The MAC had balanced divisions for the same amount of time the cast of Jersey Shore has been sober the last decade. So about 2 months.
With Temple upgrading, or what they think is an upgrade to the sinking ship of the Big East Conference earlier this year, the MAC is in pickle. As other conferences are expanding and partnering the MAC is stuck at 13 teams for football as Massachusetts is on “Exile Island.” No teams are near the Minutemen and few are excited to have them on board.
Kicking out UMass may sound like an easy solution but it is not possible. There are MAC schools that I feel are holding the conference back and when I mean schools I mean Eastern Michigan. Dumping these schools to the curb is not an option. College conferences are not like fantasy football leagues where the guys who fail to update their roster have to play somewhere else next fall. The MAC made their bed and has to lie in it.
This leads to controversy of letting UMass in the MAC in the first place. With Temple out there are no east coast teams near the Minutemen that could work as a rival let alone excite fans.
The MAC took a gamble hoping to make some money off of New England TV revenue instead of sticking to its Great Lakes roots. At least UMass is a better fit than say Central Florida. It is not like the Golden Knights were ever in this conference or anything. That would be insane if they were.
While every conference is in the rat race to grab teams and make money the MAC may be better off on steering clear. Even Conference USA is trying to gobble up teams like Pac-Man right now.
Face it folks the MAC is not going to rake in big TV revenues. Conference expansion can do little to help. The only way teams want to join the MAC is as a stepping stone to a bigger conference like Temple did. This is one of the few times where status quo may be the answer.
I seriously doubt UMass will be in the MAC for long. Like Temple the MAC is hotel room for them.
The MAC has some options.
- Keep playing with 13 teams. Upset the NCAA with unbalance divisions and watch UMass join the Big East in 5 years to go back to 12. Then never add a team ever again.
- Add another FCS team near UMass to keep them happy. Have balance divisions with a restored rivalry between Bowling Green and Toledo. Add another team five years later when UMass jumps to the Big East.
- Keep UMass on an island while adding another team closer to core of the MAC. Maybe one that would stick around and be willing to join in all sports. Then demand UMass joins in all sports to balance basketball.
As a Ball State fan I prefer the third option as a potential rival could come out of it. Sadly, the odds of option three happening are smaller than Ron Paul winning the Republican primary.
A key is to steer clear of Ohio and Michigan schools as we have too many of those in the MAC. I bet the MAC will add a team in a year, but the odds if it being a team we want is doubtful given the MAC’s track record. Watch it be something silly like Villanova just to replace Temple in the same city. The MAC should have learned its lesson the first time around… right?
Here are some teams I would like to see join the MAC regardless of how little chance it has of happening and in no logical order.
Indiana State – Indiana State would give Ball State a natural rival and fans would like to see them play. An added bonus to bringing the Sycamores in would be providing Cardinals fans a new motivation to buy firewood and print off excessive sheets of computer paper. Problem is Indiana State does not have a good history with football but is improving.
Illinois State – The Redbirds would also be rival in the way of mascots and nicknames. I honestly thought Tom Collins scheduled a game at Illinois State because he expected them to be in the conference soon. That is your Ball State conspiracy theory for the week.
Western Kentucky – The MAC would be able to expand their recruiting base with a Kentucky team. Western may be out of reach as it is in the Sun Belt but…
Murray State– A FCS school with a great basketball team to boot. The MAC West would finally have a basketball team that can push the East division around. Problem is Murray is really far from other MAC schools and may not like the higher cost of FBS football. This is the school I want the most to join the MAC but I do not see how it can happen.
Eastern Kentucky – Somewhat close to Miami and Ohio so could develop some rivalries. Being next door to Lexington and Big Blue Nation hurts them. Hard to get media attention and fans when you are right next to the biggest black hole in college sports.
Southern Illinois – Would be a nice rival with Northern Illinois and would be competitive right away. The Salukis may even turn into a rival for the Cardinals.
Marshall – Just to make sure you’re awake. Would be nice to have them back in the conference though.
New Hampshire – Ball State fans know from experience New Hampshire can beat MAC schools. Plus New Hampshire would help out Massachusetts as a natural rival.
Southeast Missouri State – Why not add another directional team to the conference so the MAC West could be renamed the “Compass” division.
Central Florida – Just kidding.