A decision by a conference opponent to drop its football program will likely leave St. Ambrose with a nine-game schedule and only four home games during the upcoming season.
"There is a sliver of a chance we may still find a 10th opponent, but realistically it probably isn’t going to work out," St. Ambrose coach Mike Magistrelli said. "We’re preparing for a nine-game regular season."
Lindenwood-Belleville, which announced in May it would end all undergraduate academic programs following the 2020 spring semester at its Belleville, Illinois, campus, announced last week it is ending its football program one year earlier than planned because of a lack of players.
A number of underclassmen in the program opted to transfer this summer to retain multiple of years of eligibility at other institutions, something which left the NAIA program with the inability to field a complete team this fall.
St. Ambrose was scheduled to host Lindenwood-Belleville on Oct. 5 at Brady Street Stadium in a Mid-States Football Association game.
That game will not be played, and the loss of a team has prompted conference officials to put together a revamped league schedule that is expected to be finalized this week.
The changes will provide a 10th game to a number of Mid-States teams, but Magistrelli said St. Ambrose and St. Francis (Ind.) will be left with nine-game schedules after changes are made.
"They’ve been scrambling to re-work things as best they can, but we will be one of two teams that will be left without a 10th opponent," Magistrelli said. "We’ve reached out, posted the opening on some websites, but nothing realistic has materialized."
St. Ambrose director of athletics Mike Holmes said the university administration has been willing to help facilitate any accommodations that would be needed to add an additional opponent to the schedule.
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"It’s such a late date, though, and that makes it tough for everybody involved," Holmes said. "You have such a limited number of home games in football to begin with, and to lose one, that’s difficult."
The MSFA schedule changes will alter the road schedule for St. Ambrose but will not impact the remaining four home games on the Fighting Bees’ schedule.
St. Ambrose will host Siena Heights on Sept. 21, Trinity International on Oct. 19, St. Xavier on Nov. 2 and St. Francis (Ill.) on Nov. 9 as scheduled, Magistrelli said.
The situation will leave the Fighting Bees with two open dates on their schedule, something Magistrelli said his team will try to make the best of if it cannot find a last-minute replacement.
"It’s disappointing. We can play up to 11 games, but 10 is ideal because it does give you a bye," Magistrelli said. "Nine is tough, especially for a team with hopes of qualifying for the national playoffs. It’s one less chance to move up in the polls, one less chance to get noticed, but we will do what we can to make the most of it."
In announcing the end of its undergraduate programs at Lindenwood-Belleville, the school said it would combine those academic programs with its Lindenwood campus in St. Charles, Missouri, beginning in the fall of 2020.
It will also continue to honor its athletic scholarships and financial aid packages for student-athletes who opt to attend classes at that campus, but many of its student-athletes have decided to transfer now.
St. Ambrose defeated Lindenwood-Belleville in football 26-0 last season, part of a 31-game losing streak for the Lynx which dates to the regular-season finale in 2015.