NATIONAL SHOWDOWN! NCAA D2 Powerhouses Ferris State & Pitt State Ink Two-Year Agreement
Big Rapids, Mich. — Two of the nation's premier NCAA Division II Football programs will square off to open each of the next two seasons of action as the Ferris State Bulldogs and the Pittsburg State (Kan.) Gorillas have announced today a two-year contract for the 2024 and 2025 football seasons.
Pitt State will entertain the Bulldogs in the 2024 season opener on August 31 at Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburgh, Kan., before paying a return trip to Big Rapids to face the Bulldogs at Top Taggart Field in the 2025 season opener.
The 2024 season opener will highlight the newly created "Week Zero" action in NCAA Division II, showcasing two of the division's elite programs in what figures to be a top 10 match-up. The Gorillas and Bulldogs were ranked No. 5 and No. 9, respectively, in the final 2023 NCAA Division II Top 25 poll released in December.
Pitt State and Ferris State officials worked quickly to bring the series to fruition after Division II football-sponsoring delegates approved to permit schools to play their first permissible contest one week earlier than the current legislative date at the 2024 NCAA Convention in Phoenix on Jan. 13.
"We're thrilled to be able to announce this partnership with Pittsburg State and excited the new Week Zero legislation was passed at the recent NCAA convention, giving us an opportunity to make this happen," said FSU Athletics Director Steve Brockelbank. "The addition of this game gives our student-athletes an opportunity to play a full 11-game schedule this coming fall and will be an outstanding way to kickoff the 2024 season."
Pitt State and Ferris State will meet for the second time in program history in August. The Gorillas and Bulldogs faced off in the second round of the 2022 NCAA-II playoffs in Big Rapids where FSU scored a hard fought, 17-14, victory over Pitt State en route to capturing its second consecutive NCAA Division II National Championship.
"This will be a tremendous test for our team and we'll be facing a great opponent to open the season, but we look forward to the challenge," said FSU head coach Tony Annese, who ranks as the nation's winningest active head coach regardless of level. "Pittsburg State is a perennial top 10 team nationally and this matchup will be one of the best in the country. We're excited it gives us a full schedule this fall and a guarantee for our guys to play at least 11 Saturday's."
The 2024 match-up also will usher in the Tom Anthony era for Pitt State. Anthony, who served as the Gorillas defensive coordinator from 2020-22, became the program's 16th all-time head coach on Dec. 3.
"We are excited to announce this update to our 2024 football schedule," said Pitt State Athletic Director Jim Johnson. "Obviously, we wanted to move quickly following the passage of the new NCAA legislation; and we look forward to the opportunity to host a premiere Division II football program in Ferris State University at Carnie Smith Stadium this fall. We continue to look for ways to enhance our strength of schedule in non-conference opportunities. This series certainly will provide added excitement to the start of the 2024 and 2025 seasons."
With the week zero legislative change, the Bulldogs will now play a full 11-game schedule this coming season over the course of 12 weeks of action. The 2024 campaign would have started following the Labor Day holiday prior to the addition of week zero the final weekend of August.
The Bulldogs made their ninth consecutive appearance in the NCAA-II playoffs (2014-19, 2021-23) this past fall and have reached the D2 Playoffs 14 times in program history. Ferris posted an 8-3 record, falling to No. 2 ranked Grand Valley State University in the first round of postseason play. The Bulldogs are 26-12 (.684) in 38 postseason games.
Pitt State posted an 11-2 record in 2023. The Gorillas captured their second straight MIAA Championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA-II playoffs, before dropping a 24-21 road decision to Grand Valley State. The all-time winningest program in Division II history, Pitt State has made 19 NCAA postseason appearances highlighted by NCAA-II National Championships in 1991 and 2011 and national runner-up finishes in 1992, 1995 and 2004.
The Bulldogs, who captured national championships in both 2021 and 2022 along with being the national runner-up in 2018, will release their full 2024 football schedule, with full opponents and start times, later this spring.