Doane College football was once relevant. It competed for conference championships, was ranked in national polls and even made it to the playoffs. Since 2003, the Tigers haven’t been ranked, not even close, until today. The NAIA announced its weekly top 25 poll this afternoon and Doane sat at No. 21. This is the first ranking in the national poll for the Tigers since the September 9, 2003 poll that had Doane at No. 23.
When Doane dropped out of the national ranking the following week it not only started to lose, rather became the doormat of the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC). Fran Schwenk, the winningest coach in Tiger history, was the last coach to have success at the program. Schwenk led the Tigers to a 114-87-3 record and three playoff appearances. The last playoff appearance for the program was 1999 when it fell victim on the road to Azusa Pacific, 31-12, in the first round. Doane’s best chance for a national title was in 1997 when the Tigers topped Southwest Kansas University and Evangel before losing a heart-breaker, 26-25, in Findlay, Ohio in the semifinals.
Doane finished the 2002 season ranked No. 17 after a 7-3 finish. In 2003, the program turned the wrong direction with a 4-6 finish. After a 2-8 finish in 2004, Schwenk, after 21 seasons, left the program to become the head coach at William Jewell.
After the departure of Schwenk, Doane College named legendary University of Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier as the 32nd coach in program history. Frazier’s time in Crete was less than memorable. His teams finished 2-8 and 1-9. Not only did Frazier coached teams struggle to win, but he cut the junior varsity program as well. Numbers in the program dropped drastically. Frazier had to go.
Insert Matt Franzen. The Doane product took a detour through Hastings College before landing his first head coaching job at his alma-mater. In his first season, four wins was a success. However, Franzen’s Tigers took some big losses in year one – a 51-0 loss to Sioux Falls, 73-0 loss at home to Morningside and a 46-7 beating by rival Nebraska Wesleyan. A pair of four-win seasons followed the inaugural campaign before a three-win slate in 2010.
This season the Tigers opened with a road win at Briar Cliff University and then another at Dakota State University. Doane returned home to face its first true test of the season, Northwestern College (Iowa). With the Red Raiders ranked No. 16 in the country, Doane had its work cut out for them. The defense rose to the challenge and led the Tigers to a 20-8 upset of Northwestern.
With the win the Tigers entered the NAIA top 25. It has been awhile since the Tigers have been ranked. It has been awhile since there has been true pride in the program. However, the pride is back. It has been a painful decade of Doane Football, but the Tigers are heading in the right direction. There is a lot of season left. Doane could still finish with yet another losing record. The Tigers could carry the momentum and make an unprecedented run to the postseason. There is a lot of season to be played.
On Saturday, Doane takes it’s unblemished record to Lincoln for a bout with Nebraska Wesleyan that is so much more than just a football game. It is a long-standing rivalry. It’s a game that the student body of both schools prepare for. If you go to Doane, you don’t like Wesleyan. If you go to Wesleyan, you don’t like Doane. This game should draw a packed house. There will be t-shirts worn to bash the opposing school. This is a rivalry.
Oh and by the way, the two teams are 45-45-6 against one another. This is the tie-breaker.