Hope College has fielded a football team for 90
years with games over the years against a variety of teams
ranging from high schools to semi-pros to collegiate.
On Saturday, Sept. 4 the Flying Dutchmen will add yet
another chapter to their storied history when they host the
Wildcats of the Autonomous University of Queretaro, Mexico in a
pre-season exhibition game at Holland Municipal Stadium. Kickoff
will be 6:30 p.m.
It is believed to be the first time that a team from the
Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) has played
an international opponent.
"The decade of the 1990s has been witness to a wonderful new
partnership between the peoples of two great cities," noted
Holland Mayor Albert McGeehan. "These pioneering cooperative
agreements first began between the Autonomous University of
Queretaro and Hope College. This relationship in just a few
short years has yielded a bounty of new-found educational
opportunities for young men and women from both institutions."
In 1995 city officials of the Holland and Santiago de
Queretaro forged new political, cultural, educational and
economic bonds between the two communities. Hope College and the
Autonomous University of Queretaro established a formal agreement
in 1996 which allows the institutions to send students and
faculty to each other's campus.
One of the exchanges sent former Hope's George Kraft to
Queretaro in 1997 where he shared his expertise as offensive line
coach. Chair of the department of kinesiology, Kraft was a
member of the football coaching staff for three decades. He is
the author of a textbook on aspects of the coaching of football.
Members of the Queretaro football coaching staff have also been
to Hope observing the team's practice regime and game
Queretaro introduced the game of "American" football in
1970, but it has only been at its present level since 1993.
There are three levels of competition in Mexico -- children,
juvenile and major. A women's team was started in 1997 and
cheerleaders were introduced to the program last year.
The major team coming to Holland consists of a mixture of
students from the university and "enthusiastic" former college
players. In 1997 the team's running back, Ricardo Baca, was
named the best national runner as he broke records for most yards
in a season. The Wildcats were 5-4 in 1997 and 5-3 last year.
The team, in its promotional material notes: "We have
participated in almost every championship in all categories. We
have tasted the flavor of success and failure, but the one we
like the best is the one of participation. One of our most
important achievements as an institution was the creation of our
breeding ground of good football players, thus offering our
community an excellent opportunity for a healthy, family
gathering and challenging activity for children."
The 52-member Queretaro delegation will arrive in Holland on
Thursday, Sept. 2. The players will be hosted by members of the
Hope day. In addition to preparing for the game, the team will
have opportunities to experience the Hope campus, Holland and
western Michigan. A highlight will be their attendance at a
Whitecaps baseball game on Sept. 2.
The Flying Dutchmen began preparations for the season on
Monday (Aug. 23). The teams will have two-a-day practices until
school begins on Tuesday, Aug. 31. The exhibition game with
Queretaro will replace the traditional blue-and-white intra-squad
scrimmage. The regular season opener will be Saturday, Sept. 11
when the Flying Dutchmen host Augustana College of Illinois for
the 34th annual Hope/Holland Community Day game.