They’ll also be carrying their own set of gameday traditions, which is likely to include everything from the school’s fight songs to the macsot’s rituals.
So, to help fans in Rome start getting prepared for the incoming teams, here’s some background information on the game, the teams and the head coaches.
The Matchup: Morningside (13-0) vs. Marian (11-1)
When, Where: Thursday, Barron Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
About the Teams:
Morningside College: Morningside (13-0) is a member of the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC). The Mustangs won the GPAC championship with a 9-0 league record and were ranked third nationally in the final regular season NAIA Coaches Poll.
Morningside, which also won GPAC titles in 2005 and 2011, has one of the nation’s most successful football programs since the start of the 2004 season with a record of 90-18 for a .833 winning percentage and nine consecutive post-season appearances in the NAIA Championship Series, where it has advanced to at least the quarterfinals seven times in the last nine years.
Marian University: Marian (11-1) is a member of the Mideast League of the Mid-States Football Association (MSFA). The Knights are ranked fifth in the nation and are this year’s tri-champions of the MSFA Mideast League along with Saint Xavier University and the University of Saint Francis, which all finished with 4-1 league records. Marian is making its third appearance in the NAIA Championship Series.
The Knights have an all-time record of 6-2 in NAIA Championship Series play and were semifinalists each of the last two seasons.
Steve Ryan (Wheaton 1989) is in his 11th season as Morningside’s head coach. He has a 98-30 record for a .766 winning percentage with the Mustangs for the highest victory rate in Morningside history.
Ryan, who ranks second in the Morningside annals with his 98 victories, has led the Mustangs to nine consecutive appearances in the NAIA Championship Series.
He trails only Jason Saunderson, who had a 118-93-11 record from 1912-41, on Morningside’s all-time coaching victory list.
He was named the GPAC Coach of the Year in 2004, 2005, 2011, and 2012 and has led the Mustangs to three GPAC championships with titles in 2005, 2011, and 2012.
Ted Karras Jr. (Northwestern 1987) is in his sixth season as the head coach at Marian, where he has a 47-23 record for a .671 winning percentage.
Karras has guided the Knights to three appearances in the NAIA Championship Series. He was the 2011 MSFA Mideast Conference and AFCA NAIA Region 2 Coach of the Year after he guided Marian to the Mideast Conference title and a perfect 10-0 regular season.
The Knights were ranked No. 1 in the nation at the end of the regular season and advanced to the semifinals of the NAIA Championship Series, where they lost 30-27 against league rival and eventual NAIA National Champion Saint Xavier University.
Karras, who was previously the head coach at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, has a 61-39 career record in the collegiate ranks. He was a four-year starter during his playing career at Northwestern University and he played one season professionally with the Washington Redskins.
Karras is the nephew of the late Alex Karras, a 13-year veteran with the Detroit Lions and former National Football League television broadcaster, and the son of Ted Karras Sr., who played for the Chicago Bears from 1960-64.