Mailbag: What's next for mid-major realignment?
Plus, is it better to have pro sports in your college market? And how do reclassifications work?
Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.
I’m working on a few newsletters that could benefit from one or two more folks calling me back, or maybe another FOIA, which makes this a perfect day to answer some reader questions. Mailbag questions can always be sent to [email protected], or via Twitter at @MattBrownEP. Let’s take a few now:
Reader Tony asks:
@MattBrownEP Here's one:
The WIU move seems like it could be more of a canary in the coal mine...
They're arguably taking a step down in athletic profile to instead be lower cost, more local, & better aligned
Could this be a warning to AAC + CUSA looking forward?🤔
— Tony Altimore (@TJAltimore)
May 16, 2023
Let’s talk a little bit about the WIU move to the OVC.
It’s true, this is a rare example of a team electing to move to a “less prestigious” conference. In 2021, MVFC commissioner Patty Viverito told InForm that a team leaving the MVFC for another FCS league “would be like the SEC being raided at the FBS level, I truly believe that.” In terms of prestige and depth, I don’t think she’s wrong. This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often.
No disrespect to our Big Sky and CAA friends, but the top of the MVFC is the best in FCS football. That…does not describe Western Illinois, a team that has finished better than 5th place exactly once since 2011. In the Summit League, the men’s basketball team has only finished with an above .500 conference record once since 1990.
I’ve heard of interest in potentially moving to the OVC almost as long as I’ve been publishing Extra Points, and I legitimately thought this was going to happen back in 2021. Kudos to their administration and the OVC for keeping all of this under wraps.
Is this a start of a trend? I don’t really think so, and certainly not at the FBS level. Nobody gets rich by having a kickass FCS football program…the ticket sales, TV revenue and sponsorship dollars aren’t there, and potentially moving to a “worse” league, if it saves you money on travel, opens up a more direct path to championship access, and doesn’t completely kneecap ticket sales, can very well be a better financial decision….but that scenario doesn’t apply to very many other schools.
There’s a real appeal to being in a more geographically compact league, (just ask anybody selling tickets for a Sun Belt school), but the cost incentives, and political pressures, at the FBS level are very different than FCS or non-football D-I programs. I’m sure, all things being equal, CUSA or AAC would like to have a more defined footprint…but they’re not going to kick schools out or reach on membership to get there. They have to think about TV, bowl access, and political constituencies that will not be as understanding.
We’ll see what happens if and when San Diego State leaves the MWC, and what sort of realignment shifts happen with the AAC and other leagues….but I don’t think I’d look to WIU as a template or an example.
Reader Andrew asks:
@MattBrownEP How long does it take a school from another division to decide to reclassify? Augustans seems like a perfect fit for the Summit League, and I imagine they are just waiting for an invite, but the turnaround time has to be too great to get them in for 2023-24, right?
— Andrew Stem (@astem00)
May 15, 2023
Good question. The unsatisfying answer, of course, is that it depends.
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