The University of Redlands football team has become the first SCIAC runner-up in history to earn an at-large playoff berth. The Bulldogs (8-1) made the 32-team field for the first time since 2007 when it shared the conference title but got the automatic bid.
The Bulldogs will not be heading to Cal Lutheran as most thought they would if they made the field. Instead they will get on a plane for a Saturday matchup against American Southwest Conference champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (10-0), which is making its eighth straight playoff appearance and 10th in 11 years.
Early in the week coach Mike Maynard said the only scenario in which his team would likely make the field was if the NCAA sent it back to Thousand Oaks because it has always limited the first-round field to one plane flight. Not only will Redlands be getting on a plane, so will Cal Lutheran which is being sent to Linfield (Ore.).
The Bulldogs making the field is good, not just for the school but the conference as well. Now there is a precedent for a runner-up making the field. A big part of Redlands qualifying, no doubt, was its nonconference win over then No. 6-North Central (Ill.). Maynard thought his team deserved a shot last year at 8-1, but strength of schedule was singled out as an issue.
So if Redlands didn’t get in, then strength of schedule really didn’t matter at all. That would have been sending a bad message that no matter what you do, you’re not getting in if you’re not first.
No Redlands wasn’t overly impressive in some of its SCIAC games, but margin of factor is not supposed to be a factor. A win is a win.
The next step is for the both Redlands and Cal Lu to put in good showings so the SCIAC is deemed worthy for a second spot in future years as well.