There’s a new kid on the block in D3 football.
Finlandia will kick off its inaugural football season this year. The Lions, who will compete as an independent program to start, is looking to make a move to the Midwest Conference.
Sure, Finlandia has only begun, and is aiming to build a foundation. But the Lions appear to be on the right path to push through the process quickly with solid facilities, equipment and strong support from school administration.
An experienced coaching staff is ready to guide the way. Tim Driscoll comes on as head coach after serving as defensive coordinator at Michigan Tech. Driscoll developed a defensive unit there that ranked among the best in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Offensive coordinator Dan Mettlach starred at quarterback for Michigan Tech where was named an All-American in 2004. He still owns the school’s single-season records for touchdowns responsible for (28) and interception percentage 0.07%. He’s coached at Macalester, Hillsdale and Northern Michigan.
“When the opportunity arose to come here and start this program from scratch, I looked at it and said to myself, ‘when do you get the opportunity to be at the very start of a football program?'” Driscoll said. “From my talks with (Athletic Director) Chris Salani and other administrators at Finlandia, I felt like Finlandia was going to do this right. I saw this, and still do see this, as a great opportunity to start something great.”
The Lions do bring in some local talent, too, to get things started. Ishpeming all-state DB Ozzy Hakkarinen committed and should be a playmaker right away. LB Jordan Hahka, QB Austin Grinsteiner and DL Nate Marcin, along with other local players, will also help.
“Right now we’re working hard to make ourselves extremely visible in the Upper Peninsula,” Driscoll said. “We’re driving all over the place. We coaches have seen every team in the Upper Peninsula play a game, which has been great.”
Finlandia will play a 10-game schedule (with one additional junior varsity game), including five home games at the remodeled McAfee Field in Hancock, Mich. The Lions wasted no time scheduling national powers like defending national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater and Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Football is the first of seven athletic programs Finlandia is adding over the next seven years.
The process will take some time on the football field. But the Lions are exciting to get started.