The Butler football team will play a 12-game schedule in the fall with a new goal in place.
As a member of the Pioneer Football League, a non-scholarship conference, the Bulldogs have never had the chance to make the playoffs. Beginning this season, the PFL champion will be awarded an automatic bid for the first time since the league’s formation in 1993.
“It’s obviously very exciting for us,” returning starting quarterback Matt Lancaster said. “That is an early goal for our team.”
PFL programs are allowed to play a 12-game schedule at the Football Championship Series level for the first time since 2010.
Butler assistant coach Joe Cheshire said the Bulldogs, especially the seniors, have been looking forward to playing a 12-game schedule.
“It’s a positive for our players,” Cheshire said. “It gives (our seniors) another opportunity to play another game in their Butler career.”
Butler will begin its campaign on Aug. 31 at South Dakota State, a perennial powerhouse who lost in the second round of the 2012 playoffs.
The Bulldogs open their home schedule under the lights in the Butler Bowl the following Saturday against Wittenberg.
Butler will host an Ivy League team for the first time when Dartmouth visits on Sept. 21.
The Bulldogs’ four other home games are against Stetson (Oct. 5), Campbell (Oct. 12), Drake (Oct. 19) and Hoosier Helmet rival Valparaiso (Nov. 9).
“As a freshman, I remember thinking it would be a long time before senior year,” Lancaster said. “But now it’s like, ‘Where has the time gone?’
“There’s no better way to end a career than against our rival in the Hoosier Helmet Game.”
All four non-conference opponents—South Dakota State, Wittenberg, Franklin and Dartmouth—had winning records in 2012.
“It will be good to see who we are as a team with the Wittenberg and Franklin games sandwiched between two good teams in South Dakota State and Dartmouth,” senior defensive back Sean Grady said.
“We’ll hopefully get back at Dartmouth for the beating they put on us up there last year.”
Senior defensive lineman Jeremy Stephens said the schedule will challenge Butler right from the start.
“I feel like our schedule will prepare us more than any other year has so far because we play a strong South Dakota State team in our first game,” Stephens said. “We’ll most likely be favored to win the Pioneer League, and we will get everyone’s best shot, which will also prepare us.”
Stephens said the South Dakota State game will be a good test because Butler players will know where their team ranks among the nation’s top competition.
Cheshire said the tough schedule will prepare the Bulldogs and give them a good shot at winning the automatic bid in the PFL.
“For me to say we don’t have a chance, that would be crazy,” Cheshire said. “If we can play our best and play to our potential, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be in contention.”