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— Small-college sports don't get enough press, fans, or money. This is probably a good thing; relative poverty is a powerful tool for keeping sports as a lesser part of what a university education was meant to be. An unintended benefit of sports anonymity is increasing the odds that the star running back will graduate and know how to read his diploma. Once every long, long, long while somebody will come out of a small college and make it to the NFL, MLB, or NBA. That's for the men; for the women, small-college sports is a black hole -- no light escapes and no money enters.

The schools discussed below are San Diego County small colleges belonging to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which is made up of 360-plus universities and colleges coast to coast with an occasional foray into Canada. The NAIA runs 24 "national championship events," including football, golf, tennis, cross country, baseball, swimming, diving, wrestling, volleyball, soccer, indoor and outdoor track, and so on.

San Diego's small colleges are competing nationwide against the best in their class, and being the best in your piece of the sports world is something to appreciate. NAIA national championships are divided by season. Here is their championship schedule for fall 2007: Men's and Women's Soccer (November 14--20). Men's and Women's Cross Country (November 17). Volleyball (November 28--December 1). Football (December 15).

Congratulations to Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), which, besides owning one of the best-looking pieces of real estate on earth (the Pacific side of Point Loma), has a women's volleyball team playing in the NAIA Region II Quarterfinals. They are ranked 9th in the nation. If they can get past Concordia, they'll be going to the national tournament, played this year at Columbia College, Columbia, Missouri.

Point Loma Nazarene University is ranked 19th in the nation for Women's Cross Country and have qualified for the Women's Cross Country National Championship. Book a flight to Kenosha, Wisconsin, for Saturday, November 17.

While we're here, congratulations to Joy Johnson, representing San Diego Christian College (located in El Cajon with 510 full-time student persons), who qualified for the cross-country national championship under the category "Individual Qualifiers." Go, girl.

The big dog in NAIA women's cross country is Simon Fraser University (British Columbia). They finished No. 1 in the Final Top 25 Poll. They started the season ranked No. 1. They were No. 1 every week of the season. Now, I understand we own Canada under the table, so I don't object to their schools competing with our schools, but Simon Fraser has 17,000 students and Point Loma Nazarene has 3200. This is an outrage, and one is tempted to take formal title to the land mass known as "Canada" and be done with it. But, on the positive side of the scale, Simon Fraser has an impressive history with the Director's Cup. Said cup is awarded for the best overall athletic program in the United States for NCAA Division I, Division II, Division III, and NAIA.

Simon Fraser has won the Director's Cup four years straight, beginning in 1996--1997, and won it again in 2003--2004. Doing this well in a contest for the best athletic program in the United States is pretty darn good, but Simon Fraser tops that by owning the NAIA record for most All-Americans and most individual United States Champions. I don't think we need bother with the paperwork, they're already American.

Back to Point Loma Nazarene. Their women's soccer team is ranked Number 11 in the nation in the final Top 25 poll. The NAIA women's soccer national championship will be determined in a 20-team tournament played at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, Florida). This is another reason to like small-college sports -- the names. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has substance to it. And a bit of mystery. The PLNU Sea Lions are seeded 10th and will play 7th seed Carroll College (Helena, Montana) on Friday. Game time is 4:00 p.m. PST.

By the way, you can see this game and other NAIA Women's Soccer National Championship games streamed at naiasoccer.org. Be warned, it costs money. Same with the Volleyball National Championship. Go to watchNAIA.com and pony up.

Finally, let's applaud California State University, San Marcos. Their women's cross-country team is ranked No. 6 in the nation. Their men's cross-country team is ranked No. 4. Women's golf is No 7. Men's golf is No. 10. Not bad for a school that opened for business in 1990 in a rented space with an enrollment of 448. The Cougars didn't have golf, cross country, or track and field until 1998. Didn't have baseball, softball, or soccer until 2006.


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