The Pioneer Football League was born out of necessity for those Division I basketball-playing schools that wanted to keep a football program. The philosophy: because they didn’t care to try and afford the 63-scholarship maximum of Division I-AA (now FCS), they formed a non-scholarship alliance with schools with similar values. Of the 11 in the league, only Morehead State (Ky.) is a public university. Most have enrollments in the few thousand students.
It makes for some interesting travel, especially for the University of San Diego team that plays at NDSU Saturday in the second round of the FCS playoffs. USD is geographically isolated from most of the conference in the bottom corner of California. The rest of the league looks like this: Drake in Iowa, Valparaiso and Butler in Indiana, Dayton in Ohio, Morehead in Kentucky, Marist in New York, Campbell and Davidson in North Carolina and Jacksonville and Stetson in Florida. The USD Toreros, in all cases of away games, fly commercial, usually Southwest Airlines.
The general rule, San Diego head coach Dale Lindsey said, is when the team heads east it will fly out on Thursday. “In order for our players to get acclimated to the time change and be ready to play,” he said.
USD books its flights early in the spring and never has to break the team up in different flights. “We know exactly what we’re doing,” Lindsey said. “The kids do a great job. They behave and we never have a problem with any of them.”
Lindsey said he’s been told San Diego is the next-most traveled team behind the University of Hawaii having logged over 15,000 miles this season. So the trip to Fargo, on an NCAA charter no less, will probably seem like a walk in the park in terms of getting here.