HAAC inks TV deal with ESPN

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

The Heart of America Athletic Conference signed a television deal with Niles Media, Mediacom, and ESPN3 that will broadcast 13 games throughout the 2015 football season. Baker will have two of its games put out on the network in each state that the conference has teams represented, with the exception of Nebraska.

“What a thing for NAIA football and the Heart of America conference,” head football coach Mike Grossner said.

The HAAC has been one of the top football conferences in all of NAIA football over the past few seasons. If newly added Grand View is included in the totals, the conference has drawn three teams into the 2014 NAIA FCS playoffs, four in 2013, and three in 2012. Some observers have called the Heart of America the Southeastern Conference of the NAIA. Grossner believes that the conference deserves this level of attention.

“We’ve been on the map for quite a while, and it’s pretty known in this area and the NAIA that this is a tough conference,” Grossner said. “Then we added the likes of Grand View University and William Penn University to our league this past year, which would be the equivalent of a Tennessee and a Florida when you talk SEC.”

Baker’s first game on the network will be the first game of the 2015 season. At 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, No. 16 Baker takes on the No. 6 Grand View Vikings in Des Moines, Iowa. This is Grand View’s inaugural season in the conference and eighth season of football. The Vikings have already shown dominance in their short time of football by winning the 2013 NAIA championship.

Grand View is accompanied into the HAAC by William Penn University out of Oskaloosa, Iowa. With the additions of the Vikings and the Statesmen, the conference moves to two divisions, a north and a south. Baker, in the south division, will play every team in the north division in the first six weeks and will have a bye week following the sixth game. After the bye week, Baker will finish the final five games of the season against the other teams of the south division.

Baker’s second televised game on the network will be at 11 a.m. at home on Oct. 24 against the Pioneers of MidAmerica Nazarene University. This game is slotted as the annual Black Out game for Baker where all the fans at Liston Stadium wear black shirts instead of their usual Baker orange. Baker won its first game against MNU in the 21st century at home in 2013 but lost in Olathe to the Pioneers in 2014. That loss was Baker’s first loss in 2014. Baker went on to lose two of the next three and missed the NAIA playoffs.

“The great thing is now more people are going to get exposed to our style of football and the NAIA style of football, which is really good,” Grossner said. “

The TV schedule also allows for a flex game in the final week of the season that will likely be used to broadcast the final game of the conference champion team, or a potential championship game. Baker’s final game of the season will be at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 at Evangel. Baker played at Evangel last season in week three and won 24-14. Due to the conference schedule realignment Baker will play in Springfield for the second consecutive season. Baker will also play at Avila in Kansas City for the second straight season.

“For us people that love football, to wake up and be the only game on that early and for people that are getting their first taste of football on that Saturday morning, we are going to be it,” Grossner said

In addition to television coverage, Tom Hedrick will be on the radio call for all of Baker’s games in 2015. Those games can be heard on 89.7 KNBU-FM in Baldwin City as well as online at www.knbufm.com. Coverage for each game starts 30 minutes prior to kickoff with interviews from the coaching staff.