On the (ir)relevance of the Michigan MAC Trophy
Here’s how it works. The three schools play a round-robin each year, with each school getting one game at home and one game away. Western beat Central. Central beat EMU. EMU beat Western. With all three schools tied at 1-1 against each other, the prior trophy winner — meaning EMU — retains the trophy.
Astonishingly, given the level of the program, EMU has held the trophy for four of the last six years. Since the trophy was established in 2005, EMU has held it four years, Central Michigan three, and Western Michigan just once (the first). So, EMU must have been the best of the three programs over that time, right?
HA! Ha ha! Hee hee hee!
Over the last eight years, EMU has posted a 22-62 record. Western is 51-47. Central is 55-46, including three MAC championships.
Well, maybe it’s a scheduling thing?
Nope. Let’s look at how they’ve done in the MAC. EMU has a third-place tie, a fifth place, and six sixth-place finishes in the MAC West. Western has two second-place finishs, four in third place, one in fourth, and will finish in either fifth or sixth place this year depending on whether EMU loses to Northern Illinois. Central Michigan has three MAC championships, a second-place finish, two in fourth place (including this year), one in fifth, and one in sixth.
So maybe EMU has consistently done well against the Michigan MAC opponents?
Nope. EMU is 7-9, Western Michigan is 8-8, and Central Michigan is 9-7.
The truth is that EMU has gotten very lucky in the distribution of those seven wins. In 2007 the Eagles went just 4-8, while the Chippewas won the Mid-American Conference, but two of EMU’s four wins came against Western Michigan and at Central Michigan. This meant that the next year, after the Chips won in Mount Pleasant, EMU’s November 1 game in Kalamazoo was irrelevant to the trophy — good thing, because the Eagles embarrassed themselves in a 31-10 loss — and all that mattered was the last game of the year, which turned out also to be Jeff Genyk’s last game, in Ypsilanti. It was a barn-burner that EMU won, 56-52, and it gave the outgoing coach another meaningless trophy to put on his resume. Last year, EMU actually managed to put together a mostly respectable season, and their back-to-back wins at Central Michigan and over Western Michigan on Homecoming were probably the peak. Which meant that this year, after Western’s come-from-behind win in Mount Pleasant, EMU could lay an egg against the Chippewas — which they did — and still win the MAC title by winning in Kalamazoo.
Which they did. Giving Ron English another meaningless trophy to put on his resume.