By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
While surprises reigned in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships, the conferences best teams season-long have been tapped to play in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Bowie State and Virginia Union of the CIAA and Tuskegee in the SIAC are three of the teams in the 14-team playoff field. Only BSU made their conference championship games, losing Saturday to a 6-5 Winston-Salem State team. Tuskegee fell in their regular season finale to eventual SIAC champion, Miles.
Bowie State, ranked sixth in the playoff field, visits third-ranked Assumption (10-1) Saturday while 7th ranked Virginia Union (8-2) goes to second-ranked Slippery Rock (10-1). The winner of those two games play the following weekend, with the higher ranked team hosting.
Tuskegee (8-2), ranked sixth on their side of the bracket, visits third-ranked Catawba (8-2) Saturday
Bowie State was 9-2 this season, but five games were nullified after an eligible player was found to have been competing for the team. The player wasn't named, but numerous reports were that the player was star quarterback Matthew Goggans, who is not listed on the team's roster anymore. But the team's won-loss percentage wasn't affected by the nullification and they were allowed to participate in postseason play.
Goggans was replaced by Nyema Washington. Washington threw for 209 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs' loss to Winston-Salem State in the CIAA title game Saturday.
This is Bowie State's second-ever playoff appearance. They lost to Portland State 34-17 in the 1998 playoffs.
"Hats off to our guys and coaching staff... We've done a great job all year," said Bowie State head coach Damon Wilson Sunday, according to the school's athletics web site. "We lost a tough game [Sunday] but have an opportunity to continue playing [post season] football for the second time in history. This is an exciting time."
Virginia Union only lost one conference game this season, a tough 23-19 loss to Bowie State which ended up keeping them out of the CIAA championship game. Their game against Slippery Rock will be the school's first NCAA Division II playoff appearance since a 1991 loss to Indiana (Pa).
Tuskegee was at the top of most Division II HBCU football polls all season until they lost to Miles in their regular season finale. Saturday's game marks their school's third consecutive NCAA Division II playoff berth. Last season, the Golden Tigers lost a first-round home game 20-17 to West Georgia last season and in 2013, in their first playoff appearance, they lost to powerful North Alabama.