NEW PODCAST ON PAC-12 PRESIDENTS! MAILBAG! IT'S ALL HAPPENING!
I answer your mailbag questions on the future of college baseball, the Pac-12's next leader, and a whole bunch of conference realignment type questions
Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
Big day today! Let’s get right into it.
First, the second episode of Going For Two should be live by the time you read this newsletter. Bryan Fischer and I talk with Jon Wilner of the Bay Area News Group about what went wrong with the Larry Scott era, who the Pac-12 is likely to target, and what the next Pac-12 commissioner can even control.
Nobody follows the money in the Pac-12 like Wilner, and I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. I hope you do too!
Going For Two publishes on Wednesdays, and you can subscribe for free, wherever you get your podcasts.
Second, I’ve still got plenty of new Extra Points stickers, which you can grab for just five bucks. I’m very close to having new Extra Points t-shirts for sale again, and am looking at other potential merch options. I try to sell merch because I want folks to feel like they can support Extra Points if they can’t afford a monthly subscription and because hey, this is a neat logo and it looks good on stuff. If there’s a merch option you want that I’m not selling, let me know, and I’ll look into it.
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I realize that was a lot of revenue stuff, all at once. I’m trying to potty train a puppy AND a two-year-old right now. Do you guys realize how much it costs to constantly run a washing machine 25 hours a day because somewhere, SOMEBODY is peeing on something?!?
Anyway, I promised a mailbag, and a mailbag you shall have.
Let’s get to your questions!
Reader Dusty asks:
Oliver Luck as new Pac-12 commissioner? Does it make sense?
Friend, I have good news! That new podcast discusses this very question, along with a bunch of other candidates for the new Pac-12 gig. My quick #take here is that I certainly think it makes sense. He probably wouldn’t be the first person I’d hire, but he has a ton of football experience, has experience as a highly visible P5 AD, and experience with the NCAA. To the extent that we can predict the success of any college commissioner, I think it’s safe to say Luck has plenty of transferable experience.
So sure, that makes sense.
Bill Zimmerman asks:
Will college baseball be able to benefit from the winnowing down of the minor leagues? or is that impractical/impossible because of schools’ overall athletic revenue troubles during the pandemic?
I think there are college baseball coaches who certainly think so. Many of them put together a pretty aggressive plan over the summer to change the season’s schedule to better market the sport and attract fan interest. With minor league baseball in decline, there may be some college baseball markets that could potentially capture some of that audience, especially if the games played in 44-degree weather.
The way this has been explained to me though, many schools simply don’t have the administrative capacity to really think about growing college baseball at the moment. They’re focused on athlete mental health, financial solvency, and just getting through COVID. If we’re ever able to approach something considering “normal” again, perhaps after college baseball season, I think you’ll see talk about how to better market and grow the sport pick back up again.
I’m really interested in this topic, and would love to talk to more coaches, journalists and administrators about it….but I’ve been neck-deep in a few other stories at the moment, and just haven’t the time to really dig into it.
Other stories like…conference realignment. And boy, did you have a lot of questions about that.
1. Who are the candidates that the ASUN will look to for its sixth FCS football school? 2. It seems as though Northern Arizona would have been a likely WAC expansion candidate given its other recent moves. Why not, and who are the likely candidates to fill out the WAC football card? 3. I know Western Illinois is one of the schools most likely to replace Jacksonville St and EKU in the OVC. Will they replace both?
Okay, let me try to tackle these in order.
1) We know a little bit about the ASUN’s membership criteria here. We know they’re looking for public schools. We know they’re looking at schools within a relatively tight geographic window, compared to the other institutions, and we know they’re looking for institutions that share similar enrollment and budgets. I feel pretty confident that they’re not going to like, invite San Diego or something.
That doesn’t leave a ton of options. The MEAC leftovers don’t really fit the geographic or financial profile of the others. The CAA Southern schools are mostly private outside of JMU, who probably wouldn’t be interested. You have a few potential options in the Southern, the Ohio Valley, and the Southland, and a few D-II schools that the WAC, Southland and other FCS leagues could potentially target.
The program I assumed the ASUN would take a run at was Chattanooga, but I’ve been told there’s not really anything happening on that front. So as of right now, I honestly don’t know.
2) On paper, NAU certainly does seem like a geographic fit in the new WAC. But NAU’s university president stepped down in September, and I’m told their AD is a big proponent of the Big Sky. Generally, schools are less likely to make big reaffiliation decisions when they have instability at the presidential level.
Maybe NAU stays in the Big Sky forever. Maybe a new leader decides to take another look at the WAC in a year or two. Who knows?
3) I’ve heard Western Illinois as a likely OVC candidate as well, although I don’t know anything about timelines. The bulk of FCS realignment, over the last few months, has been centered in Texas. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next round, or at least *a* next round is centered a bit farther north. But I don’t have anything concrete to share yet.
The BookSkjelv asks:
For your mailbag: What do you see in the future for the Big Sky, MVFC, and CAA in the wake of the realignment in the FCS? Do you see a change in Division 1's make up with a third, middle tier forming in the next 10-15 years?
A: Of those three leagues, right now, I think the Big Sky has the best potential for stability. You’ve got a lot of schools that have been with each other for a long time, nobody appears to be an immediate threat to jump to FBS, and the schools have a lot of things in common. Is it possible that at some point in the future, NAU leaves for the WAC? Depending on their next administration, I guess that’s possible, but I don’t think there are reasons to be concerned about the existential future of the Big Sky or anything.
The MVFC is an elite FCS football conference and should be for the foreseeable future, but I could see potential changes. Western Illinois might be your top contender to head to the OVC, and I’ve heard whispers from folks who follow NDSU closely that the program could be more interested in FBS than they have in the past. I don’t think they’d have any trouble finding quality replacements if they needed to.
The CAA is the wild card, as I wrote about earlier. I could see the league completely imploding. I could see everybody sticking around for another decade. I could see a few schools leaving. I think just about any option is on the table for now.
As for that second question…I honestly like the idea of some middle ground between FBS and FCS football. The gap between FCS schools really trying to make a go at investing in strong programs and FCS schools that aren’t is significant, and plenty of administrative leaders have concerns about the current model. I don’t know if there’s any real desire to create some sort of third D-1 football division, but depending on what rules you set for it, I could see how many schools would benefit from another option.
Reader Zach asks:
By my count, with UCA, JSU and EKU joining the ASUN, that means that the Big South, MEAC and Southland are all down to just six football-playing members and the OVC is down to just seven. Do you expect all four of those conferences to still be sponsoring football in a few years?
I don’t. There’s just not enough viable FCS-caliber teams to fill out all of those leagues, and from what I’ve been hearing over the last several months, I think it’s pretty unlikely the MEAC is able to effectively re-stock at that league.
I’m not ready to shovel dirt on the Southland yet, but I think that group has some very significant short-term challenges as well. It’s very likely they’ll need to recruit at least one D-II program, if not more, to restabilize the league, and will need to re-recruit some of their own members. It’s doable, but it will be a challenge.
Reader Kyle asks:
Some Mountain West people are saying a contraction in the conference is more likely than adding NDSU as a football-only member if Boise State were to leave. Would you comment on what the pros vs cons would be from their perspective on contraction vs adding NDSU?
For one, it is by no means a sure thing that Boise actually leaves. I personally think that departure is more likely than not likely, but certainly not overwhelmingly so.
If Boise does leave, I’d be pretty surprised if contraction happens. It’s very rare for schools to actually get kicked out of a conference, especially if they’re full (not affiliate) members. At the FBS level, I don’t think a full member has been booted since Temple got kicked out of the Big East. We can debate the competitive or financial benefits of dropping an MWC program, but it’s very hard for me to see that happening without it becoming an absolute political mess.
Nobody could replace the value that Boise brings to the MWC, not just as a competitive entity, but as a brand. I’m sure the league would kick the tires on a few Texas schools, like UTEP, UTSA or Rice. But in my estimation, nobody would provide more value to the Mountain West than North Dakota State.
Would conference leaders see things the same way? Would North Dakota State accept? I reckon we’re quite a ways out from needing to answer any of those questions.
Okay, last realignment type question…and a good one to get us out of here on, I think.
Reader Doug asks:
How far do you see the realignment trickling down and what does it mean for the FCS and Division II levels? Also, what schools could you identify as ready to make the transition to Division I, following the likes of Tarleton State, Dixie State and Abilene Christian from recent years?
In the immediate future, I don’t expect very much realignment at the FBS level, honestly. It’s possible Boise State leaves, and it’s possible another school or two considers going independent, but I’d be surprised if we saw really significant movement in the next oh, 18 months. If FBS movement is coming, it will probably happen in a few years, once we have more clarity on future TV revenues.
I’d expect the bulk of near future realignment to happen at the FCS level. Across almost all of FCS, school leaders are looking to save money on travel, grow revenue from tickets and alumni engagement, and to better align with more similar institutions. There are plenty of leagues right now that are more marriages of convenience than marriages based on shared values, and the pandemic will push some of those differences to the surface. I don’t think every FCS league will actually change membership, but I believe almost all of them are least talking about it.
That leads into D-II. There are huge resource gaps between big and small programs at the FBS and FCS levels, but in D-II, those gaps are even more substantial. At the high end, you are public schools with growing enrollments and growing markets that could use FCS realignment as a springboard into D-I. You also have a few D-II schools that are straight up at risk of closing completely over the next few years. For as bad as things are, financially, at some G5s, I don’t think anybody is at serious risk of closing their doors for good right now, except maybe Akron.
The D-II programs you’ll probably hear the most about re: jumping to D-1 are Texas A&M-Commerce, Angelo State, West Texas A&M and Midwestern State, all public schools in Texas. All four could be targets of the WAC, Southland, ASUN or other FCS leagues. There are a few other larger schools in the South (Valdosta State, West Georgia, West Florida) that I think could pull it off if they wanted. And there are a few others, like Central Washington or Western Oregon, that could potentially be pushed into D-1 because travel costs at the D-II level could become prohibitive. There aren’t many D-II football programs west of Colorado.
Reclassifying a level is complicated, and often more political than you’d think. It’s certainly a lot more than just “well, we win a lot of games at this level, time to move up.”
I won’t lie to y’all and pretend I’m an expert on every D-II program. But if I Iearn anything, I promise to let you all know.
We’ll get back to the Community Interviews next week.
If you have questions, comments, story ideas and more, hit me up at Matt@ExtraPointsMB.com, or @MattBrownEP on Twitter. And if you’d like to mail is something, we’re at:
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Now friends, if you’ll excuse me, I’m sure I’ve got some pee to mop up somewhere.