."
During a lengthy transition from the NAIA, Transylvania applied for Heartland membership.
"The common philosophy of all the schools has been good," Ebel said. "We have an avenue for conference championships and the routes to get to nationals. We've developed a real sense of competitiveness."
Transylvania competes in 18 men's and women's sports.
Since it began out of the former Indiana Conference, the Heartland's current members have produced 104 All-Americans and 26 academic All-Americans. The Heartland is an automatic qualifier into 16 Division III tournaments.
Winning streak on the line
The top-ranked Northern Kentucky men's soccer team will put its 29-game regular-season winning streak on the line at two unbeaten teams this weekend.
The Norse will visit Drury Friday night and Rockhurst Sunday afternoon in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Northern Kentucky is undefeated in its last 19 road games. The Norse's last regular-season loss was against Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri S&T) on Sept. 15, 2006.
NKU's Steven Beattie is eighth in NCAA Division II points (2.7 a game) and goals (1.3).
Eagles sixth in debut
The women's golf team at Morehead State recently finished sixth in its first tournament since the sport was reinstated this year.
The Eagles tied Elon in the Great Smokies Intercollegiate Tournament, making up six shots on the event's second day.
Paige Lausier's 69 shared second-day individual honors, and she tied for 16th. Host Western Carolina won the team title.
New job for KSU AD
Derita Ratcliffe begins her duties as senior associate athletic director and senior women's administrator at UAB next week.
Ratcliffe had served as athletic director at Kentucky State since 2005.
Ratcliffe "has been the epitome of a truly dedicated and tireless employee who loves athletics, but who loves students even more," KSU President Mary Evans Sias said.
■ The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference had its first female football official when Sebrina Brunson served as line judge for the Stillman-Tuskegee game last week. Kentucky State is a SIAC member.
Rick Bailey covers state colleges and Marshall for the Herald-Leader. This article contains his opinions and observations. Reach him at (859) 231-3336, (800) 950-6397, Ext. 3336, or firstname.lastname@example.org.