BLOOMINGTON — Last winter, when Lawrence (Wis.) backed out of a contract to play Illinois Wesleyan, Titan football coach Norm Eash scrambled to find an opponent for the 2016 season opener.
Eash was unsuccessful. So the Titans were forced to play an exhibition game against Monterrey Tech-Mexico.
The pendulum has definitely swung in the other direction for 2017.
IWU announced Thursday it has signed a one-year contract to face Wisconsin-Whitewater, which has won six NCAA Division III national championships. The Warhawks will come to Tucci Stadium to face the Titans in the Sept. 2 season opener at 1 p.m.
"It will be a very challenging first game, but when I told the team the room erupted," said Eash. "They were very excited."
Wisconsin-Whitewater is coming off a 12-1 season, losing in the national quarterfinals to John Carroll. IWU went 7-2, winning its last five games and finishing third in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin behind champion North Central and Wheaton.
The Warhawks played in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the Division III championship game, for seven straight years from 2005-11, winning titles in 2007, '09, '10 and 11.
Wisconsin-Whitewater returned to the title game in 2013 and 2014, winning both times.
This will be the second time IWU has played Wisconsin-Whitewater. The Warhawks beat the Titans, 45-7, in a Division III second-round playoff game in 2009 at Whitewater.
Eash said Whitewater also was struggling to find an opening opponent in 2017. Eash said he had other options, but wanted to play a Division III school. Eash's only request for Whitewater coach Kevin Bullis was the game be played in Bloomington.
"I didn't want to have to play Whitewater, North Central and Wheaton on the road," said Eash. "That would have been pretty tough."
IWU will have six home games in 2017.