Frostburg State's 15-4 overall record – which included a 9-0 mark against non-conference opponents – and an appearance in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) tournament were not enough to earn a quasi, at-large berth in the NCAA Division III postseason in 2016. Coach Tommy Pearce has altered the 2017 schedule to avoid a similar fate.
The Bobcats will tangle with No. 6 Cabrini on March 11, No. 12 Ohio Wesleyan on March 29, and Franklin & Marshall on Feb. 25. Gone are Bridgewater (Va.), Mount Union, Lycoming, and Sewanee. And that's in addition to dealing with No. 1 and reigning national champion Salisbury and No. 7 York as league opponents.
The hope is that by strengthening the non-league portion of its schedule, the team will raise its RPI to impress the NCAA selection committee and earn a Pool C bid, which is awarded to schools that did not capture the automatic qualifier in their respective conferences.
"If our out-of-conference wins maybe didn't speak loud enough for us to be in contention for Pool C, then we're going to keep trying to make that tougher," Pearce said. "Winning the CAC is pretty tough. York and Salisbury got the AQ and the Pool C [bid, respectively], but [Christopher Newport] and Frostburg both had pretty good years. Pool C is a tough market with the teams up in the [New England Small College Athletic Conference] and the Centennial and the [Old Dominion Athletic Conference]. So I think if you want to be a Pool C team, you've really got to challenge yourself out of conference."
Of course, the Bobcats must fare well in those non-conference games to make a favorable impression with the selection committee if they can't win the Capital Athletic Conference tournament. That might seem daunting to some fans, but Pearce said the players are enthusiastic about the challenges that await them.
"They love it," he said. "When we were done last year, we had an end-of-the-year meeting, and I showed them the schedule we put together for this year before they went home for the summer, and they kind of went nuts. It was pretty awesome. Everybody was excited about seeing some of those teams on our schedule this year. So they've been excited about that schedule since last May."