Teams leave conferences for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes they leave because they’ve outgrown the competition, and get an invite to a bigger, more prestigious league. Occasionally they get kicked out by their peers because they’ve fallen too far behind, like Temple did from the Big East, or Idaho and Montana from the PCC/Pac-8.
I may be wrong about this, but I spent a good afternoon digging through the archives, and I couldn’t find an example of a school getting booted out of a league, D1, DII, Dwhatever, because they kicked too much ass.
Until now. Because that’s exactly what happened to St.Thomas
St. Thomas is a DIII football powerhouse. They were a founding member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and have played in the league since 1920. But apparently, their peers are sick of constantly being ground into football dust. So they voted to kick the Tommies out.
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced Wednesday that after extensive discussions, St. Thomas will be “involuntarily removed from membership.” The four-sentence news release said the MIAC Presidents’ Council cited athletic competitive parity as its primary concern for the move.
I mean, how bad could the athletic competitive parity situation really be?
While the Tommies have won the MIAC’s men’s and women’s all-sports titles in each of the past 11 seasons, their football dominance rubbed some members the wrong way….They routinely have blown out conference opponents, with nine MIAC victories by 50 or more points in the past two seasons.
The tipping point for many, a source told the Star Tribune, was the Tommies’ 97-0 romp at St. Olaf in 2017.
Oh. Okay. I think I get why emotions might be a teensy bit raw.
Situations like this are rare. Often when a school clearly has really outgrown its conference competition, it finds a way to move into a larger or better league. If they’re at the DII or DIII level, maybe they consider a move up. But that isn’t the ideal situation for St. Thomas. The school currently sponsors hockey teams, and DII doesn’t sponsor hockey. Plus, moving up a level would dramatically increase program costs, thanks to scholarship and facility requirements.
I can understand why their peers would want to take action. St. Thomas’ enrollment is twice as big (at least) as most of their conference peers. Especially at the DIII level, competing with a school that’s twice as big is going to be really, really hard.
But the way this went about is gross. The StarTribune reports that “[t]he effort to oust St. Thomas was conducted in secret, with officials of the MIAC and its other schools declining to comment”. If you want an enrollment cap in your league, fine. That is a defensible decision!
But own the decision, do it in public, and give St. Thomas a chance to plan or make adjustments. This sneaky, behind the back business? This is middle school behavior.
Where St. Thomas goes from here is tricky. They might be able to stay in DIII and join the WIAC, which includes fellow DIII heavyweight Wisconsin-Whitewater. They might consider joining DII and figure out what to do with hockey later. Maybe they do something else entirely.
I can’t imagine we’ll see more situations like this in the near future. But boy, does it send a terrible message. Football coaches sure like to preach about being tough enough to face adversity and whatnot, especially when it comes to keeping kids from transferring. It’s a pity folks in the MIAC couldn’t model that behavior for their students.
Also, there’s like, a 1000% chance St. Thomas is dropping a hundo on somebody in conference play. At least.
Another political threat to the NCAA advances in the statehouse
Earlier in Extra Points, I talked about how the NCAA is now actually talking about allowing students to profit off their likeness. This is in large part because of new political challenges to the status quo, from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Another challenge has begun to advance, as California’s State Senate approved Senate Bill 206, the “Fair Pay to Play Act”
Under SB 206, all student athletes enrolled in public and private colleges and universities in California would be able to earn money from their name, image, or likeness (endorsement or sponsorship deals), starting in 2023. The Fair Pay to Play Act also prohibits California colleges and universities from enforcing NCAA rules that prevent student athletes from earning compensation. Receiving income would also not affect a student’s scholarship eligibility.
In addition, the Fair Pay to Play Act would bar the NCAA from preventing student athletes from earning compensation. And the legislation would prohibit the NCAA from banning California colleges and universities from intercollegiate sports if their athletes sign sponsorship deals. SB 206 would also allow college athletes to hire sports agents. And to ensure fairness, the bill would bar colleges and universities from signing high school students to sponsorship deals as a recruiting tool.
State senator Nancy Skinner (D) sponsored the bill. She spoke to my colleagues at SB Nation earlier, pointing out that she consulted with out of state Republicans before drafting it. It earned bipartisan support in California.
This is pretty strong language, but California has taken shots at NCAA enforcement before. Earlier, a judge ruled that the “show cause” penalty cannot be enforced in California.
I don’t know if this is the particular bill that breaks the status quo, and I’m sure, should this bill become law, that it will be tied up in litigation. But these voices are only getting louder, and if this new NCAA group tries to drag their feet on real reforms, they may very well run out of time.
Even more college football on NFL Network?
Previously on Extra Points, I mentioned that Conference USA and the NFL Network reached a broadcast agreement. The NFL Network will show 10 games a season (one a week) for four years. It isn’t going to make anybody rich, but it helps fans of schools like Louisiana Tech or Southern Miss watch a few more games without having to find them on Stadium, Facebook, or streaming options.
The SBJ reports the might not be the only college football league to do a deal with the NFL Network.
In his newsletter Tuesday night, SBJ reporter Michael Smith reported that his sources believe the channel will seek to strike an agreement with the Mountain West for the 2020 season, perhaps setting up doubleheaders with Conference USA.
This lines up with the industry source I spoke to earlier, who told me he expected linear outlets who have not previously worked with the MWC (so not CBS or ESPN) to show interest in their rights packages.
Whether this would be a good deal for the MWC or not depends an awful lot on the details. League schools are sick of constant late kickoff times, something any linear broadcast partner is going to ask them to do. But the league also badly needs that broadcast money, even if the amount is relatively modest.
Some sort of deal with the NFL Network seems like a safe bet. I think it’s also a safe bet, especially after these public comments from Wyoming’s administration, that this deal won’t be as long as the AAC deal. That probably means it won’t be quite as lucrative either, at least in the headlines.
Everything else? That seems pretty up in the air at the moment. If you’re a Colorado State or Fresno State fan, better memorize more of that TV Guide, just in case.
Thanks for supporting Extra Points. It’s been a big week! I’m traveling to Washington D.C. for the next few days, working a bit out of my old SB Nation offices, as well as seeing some friends, but we should have our first podcast ready to go pretty soon.
If you have questions, comments, requests or other feedback, holler at me. I’m at @MattSBN on Twitter, and Matt dot Brown at SBNation dot com via the emails. And if you like what you read, tell a friend. Or tell an enemy. That’d be fine too.