Most college programs are about 95 days away from kicking off their season, but two Division III schools got their season started off a few months early with a game overseas during Memorial Day weekend.
Due to a "Foreign Tour" rule that applies to non-scholarship programs, Division III teams are allowed compete abroad. Since the Division III level isn't allowed to pad-up during spring ball, it's a great optional opportunity for players and coaches to get a head start on the upcoming season. NCAA rules currently do not allow Division I or Division II scholarship programs the same opportunity.
The two teams that got their 2014 season started on the right foot with a win were Southwestern University (D-III - TX), and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (D-III - CA).
Southwestern University head coach Joe Austin has been a trailblazer of sorts in this field, and has taken teams overseas while with two other programs; the University of Dubuque (D-III - IA), and Hanover College (D-III - IN). Over the weekend, he lead about 30 of his Pirate players to a 48-7 victory over a German semi-pro team, the Stuttgart Scorpions.
Interestingly enough, one of Ross' staff members, associate head coach Tom Ross, actually used to coach the Stuttgart Scorpions at one point in his coaching career.
About 340 miles away, Claremont-Mudd-Scipps took on the Austrian National Team in the Turkish Airways Charity Bowl in Vienna. CMS won the contest 21-14, and enjoyed a nine-day overseas tour against Austria's top American football talent. The trip was head coach Kyle Sweeney's third trip against national competition, his first coming as a member of Team Stars and Stripes against Mexico, followed up by an international game against a team from Ostia, Italy while as an assistant against Illinois Wesleyan.
To put things in perspective, the Austrian National team can play some quality football, by small college standards. They actually beat Augustana College (D-III - IL) 7-0 back in 2010, and then lost to Rose-Hulman (D-III - IN) in a 35-34 thriller in 2011.
The players and staff that were able to participate for these two teams over the weekend got a once in a lifetime experience in both football and culture that they will remember forever, and built some unique team camaraderie that they can hopefully transform into a special 2014 season.