Ashland University's football team has the dates and opponents for the 2017 and 2018 seasons locked up – and the opener in both seasons very well could be a pair of NCAA Division II Top 25 showdowns.
The Eagles will start '17 and '18 against Indiana (Pa.) – 2017 on the road and 2018 at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. Both AU and the Crimson Hawks are ranked in two 2016 D-II preseason polls – IUP fourth and Ashland eighth in the Sporting News poll, and Ashland third and IUP 15th in the Lindy's Sports poll.
"IUP has had a nationally-recognized football program for years," said Ashland Director of Athletics Al King. "Playing them will be a tremendous challenge, but this should be one of the best matchups in the country in 2017 and 2018. Our players, coaches, alumni and fans like these type of games. Indiana, Pennsylvania isn't a long trip, and our fans will have an opportunity to see us play in a different venue.
"I'm excited that we could make this arrangement work."
Ashland was 10-1 in 2015, had an undefeated regular season, won a share of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship and played host to a D-II playoff game. In 2016, Ashland returns 11 starters on offense, seven on defense and three on special teams – including 12 All-GLIAC players.
In 2015, IUP went 9-3 and, like Ashland, qualified for the NCAA Division II postseason. The Crimson Hawks boast junior running back Chris Temple (1,212 yards, 17 touchdowns rushing in 2015), sophomore quarterback Lenny Williams (1,229 yards, 12 touchdowns rushing and 1,549 yards, nine touchdowns passing in 2015) and junior wide receiver/return specialist Walt Pegues (57 catches, 11.0-yard punt-return average and 26.8-yard kickoff-return average in 2015).
Ashland's series with IUP, and its 2016 opener at home against Mercyhurst, will mark the Eagles' first games against a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference foe since four games against Bloomsburg from 2008-11.
In both 2017 and 2018, the Eagles will play non-conference games against IUP and Ohio Dominican, who will join the Great Midwest Athletic Conference beginning in 2017. In both seasons, AU will play nine GLIAC opponents.
Homecoming dates for both 2017 and 2018 will be determined at a later date.
2017 ASHLAND UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 2 – at Indiana (Pa.)
Sept. 9 – OHIO DOMINICAN
Sept. 16 – at Northwood*
Sept. 23 – FERRIS STATE*
Sept. 30 – at Davenport*
Oct. 7 – at Northern Michigan*
Oct. 14 – MICHIGAN TECH*
Oct. 21 – at Tiffin*
Oct. 28 – at Wayne State*
Nov. 4 – GRAND VALLEY STATE*
Nov. 11 – SAGINAW VALLEY STATE*
* - denotes GLIAC game
2018 ASHLAND UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 1 – INDIANA (PA.)
Sept. 8 – at Ohio Dominican
Sept. 15 – WAYNE STATE*
Sept. 22 – NORTHWOOD*
Sept. 29 – at Ferris State*
Oct. 6 – at Saginaw Valley State*
Oct. 13 – TIFFIN*
Oct. 20 – MICHIGAN TECH*
Oct. 27 – at Davenport*
Nov. 3 – at Grand Valley State*
Nov. 10 – NORTHERN MICHIGAN*
* - denotes GLIAC game