GREAT FALLS — Carroll College football coach Troy Purcell heard when the Frontier Conference coaches and media polls were released Tuesday afternoon.
But it didn’t matter to him if the Saints were ranked first or last.
Carroll, which finished with a fourth consecutive losing season at 5-6, was actually picked seventh out of the eight teams in both polls, but he described it as an opportunity to get better.
“It is what it is. It’s life,” Purcell said. “Each day we need to improve.”
Purcell was just one of the two new coaches attending his first media day, at the Holiday Inn in Great Falls, and he knows the coaches know quite well what the conference is like.
“They know the competition in the conference and they know what they were dealing with last year,” Purcell said. “It’s not a slap in the face or anything like that. It’s just voting.”
The College of Idaho took the top spot in both the coaches and media polls, with five out of the eight coaches picking the Coyotes to win. In the media poll, COI claimed five of the 15 votes.
The Coyotes missed out on the NAIA playoffs but were grouped with Montana Western, Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon with a 6-4 record last season.
“Well, I like where we are, but I wouldn’t have picked us to win the conference by any means,” College of Idaho coach Mike Moroski said. “But I do like where (we) are as far as how we work, how we believe and how we play.”
Rocky Mountain won the Frontier Conference but ended up losing to Morningside (Iowa) in the first round of the playoffs.
While the polls were similar, the coaches poll saw Southern Oregon, Montana Western, Montana Tech and Rocky Mountain. The media poll saw Southern Oregon, Montana Western, Eastern Oregon and Rocky Mountain round out the top five.
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While Carroll and Montana State-Northern complete the field, Frontier Conference Commissioner Kent Paulson said the best part of the conference is parity.
Last season, six out of eight coaches picked Southern Oregon to win the conference and the Raiders finished in a four-way tie for second. Montana Western was picked seventh and ended up as one of the four teams tied for second.
“We like to think we are the best NAIA conference for football,” he said.
Before the polls were released, Purcell and the rest of the coaches stood up and said a bit about their programs.
“What a group of great leaders to follow,” Purcell said. “Coach Bob Petrino, a legendary hall of fame coach, and Mike Van Diest, a legendary hall of fame coach. So I guess no pressure on me being the next guy in line.”
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Entering the spring, Purcell made it a point to not look at film or to see which players were on scholarship. He said it was a chance for everybody to prove themselves.
“I told them, ‘Let’s see what you got,’” Purcell said. “‘If you think you were being cheated in some way, let see it.’ The cream rises to the top. Go out and earn it.”
Purcell said that from the time he arrived, there has been a lot of competition at many positions.
Major Ali and Kaleb Adams highlight the running back battle, while returning quarterback Kolby Killoy and NCAA Division II Colorado State-Pueblo transfer Devan Brdgewater will be looking to fight it out for the starting job.
“There’s a lot of competition, just like (in the real world),” Purcell said. “When you are going after that job interview, you have to compete if you are going to get it. Not everybody gets a trophy in life. You have to go out and win it.”