It wasn't a burst of hot air from the Southwest. It wasn't rah-rah. No fire-and-brimstone motivational speeches were necessary. No need for bulletin board material here. Just simple words, simply stated, garnished with a wish of good luck.
The basic message: Let's Beat Kansas.
Coaches again embraced the plan that sends SWJCFC schools and independent Ranger against the eight members of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference in season openers on Saturday, August 26. Some coaches and presidents have been attempting to finalize gameplans for two of the NJCAA's top conferences to meet for five years. Now, it's coming to fruition -- when the leagues have combined to produce 10 of the NJCAA's preseason Top 29 teams.
"It is time to put up or shut up," Navarro head coach Chuck Lawrence said. "This is the biggest thing to hit JC football in a long time."
Added Blinn head coach Brad Franchione, "I'd love to see our conference sweep the first week's games. I'm from Kansas and I have quite a few people up there that would argue with me on which conference is better."
Other responses were tempered.
"I'm excited to be able to play the Kansas league," said Kilgore coach Jim Rieves, whose Rangers missed the playoffs for the time during his tenure. "But I'm not sure I'm excited about playing No. 3 Butler."
The Southwest v. Kansas Series filled schedule needs for schools in both conferences. Initial two-year contractual pairings seeking competitive balance were based upon previous finish in standings. Location and travel also were factors.
The ardent junior college football fan in Texas and Kansas knows it already. Judge it from the 2006 preseason poll, use the 2005 season as a barometer, or check NJCAA historical records for the last three decades -- the series figures to provide a great sampling of juco football.
Openers in Texas this year send No. 15 Garden City Community College here to Athens to face Trinity Valley‘s No. 2 ranked Cardinals; No. 3 Butler County to Kilgore to face the Rangers; Highland to Ranger to face coach Mike Fair's independent Rangers; and Fort Scott Community College to Lion Memorial Stadium in Ennis for a neutral-site contest against No. 21 Navarro College.
Meanwhile, in Kansas, No. 9 Coffeyville Community College hosts the No. 10 Blinn Buccaneers; No. 26 Hutchinson welcomes the No. 14 Tyler Apaches; Independence opens with Cisco; and No. 29 Dodge City faces No. 23 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M's Golden Norsemen.
Based upon the NJCAA's final 2005 poll, the Southwest v. Kansas Series will feature six of the Top 16 teams (TVCC, NEO, Coffeyville, Butler, Garden City and Cisco).
And from the NJCAA record book, a combined 10 teams from the Southwest and Kansas rank among the Top 40 winningest programs during each of three decades since the 1980s (Butler, NEO, Coffeyville, Garden City, Kilgore, Tyler, TVCC, Blinn, Hutchinson and Navarro).
From yet another historical perspective, three of the 2006 season openers are bowl rematches.
The Tyler-Hutchinson game at newly renovated Gowans Stadium is a rematch of the 2004 CHAMPS Heart o' Texas Bowl at Copperas Cove, Tx., won by the Blue Dragons, 15-10.
The Blinn-Coffeyville battle at Veterans Memorial Stadium pairs teams from the 1996 Mineral Water Bowl at Excelsior Springs, Mo., won 43-14 by the Buccaneers.
And finally, the Fort Scott-Navarro matchup at Ennis will be their first meeting since the 1973 Wool Bowl at Roswell, N.M., where the Bulldogs shut out the Greyhounds, 17-0.