Evolving conferences, evolving postseasons and more
Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
Earlier this week, the Big Sky Conference announced a new, five-year strategic plan. I had a chance to sit down and chat with conference commissioner Tom Wistrcill, as well as Weber State University president Brad Mortensen about it for Collegiate Sports Connect. Our full conversation can be found below:
I've read a fair number of athletic department strategic plan documents, and I'm going to be honest with all of you...even for a guy who writes about deep college sports nerdery for a living, these documents do not often make for the most scintillating reading.
But the fact that the Big Sky, as a group, is building out something more concrete is interesting to me.
For example, the plan calls for each Big Sky school to play at least three home basketball games a season against D-I competition, a requirement that is going to require creative home-and-homes, buy games, and more, while admitting that the conference may need to take a larger role in making that happen. The plans calls for every single school to fund the maximum number of coaches for basketball, volleyball, football and soccer, and provide at least one, full-time, mental-health specialist for their athletes, and more.
The plan also calls for specific timetables to accomplish each goal (some are meant to be executed ASAP, others, especially ones that require additional staffing, have a few years). There are sport-specific goals, conference office-specific goals (about revenue and sponsorships, for example), and academic and cultural goals.
The specifics are probably more interesting if you're a fan of a Big Sky institution, but it's the process that stands out to me. Both Wistrcill and Mortensen told me that the goals and benchmarks came out of a long collaboration between not just ADs, but athletes, presidents, faculty advisors, and other constituents. In an era where NCAA governance, or division-wide governance is painfully slow, this league decided to proactively push for specific changes that they feel they can hold themselves accountable for.
How low and mid-majors figure out how to distribute resources is a really interesting question to me. Should leagues buy NIL resources as a collective, or leave that up to campuses? How involved should conferences be in scheduling? Would schools be okay trading revenue distributions for staffing or resource assistance?
There probably isn't a one correct approach. The Big Sky has, at least, opted for a very public one...and that's worth paying attention to, in my humble opinion.
We talk conference and postseason evolutions over on Going For Two
Hey friends, did you know Extra Points also has a podcast? It's true! My colleague Bryan Fischer and I drop new episodes every Wednesday and Friday. You can watch each show on Youtube, or however else you get your podcasts.
Earlier this week, I shared a bit of what I have been hearing about why Conference USA is so interested in Kennesaw State, how we think the Owls will compete in that league, and also why Bryan and I differ a bit in how we think about Matt Rhule, potential college head coach.
Let the record state...I do not think Matt Rhule is a bad college football coach! I am simply asking questions, and expressing skepticism over the very concept of the can't-miss coaching candidate.
For the Friday show, Bryan and I share a few tidbits from the Dave Clawson interview at Head Coach U, and also explain why administrators are talking about expanding the NCAA basketball tournaments, even if no fans seem to be actively clamoring for that.
The podcast is pretty good, and I think you'd enjoy listening to it.
What else did we do this week?
On Monday, I wrote just about everything I think I can write about Kennesaw State, Conference USA, potential additional FCS expansion targets, and the future of the WAC-ASUN FCS football partnership. I am still making calls about this and will share other updates once I have them, but the Tuesday newsletter has my most current stuff.
I also interviewed some ADs, conference leaders and baseball coaches to see if they'd want to expand the college baseball tournament, and how that might potentially work.
On Thursday, I wrote a short personal essay about trying to continue to find joy in an imperfect industry. Remember...this is all still supposed to be fun.
I also sent out discussion questions for our D1.classroom students, filed a bunch of FOIAs that might become future stories, and more!
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I'll catch up with y'all next week. Enjoy the weekend, and I'll see you on the internet.
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