The upcoming Mercer Bears football team has officially announced their initial conference affiliation as the Pioneer Football League (PFL), one of three that plays non-scholarship football in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA. This football-only league will see the entrance of the Mercer Bears in the fall of 2013, along with their arch-rival Stetson Hatters, who also resume play in 2013.
Affiliation in the Pioneer Football League will not affect the Bears’ status within the Atlantic Sun, as the Atlantic Sun does not sponsor football competition. The Bears will take on Stetson, Butler, Campbell, Davidson, Dayton, Drake, Jacksonville, Marist, Morehead State, San Diego, and Valparaiso. The proposed format will make the conference into two separate divisions, with the Bears playing fellow newcomer Stetson, Davidson, Jacksonville, Campbell, and Morehead State every year.
According to Head Coach Bobby Lamb, Mercer will find a good home in the Pioneer Football League. It will provide much national exposure for the fledgling program, as they will be going all around the country to play teams on both coasts. With several homes games as well, the city of Macon will also find itself with an economic boost several times each fall. This will help a city that needs all the help it can get at the moment.
Mercer University is also in need of an identity in football, since it’ll be just another football school in Georgia, and the non-athletic aid conference will help Mercer gain some recognition. They are already one of the top schools for student-athletes in the southeast, and Coach Lamb implored that this Pioneer Football League will help Mercer stand out above the rest. With a massive recruiting blitz about to happen in the state of Georgia by the Mercer coaching staff, both the Pioneer League’s history of success and future success in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA) will be a massive bargaining chip.
The PFL was founded in 1991, and Mercer will be joining in their 21st year of competition. This is something that will help bring guys in to a program that was 70 years in the making. That, combined with a good record at Furman for Coach Lamb, will help usher in plenty of new recruits.
The Pioneer Football League opened play on Sept. 1, with Morehead State helping usher in a new season of success for the conference. In 2013, Mercer looks to do the same. “We want Mercer Football to belong to Macon and the entire middle Georgia region and the Pioneer Football League is a big step with that identification process,” said Director of Athletics Jim Cole, speaking to Mercerbears.com. “It is our intent to have the exciting atmosphere and rivalries of college football, and to provide an affordable, family-oriented experience for our fans,” he added.
President Underwood also told the Athletics’ website: “A key component in the decision of our Board of Trustees to resume competition in intercollegiate football was the opportunity to affiliate with the Pioneer Football League.”
With the support of the administration fully behind it in all senses, Mercer football could rise to success very soon.