Conference Expansion: A Rant
I am sure that I haven’t been the only person watching round after round after round of conference expansion and re-alignment in abject horror. I do realize that college athletics exist for reasons that don’t involve keeping rivalries together, or making geographic sense, or helping to keep me from being confused all the time. College athletics exist to give bright young athletes a chance to bring glory to their chosen institution, all while having access to a world-class education (or at Nebraska, learning how to grown corn). Oh yes…and it exists for money. Lots and lots of money.
The MAC has been mercifully and thankfully quiet during re-alignment. Sure, the MAC shuffles a few programs through, like Marshall or Temple, but the core has been the same and the addition of Buffalo, which seemed a little odd at the time, turned out to be an outstanding move that showed real long-term vision. This allows us as MAC fans to sit back and snicker at the changing landscape of the NCAA.
So please, allow me to snicker for a moment.
One need look no further to see a botched case of expansion than at our neighbors, the Big Ten. I refuse to call it the B1G because I am offended by the stupidity of it. I understand their attempt at branding — and taking the focus off the fact that they have more than ten teams — but part of effective branding is not coming up with something that looks and sounds moronic.
Also, for some reason when the Big Ten began their initial expansion they passed on Missouri. Instead they chose to stand outside Notre Dame’s window with flowers, chocolates, and a lute to serenade them into the hopes that they would join. Their efforts failed (perhaps they should have made up a fake, online conference to lure them in) and the Big Ten settled on Nebraska. They then pretended like that was what they wanted all along and smugly sat by watched the action.
Watched as the SEC swept up Mizzou and added Texas A&M. Then the Pac 10 took Colorado, leading to Texas consolidating power in the Big XII and thumbing their nose at the Big Ten’s courtship. Finally the Big Ten settled on Maryland and Rutgers, seriously diluting the pool. Anyone who thinks adding Rutgers gives you some sort of an in with the New York media market is a fool and doesn’t know what they are talking about. The only people who give a shit about Rutgers are a few hundred thousand people in New Jersey. The fact that they are all really loud won’t equal big ratings.
Finally, the Big Ten confuses the hell out of everyone and defies logic by naming their divisions the Leaders and Legends. I was told that I had to remember something with M’s and N’s for the Leaders (or is it Legends) division, but then I remembered that I didn’t give a shit. You know what I learned? Geography. I know east, west, north, and south. I can even wrap my brain around such high concepts as northeast, southeast, etc. What I can’t wrap my brain around is how Rutgers could possibly be in the Leaders or Legends division. What say you, readers? Is Rutgers a Leader or a Legend?
Also, did you know that on any given day someone is the last place team in the Leaders division? Care to explain that, Big Ten? Last place doesn’t make you a leader, I don’t care what you call your division.
Will the MAC remain relatively untouched by this ill-thought out expansion and re-alignment? Most people think so. There have been a few rumblings from the Big East about UMass and even Northern Illinois. Once you attempt to add Boise State and San Diego State to the Big East then NIU makes perfect sense, does it not? Geography surrenders yet again as — according to the NCAA — Colorado is in the Pacific region, Missouri is in the Southeast, BYU is on the West Coast, and Houston is in the East. These are the people who as schoolchildren couldn’t point out Canada on a map all grown up. The MAC’s expansion and subsequent division names, you know, EAST AND WEST, seemed to have been motivated by geographic concerns. How adorable.
If the MAC were to expand, plenty of candidates are out there that fit the league’s profile. Western Kentucky certainly would be a good fit. Illinois State could move up to FCS and make our future losses to them less embarrassing. Other candidates could include Indiana State, Southern Illinois, or even perhaps persuading Marshall to come back and leave the garbage heap that is Conference USA.
I say, leave the MAC as is. The only real issue the conference has had in its history of alignment is when BG and Toledo were in different divisions. So far, we have heard next to no words from MAC World Headquarters on expansion. This is good news, and their past success when adding schools also bodes well. Perhaps the MAC can remain a beacon of sanity.